I don’t think you are a loser. For all of the countless times I have thought myself a loser, I am not one either. But I cannot get away from the fact that many of my plans have come up short. I’ve missed the mark on more than one occasion. I have full-face-planted failed more times than I’d like to count. It is part of being a human. But what if our relationship with failure changed? What if we allow our greatest losses to lead us to greater wins?
My mother always encourages me to try new things. It has always been this way. She has never been afraid of my ideas failing (…okay…maybe a few…). Even when she doesn’t see eye to eye with my proposed plans, she is supportive. She offers her wisdom and guidance, but knows when to step aside so I can grow through experience. Sometimes that includes failing.
Though I still struggle with coping with my failed attempts, this mindset has been foundational in my life as an entrepreneurial artist. It birthed new life into passions that died many deaths. Even though I had a firm foundation, the majority of my 20s have felt like a bootcamp for creative endeavors. They have been hard years, but equally fruitful in character building. I am thankful, now, for the lessons but I certainly never thought my path would have so many bumps in it.
Throughout my adolescence I was known as a goody-two-shoes. I excelled at school with minimum effort. Academia was a breeze for me. Other than math, I was always a top student. High school and college were particularly vibrant, joyful, and successful years.
I have medals, certificates, and plaques to commemorate my academic endeavors. I got along with most people and made friends with my professors. As a Vocal Performance Major, I was on stage in front of my fellow students throughout college. Though I never considered myself among the elite popular crowd, I was often on cloud nine. I had achievements and recognition, community and close friendships, meaning in my work and passion for a purpose.
Little did I know that the world was waiting to ‘pone this newb’ as soon as she walked off that graduation stage. My heart full of idealistic dreams would not be enough to put food on the table. As someone who reveled in her little momentary success, I was ill prepared for the world outside the walls of academia. Vision boards don’t create and sustain budgets on their own.
Perhaps it was pride. Maybe it was naiveté. It may even be the fact that I hadn’t ever had to put in much effort to succeed. Whatever it was, 22-year-old me would begin the long path of misfires that haunt me today as a 30-year-old. I have had my share of victories in the midst of the chaos. I do not mean to paint my life as misery. God has given me much and I hold that with great gratitude (most days). It’s simply that the life of imagined success had a very rude awakening.
If you look at the number of inventors, scientists, writers, musicians, businesspeople, and creators that failed more times than they succeeded you would think failure is actually an intrinsic part of success. You should never set out to fail. However, it would be silly to think that everything you attempt will hit the bullseye on the first try.
Failure is just a litmus test to see if your plans worked or not. It does not have an emotion nor does it have an investment in the outcome. It is simply a statement of where you are in the process of achieving your goals.
If you were to spin it just a bit, failure is finding out how NOT to do something. Failure still produces a success, of sorts. If you allow it, it produces greater character, growth, experience, and education. It seems so simple yet the fear of failure is often so intense that paralysis of trying again sets in. How do you overcome the fear if failure is an inevitable part of life?
After a certain number of tries I began to feel as though my worth was unequivocally tied to my filing cabinet of failure. There are only so many well thought out (and not so well thought out) plans that crumble beneath your feet before you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with YOU.
It was a very slow death of one dream and plan after another. If you don’t belive me, here’s the list of attempts:
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of the crazy ideas I have tried in the past 8 years. I had some success in many of these areas. But overall, each of these steps ended somewhere on the spectrum of ‘total colossal failure’ and ‘didn’t go according to plan’. Most of them ended in tears, seeping of confidence, and creative paralysis.
I think there is an unspoken expectation we pick up along the way that we are to find success – love, financial stability, career satisfaction, peak physical health, perfect #squadgoals, spiritual enlightenment, and more – at a very young age. We recognize the dissonance, but we often live under the crushing weight of the unrealistic expectation instead of the healthy balance of reality.
I wish someone would have told me it is okay to find success (whatever that looks like within your particular context) well after your 20s. However ridiculous the notion is, I spent a lot of time berating myself for not ‘having it all together’ earlier. Many of my friends were finding fulfillment in their dreams while I was still wondering what groceries we could afford that week.
