I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of failing or being “less than” some set standard. These are just broad observations and maybe because I am an overachiever, I attract other overachievers into my life, but I am noticing that overachievers create a lot of stress for ourselves that probably does not need to exist. Ok, nothing earth shattering here, but sometimes I forget that I have done a lot of great things and I focus on what I am not doing well instead of celebrating my accomplishments. And I know I am not alone with this behavior.
For example, today was the first day in a long time that I was only negative 4 points at the end of my week on Weight Watchers (WW). Negative points mean that I have eaten all of the points I have been allotted, or earned, through exercise and then some. I have overspent my bank account, so-to-speak. For months, I have ended my weeks at negative 130 points, which is like maxing out your high interest credit cards with no repayment plan in sight. I have toyed with the idea of giving up and quitting WW (why keep paying each month if I am not working the system), but I did not give up and I am now getting back on track (I had a two pound loss today for my weigh-in!). I posted about this fact on the WW Connect community and got a ton of responses. People are discouraged and want to give up. I was there too because I would see people’s success stories on WW and feel both encouraged and discouraged. The stories only highlighted how unsuccessful I was at this whole weight-loss business, which made me feel pretty bad about myself, which made me want to eat more junk food, which made me feel even more like a failure.
Some of the most frustrating and disheartening moments are those moments when we just feel like we are failing at life.
Failure sucks. But why does it suck?! We should celebrate failures for what they teach us about ourselves.
The above picture was taken on my cell phone around mile 16 or 17 of the Portland Marathon (for New Englanders, that’s Portland, Oregon). I had completely blown my training and was in pain before crossing the bridge. I was in a downward spiral of self-hate because I knew better. I knew how to train and I didn’t. I failed at this dumb race and was mad at myself, which reminded me of other past failures, like the Honolulu marathon where I had to quit at mile 5 because of knee pain, or how I never really applied myself fully to my Ironman training (I was a midnight finisher each time and felt I could have been faster if I had properly trained). But what I neglected to focus on was the fact that I showed up for the race in the first place. With a lack of training, I still made my way to mile 17 and I had a lovely trip to Portland to see family and friends. With the Honolulu marathon, I failed the race but still raised over $4,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and with the Ironman triathlons, I still FINISHED both races.
In each instance, I would compare myself to others and see only my weaknesses, my “less than” moments because my friends were finishing the marathons, running faster triathlons, and losing weight successfully week after week.
High standards are a blessing and a curse. Being an overachiever is both a blessing and a curse. Being an overachiever means I work full time at a great university, I am pulling straight As in my graduate program and just earned a spot in the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and I am signing up for triathlons, trying to be fit, and above all, I’m working hard to be a good partner, sister, friend, family member, coworker, etc. I have traveled the world, finished two Ironman triathlons, and so much more. But instead of being content, I focus on what I have done wrong: the fact that I did not summit Mt. Kilimanjaro over a year ago, the fact that I gained weight back after losing 22 pounds, the fact that I failed to finish two marathons that I started, etc. I am not saying that I should give up goals and be content with failure, but maybe I should be a little less hard on myself. Maybe we all need to be a little less hard on ourselves.
Instead, let us focus on what a failure teaches us. Let’s celebrate the times we have fallen short, or been “less than” because as an overachiever, that means we will correct our mistakes. We will work hard until we find a solution. We will keep setting goals and moving forward because that is just what we do. But in the meantime, we need to be a little bit more forgiving of ourselves. Failure is just “U r a Life.” A life that is full of positives and negatives: Yin and yang, balance. A life that is full of blessings and opportunities to grow. We fall, but we learn how to walk in the process. When we realize we do not have wings to fly, we build airplanes. Good can come from crap (seriously, flowers bloom in manure).