Ever bomb on a test or important exam? Have you ever come out of a presentation feeling like you could have done more, or you didn’t emphasize the right points, or your delivery was completely off?
How do you think about those moments in time? What do you recall feeling afterward? And more importantly HOW did you THINK about yourself after those disappointing and frustrating moments?
Let’s back up even further… what did your mother, father, teacher, coach or sibling have to say to you in those moments when you struck out at bat, didn’t make the team, or failed a test?
Were you met with words of consolation and compassion, or words of criticism, ridicule and shame?
The messages we got growing up about when we “strike out” are profound as they shape our mindset, feelings and attitudes around when we perceive we fail at something.
If the messaging we got growing up is “YOU are a failure” our immature brains, in particular our Prefrontal Cortex ( PFC) cannot process the truth that we tried something and did not get the results we desired, but that WE are OK and not worthy of shame.
If someone calls us a failure, a loser, or harangues us endlessly we still begin to believe whatever they say when we are young because we lack the ability for discernment to question those words or comments. If this treatment occurs repeatedly it will instill an internal message that we are not enough. We are a failure.
This kind of negative messaging and mind mapping does not stop when we turn 18 and leave home. It stays with us unless or until we begin to question those messages for accuracy.
Questioning those messages sounds something like this… Is it true that I am a failure because I was not chosen for the elite soccer team, or as an adult, for the promotion, or for the lead on the team? We then need to begin to practice questioning our thoughts that have plagued us by asking, “ Is that really true? Can I know with 100% certainty that the reason I was not chosen is because I’m a failure?”
Caustic critical comments can stay with us and hurt us for a lifetime.
They can keep us from stretching, growing, exceling, and trying new things if we let these inaccurate messages control us and take our internal thoughts hostage.
It is important to remember that some of the most well intentioned parents and coaches are acting out of their own unresolved pain and woundedness- i.e. the messages they got growing up that perhaps were also intended to “make them better” actually had the impact of shaming.
Today, change your language around failure. Catch the thoughts (or voices) that sound like “I’m a failure” and change them to the truth. I call this a forming a truth statement.
The truth may be, I did ok on that presentation though if I had to do it again I would emphasize more of …. Or the truth is I did not prepare for the test in the way I intended and next time will create a study schedule that I stick to… or it may sound like, it’s true I failed at ______ AND I can still be ok and still see my value and worth.
Consider chewing on the following thoughts…
I am not a failure. I may not perform to my or others’ expectations at times, AND it is also true that I am ok and not worthy of anyone’s shame or blame. The more you speak truth to your brain the more you can rerecord over all the old tapes that have been in your head causing you grief.
If this describes you and the persistent fear of thoughts of failure are holding you back, causing you to feel depressed or anxious, or driving you towards perfectionistic tendencies to avoid being criticized, there is help available.
Today you can begin to change your internal narrative. Your adult PFC is in charge and the accurate thoughts you chew on today can help heal and move you forward from all the inaccurate, negative, critical, shaming or blaming comments you’ve been subjected to.
Today, celebrate wonderful you, with your unique talents and strengths, keeping your weaknesses and challenges in a right, healthy and helpful perspective.
You are enough.