What is Failure?


3 ways to reframe failing and change your relationship with yourself, to grow through challenges

By Mel Fawcett

Growing up, failure of any kind in my house was not tolerated. How was failure defined to me as a kid? My perception was that “failing” was a lack of perfectionism, that in order not to fail and receive mocking or lack of approval, that I must mould myself into what I perceived as “perfectly” smart, pretty, people pleasing and therefore hooked on external validation for self-worth.

The belief that the self was a fixed identity, that we were either born smart or worthy or beautiful or not, became a source of deep anxiety for me around failure. Our failings in our family were considered to mean that intrinsically you were less.

The failings of others, were cast with judgment, ostracization and humiliation. This only meant that a fear of failure became bigger than life itself, that failing was some sort of death, that it was to be avoided at all costs so that you could survive. And so, I avoided failing at all costs.

This way of thinking, a cultural perception, a family view, meant that failure seemed very black and white. You are either the best, or you are nothing. How did the school system at the time contribute to this perception?


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