2 Ways to Reframe Failure in Sobriety
If not, don’t worry, I won’t give you any spoilers, but it starts out with a woman who struggles on a daily basis with insecurity, low self-esteem, and feeling like she’s failing at life.
Something happens (again, no spoilers!) and just like that, in a single moment, it’s like she becomes a completely different person. Suddenly she has swagger. She starts kicking goals at work, talking to people she’d never had the nerve to before, and asking out cute guys.
The curious part? Her looks, job, and situation are all exactly the same as they were before.
The one and only thing that changed? Her thoughts and beliefs.
For the first time, she believes she is beautiful and capable. She has complete confidence in her abilities and her potential. She thinks like a happy, self-assured, successful person.
Her thoughts and beliefs completely change her behaviour. She becomes those things (clever, captivating, confident) simply because she believes she is.
I loved this so much because I was totally on board with the message. Our thoughts are so powerful. We are what we eat, and we are what we think.
Tragically, fear of failure can hold us back from getting more out of life. It can stop us before we’ve even started – whether we’re talking sobriety, or embracing any other life challenge.
Learning to trust and love ourselves, and growing in confidence, requires an unlearning of all the negative thought processes that got us here in the first place.
That’s where a good reframe can come in handy.
In particular, here are my favourite 2 ways to reframe failure in sobriety (and in life!):
1. No Failure, Only Lessons.
Have you seen the documentary, ‘Losers’ on Netflix?
It’s such a brilliant series with a powerful message about heartbreak, resilience, starting over, and the strength of the human spirit.
I especially loved the episode with ice skating star and international gold medalist, Surya Bonaly, and the part at the end where she talks to a young girl’s skating group in Harlem.
One of the girls asks Surya if she ever felt like giving up, and Surya answers:
“Sometimes it’s hard. Many days on the ice, you feel like crying. But winning a competition is not the most important thing in life. You don’t have to wait for a medal to make your life different. A medal is nice but it’s not the most important thing. A medal is superficial. It’s not real. If you give one hundred percent and you know you did your best, feel good about that, feel positive and move on… Try to be a good person, a good athlete and student, without trying to get a medal.”
It reminded me of how often we seek approval and validation from others – when all that really matters is that we stay true to ourselves and fully express what’s in our hearts.
It also reminded me of a quote I love from Kyle Cease:
“The reason you seek approval from others is because you’re not getting it from yourself.”⠀
What if we did what we loved, or followed our own path – not for validation or approval from others, but simply for the joy of self-expression and discovery? Simply to experience deeper creativity and celebrate what it means to be fully alive?
What would we do if we knew we couldn’t fail?
Or, as this documentary series so aptly points out; what would you do if you knew that the only way you could possibly fail… was not to try in the first place?
For you, and no-one else. Purely for you.
And really, when you stop to think about it, isn’t it kind of bizarre how scared we all are of failing?
For me, the sense of shame that accompanied any perceived failure was deeply entrenched in what other people would think of me.
I completely overlooked what failure would mean for my own sense of self-worth; for my growth and ultimate strength of character. I completely disregarded the fact that daring to fail means we were brave enough to try in the first place; that it speaks volumes about the strength and courage of our hearts.
The fact is, everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t mean we’re stupid or a failure; it means we had the courage to try something new. That’s something to be incredibly proud of.
The most successful people in the world – the people who have achieved the greatest things – have failed a ton of times. They’ve had the courage to dream, and to try and try again; to put themselves out there and see what happened.
Being emotionally healthy and mature means putting more value on our growth than on the lofty heights of perfection. It means owning our mistakes and learning from them. It means giving yourself a chance to try, and fail, and try again.
It’s okay if new habits don’t ‘stick’ the first time around. It’s okay if we mess up, make mistakes, or don’t always get it right. What matters most is what we do next.
So go ahead and practice, try, and blunder. Give it your best shot. You have absolutely everything in the world to gain.
Here’s to your growth.
2. Everything is Progress.
Back when I tap-tap-tapped away writing Up All Day, I found myself writing about the first time I went to a networking event sober.
I was so nervous at this event. I was so worried about what the other biz owners would make of me; so anxious to say the right thing; hell bent on proving to myself that I could absolutely mingle without booze.
It was eerily similar to the first time Dom and I were interviewed by a TV program. Afterwards, my mind raced as I painstakingly went over every single word I’d said, whether I’d gotten my point across clearly, and all the tiny details I could have said and done differently.
I was so absorbed in the mental dissection of my responses that, at first, I barely even heard Dom say:
“I think we did really well for our first time!”
As I turned to look at him, his words slowly sunk in, and it dawned on me how much pressure I always put on myself to get it right the first time. How little grace and wiggle room I left myself for simply practicing a new skill (like networking sober), without demanding that I exceed my every expectation.
Suddenly I realised: my constant striving for instant perfection wasn’t self-love; it was quite the opposite.
Whether we’re talking work, relationships, health, or sobriety, it can be so easy to be hard on ourselves and berate ourselves for not being further along on our journey – and so easy to forget the goalposts and milestones we’ve already achieved.
But what if we let go of all the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves, and approached something new as simply just ‘practice’? Would we approach it with a lighter heart? With more joy and creativity?
Because if we went back and reviewed our history and recognised how far we’ve already come, we might just find ourselves celebrating our evolution, and feeling gratitude for all the lessons we’ve experienced so far (even the hard, messy ones!).
We might just discover that progress is a heck of a lot more beautiful and rewarding than perfection will ever be.
Yup, all of it. The ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. The re-starts, the backwards steps, and the do-overs.
Every single step of it has helped us to know more now than we did yesterday. Every bit of it has helped us to grow and evolve in ways that we might not even be aware of yet.
By tomorrow we’ll have grown even more.
There is no such thing as failure, angel. You are not broken, and you are not your past mistakes. Each slip is just one tiny blip in an ongoing journey of development. Each blunder makes you stronger than if you’d never tried.
Show yourself a ton of grace and love. Praise your efforts, and cheer yourself on for doing something so brave and beautiful.
Everything is a learning experience, and everything is progress.
I’m so proud of you.
Read more in Chameleon – a book about the danger of giving our power away to others, the magic of finding our way back to ourselves, and how each of us can begin to build a deep and unshakeable confidence. Enter your email below to read the first chapter.
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