Again, I have a good life. It is not misery. And if I zoom out to gain some perspective, it is more than many others have. While it is definitely healthy to gain a little perspective, it is unhealthy to pretend the pain you feel within your own context doesn’t matter. You have to hold both expectation and reality in the balance to find a healthy path forward.
So enough rambling. Kayla, what are you suggesting is the way forward?
Become an expert at failure. You will undoubtedly fail in your life. There will be times that you have a passion, ask for guidance and wisdom, plan well, put yourself out there, and fall flat on your face. It is inevitable because it is part of the human experience. How else do we grow, mature, change, and learn? As Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
Become passionate about reframing your failures. Figure out what went well and what didn’t. Listen to others’ constructive criticism without attaching their assessment to your worth. Then, look at your failure as one step closer to your ultimate goal.
Become an advocate for others’ success. Bitterness comes knocking quickly living in the shadow of someone else’s success. The question, ‘why them and not me?’ begins to creep in in an instant. There is no benefit to a bitter heart. Instead, be relentlessly genuine in your celebration of others’ wins. In doing so, you remove the stumbling block of resentment and add fuel to your own fire.
Finally, become obsessed with getting back up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, make a commitment to always get back up. The dreams/passions/plans may change over time. And that is perfectly okay. But no matter what, never allow yourself to give up. If you feel like it is too heavy, then surround yourself with people who will hold you up when you can’t do it on your own.
As I sign off here, I want you to know that I am preaching to myself. As always, these words are as much for you as they are for me. Your failure is not your end. It can be a beginning, a turning point, a lesson learned, and experience gained.
I know it can be hard to look over your list of failures and feel like less of a person. But your worth does not come from what you do. Your worthiness is not tied to the number of plans you had work out in the end. You are already chalk-full of value because you are a human being, created and formed for a purpose.
It’s okay to mourn. Heck, I’ve had my fair share of pity parties. Just remember, friend, to not stay there for too long. Success doesn’t look one way and your failures can be leverage to get to your greatest wins. Just remember:
I have been running from something for some time now. There is a part of me that knew it. There is another part of me that did not. I am a pretty serious empath and tend to care too much about what people think about me. Though I have been working on letting go of what others think about me, there are areas of my life where the fear of peoples’ opinions still has a stronghold.
I’ve felt called to be a writer, musician, speaker, artist, and traveler. These have been lifelong dreams that I have had glimpses of, but have not been fully realized. I have had many phases of fear moving toward my purpose in these things. At first, it was the run of the mill fear that made me feel like I was not capable or worthy of such dreams.
Then I moved through self-doubt and years of low self-esteem following one of the hardest seasons of my life. Of course, I cannot leave out the many months of laziness, lack of motivation, and Netflix binging. Interspersed in there were bouts of indecision, creative overwhelm, time spent in my counselors office, overcommitment, perfectionism, and endless attempts to start something new. I recently thought this was it – I had figured out my ‘elevator speech’ and focus point for my blog – only to be frustrated by another creative block.
Many of you know where I stand in my faith. I believe in God. I believe the Bible is true and authoritative for our lives. I have been a Christ follower my whole life and I am not ashamed of that. Or…was I?
Growing up in the church I became painfully aware of how cheesy Christians could be. It was like we were trying to pass knock off versions of Girl Scout cookies as the real thing and call you a liar if you found out. Now, if any of the mainstream Christian media/entertainment world is encouraging and meaningful for you, more power to you. It’s personal preference.
But when I was growing up dealing with suicidal thoughts and deep familial tension, the weird Bible-study-based-on-the-latest-blockbuster-release-in-order-to-be-relevant just wasn’t cutting it. It was cheap and honestly just pissed me off. I had a deep and meaningful relationship with God but the platitudes of people who called themselves Christians just made me ill. God was complex, faithful, beautiful, and near to me. So why was our “Christian Culture” so far from that?
