Why "Failures" Are Your Hidden Super Powers: Part 1
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Spread Your Sunshine Founder Melanie S. Griffin, Esq. recently addressed the Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL) Thomas M. Cooley – Tampa Bay Chapter regarding Why “Failures” Are Your Hidden Superpowers. This presentation focused on why you should not be afraid of "failing," and instead, embrace that sometimes things will not turn out as planned, remember that no one has a 100% failure rate (including *you*!), change your definition of “failure,” learn from and do not dwell on challenging experiences, and have a game plan for them. While this program was presented to FAWL, almost the entire discussion applies to graduate students and professionals across all industries. It is therefore hoped that Part 1 of this three-part series focused on Understanding the Fear of Failure and Mourning and Moving Beyond Plot Twists helps fabulous YOU as you do the hard work on these issues and make the changes necessary to shine your brightest.
Understanding the Fear of “Failure”
Fear of “Failure” Defined
The American Psychological Association defines the fear of failure as a “persistent and irrational anxiety about failing to measure up to the standards and goals set by oneself or others.” This anxiety may revolve around academics, job loss, loss of self-esteem, and a myriad of other triggers. Additionally, perfectionism and certain psychological disorders can exacerbate the fear.
Fearing “Failure” is Gender-Neutral
Both genders fear failing, although the fear oftentimes manifests differently in women versus men.
Women tend to hold themselves to higher standards, meaning that they can be discouraged more quickly, take a lack of success personally, and be so afraid of failure that they decide to not even try. They also tend to think of their skills as innate, so if they are not able to do something on the first try, they may become discouraged and think they have failed, even when a concept is completely new to them.
On the other hand, men are more inclined to hide their vulnerabilities. Their stress is only reduced when they feel competent, so they find it more stressful to admit vulnerabilities, as their fear of failure is driven by a deep fear of incompetence or powerlessness. This oftentimes leaves limited ways to cope with emotional distress, resulting in men ultimately giving up or getting angry.
Intersectionality Between Fearing “Failure” & Impostor Syndrome
Impostor Syndrome is the belief that you are a fraud or not enough, that you are not deserving of your achievements, or when you attribute your successes to luck or fate instead of skill or competence. It is age- and gender-neutral, manifesting in over 70% of Americans at some point during their careers. This can be connected to the fear of failure, as many people suffering from Impostor Syndrome have trouble finishing, or even starting, projects because they are afraid that they will fail.
It is important, however, to keep in mind that most professionals experience this feeling, and thus, you should not allow it to prevent you from exploring various career opportunities, particularly those that are expected to experience high growth over the years to come. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2019 – 2029, the employment of phlebotomists will grow by 17%, much faster than the average for alternative occupations. If healthcare is of interest to you, serious consideration should therefore be given to training programs like those at PhlebotomyU that offers full, abbreviated, and blood withdrawal classes to ensure you are competitive in the medical field.
Mourning & Moving Beyond “Plot Twists”
As explained herein and in many additional Spread Your Sunshine materials, it is truly believed that experiences that do not go as originally planned are your hidden superpowers. This said, it is unlikely that these superpowers are immediately appreciated. More likely, your instant reaction is hurt, frustration, anxiety, sadness, rage, jealousy, you name it. All. The. Feelings. That is perfectly normal. And, awesome. Not awesome that your original plan did not work out, but awesome that you are real about your feelings and allow yourself to process the situation. Even a company with the name Spread Your Sunshine does not think life always shines brightly. Sometimes the sun is hidden behind the clouds before it reemerges. It is okay to not be okay. Giving yourself time to heal is part of the process, and the greater the “loss,” the longer this process will take.
The forgoing said, a new ending to the story is a turn of events, not a life sentence. Too many times, we dwell on the past and stay stuck there. Permanently reflecting backwards will not help you. The thing happened, it’s gone, done. No matter how much you wish it was different, re-writing a past ending is not an option. What you can control is how you move *forward*.
When thinking about moving forward, I often reflect on one of my favorite quotes by Michael Jordan,
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
You are not alone in your “failure.” You are in extremely good company, including, as shown by Michael, the richest and most famous athletes in the world. And, different than those athletes who “failed” in front of millions of viewers and endured boo’ing and social media trolls, you may be the only one who knows that something went differently than planned. What will determine whether you succeed like Michael or stay firmly routed in the past is how you respond to the situation.
To take the super star approach, determine when you will begin to transition away from your initial hurt, whether that be in a day, week, month, or some other time commensurate with the significance of the event. By that time, begin analyzing what you could have done differently to change the past outcome. There are at least two answers.
First, you may determine that there is nothing you could have done differently, you gave it your all. If so, congratulations! You sunk your heart into something that really mattered to you and left it all on the field. That is a *huge* accomplishment itself, take pride in it. It may also mean that for whatever reason, your goal is unattainable. Your next job is to determine, “why?” What is it you are meant to do instead? What is your next journey? How are you alternatively meant to impact the world with your unique talents and fabulousness? There are great answers to these questions, you need to focus on finding them.
Alternatively, you may realize there are several things you could have done differently that would have led to a better result. In this case, congratulations! Your original goal is still in play. Your next job is to determine if you still want to pursue this dream. If so, learn from your previous “mistakes” and begin implementing the identified changes to ensure a better outcome. If not, that is okay, too, a new endeavor may best fit your next life season. If so, see the questions in the forgoing paragraph to determine how you will next shine your brightest.
To view and listen to this presentation in its entirety, please click here or on the video below.
Is there anything you want to hear more about from Spread Your Sunshine?! We’re sure you do, so please share your ideas with us by emailing Melanie at Melanie@SpreadYourSunshine.com or by sending Spread Your Sunshine a message via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together we are strongest.
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