The list goes on from Christian movies, books, conferences, retreats, curriculums, blogs, and more that slapped the name ‘Jesus’ on it but hovered around surface level at best. It may feel like I am being harsh, and I am. What I see in Scripture doesn’t line up with what many Christ followers are offering the world. Not every person and/or church is like this. I have met many wonderful and deeply inspiring Christ followers that I see as role models and mentors. The faith community I am a part of now has been a place of extreme healing.
It is safe to say that I am immediately rolling my eyes if someone says, “hey, you should check out this Christian thing”. There is some jaded-ness in there I’ve gotta work on, I know. But when I felt God tugging me to be a writer, musician, and speaker, I TOLD Him that I wasn’t going to be a Christian one. That world already had too many ridiculously cheesy and not helpful ones and I didn’t want to add to the noise. I am sure at this point God shook His head with a gentle sigh and said, “Alright, go ahead and try it your way”.
I tried the trying-to-be-cool-and-subtly-letting-you-know-I’m-a-Christian approach. I felt like I was being genuine. It was only recently that God showed me I was really being Amy Pholer in Mean Girls proclaiming, “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. I’m a cool Christian”. I laughed and simultaneously gagged a little at what I was attempting. I cannot separate myself from my faith. I see everything through the lens of what God has done for me and what He is doing in the world. I cannot pretend to be ‘cool’ to the world when it comes to my faith because my faith is not ‘cool’.
I don’t know how many times I have said it, but I will say it again and again and again. God literally saved my life. From suicide. From crushing anxiety and depression. From fear. From giving into addictions. My faith isn’t some ‘cool’ thing I ascribe to and derive meaning from. It is my foundation and the most intimate part of who I am.
With that harsh yet enlightening discovery, God said to me, “I never asked you to be another cheesy Christian writer. I never asked anybody to be that. I asked if you would be willing to be vulnerable with people, share your stories of victory, eat at the same table, and let people in on what I am doing in your life. I want you to be different, that’s why I made you that way. Would you be willing to do that for me?”
I was trying to do this whole thing without including my faith in God. I’ve been destroyed by multiple churches before so I know what Christian people are capable. I know what people are capable of. I know that there are abuses in the past and present that come from people who share my faith. I was afraid that if I ever truly spoke openly about my faith with others I would be grouped into the same group of people that hurt me most. I was afraid of being labeled as all the negative things that come to mind when you think of the ‘crazy Christians’ (in a bad way lol).
I am human. I am going to make mistakes while carrying my cross of Christ. I am going to say things and make assumptions about people in a way that makes Jesus look like a farce. I am simply on a journey to becoming more like Him even when I mess it up. And it is a looooooong journey of transformation. I have a long list of mistakes that continues to grow, hopefully at a slower rate over time. But my hearts desire is always growth. I know that and do not have to try and convince others of that. My life will have to hold the evidence of the fruit.
The truth is, people may group me in with the same people I don’t want to be grouped with. I cannot control that. But to separate the most intimate part of my life from my deepest longings and dreams while trying to tout it as ‘being real’ is fake, irresponsible, and not fair to you. I have always promised to be vulnerable and open with people. I cannot do that apart from my faith.
Overall, I think the vision I had for the Rooted Journal was always what God had in mind. I’m writing this declaration for myself, so that I can set this as a cornerstone for the future. I also am writing this for you. I will be writing more about my faith. You may not believe the same things that I do. You are always more than welcome. But, I also understand if it isn’t something you want to participate in either. Either way, there’s always room at my table. I may not be perfect, but I am progressing.
I’ll be focusing a lot of my writing on faith related topics as well. I still want to talk style, beauty/fashion, home DIY projects, health and fitness, gardening, and more! But I think it is unfair to everyone, myself included, to keep my identity as a Christ follower in the shadows in an attempt to gain a wider audience. Wow, that sounds really ugly writing that out loud. Yet, I promised I would be honest.
Thank you for sharing this space with me. This is who I am and I cannot pretend to be anything else. I think my years of creative blocks and creative overwhelms are proof that running from yourself really doesn’t work. Know that I love you and I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. May this weird blog confession thing find you in good health and good spirits!