“Today is the day! Today I am finally going to: (insert the same resolution you’ve been making for a decade).”
Did you stick to it? No? Yes? Congrats if you can say yes, but I can sympathize if it’s a no. How many times have you made a promise to yourself and then failed to keep that promise? Once? Twice? More times than you even care to count? Yup, I’m guilty of that too. I spent almost a decade telling me and everyone who would listen that I was going to get back into “dancing shape”. But that was an impossible feat because I was FIFTEEN when I stopped dancing. There was no way my 20-something-year-old body was ever going to look like my high school self. And tbh, I am so much happier with how I look now, than I did fifteen years ago.
Last November I shared with my handful of Instagram followers that I had a goal of doing 25 full push-ups in 2020. I posted a couple of videos of my progress, but I only ever made it to 17. Then I stopped there. I never did another push-up for the rest of the year. I could try and defend this with a slew of pretty good excuses (new job, holidays, packing, moving, etc.). But let’s call a spade a spade: I accepted failure. I looked at the number 25 and decided that adding 8 more reps was some sort of insurmountable feat of strength. It actually isn’t, but I hate doing push-ups and looked for any excuse to give up. It was a public failure, but maybe, like, three people in the world wondered if I ever met my goal.
Some other ways I’ve failed
I failed at school. My mental health was so bad that I literally chose to fail the majority of a semester rather than ask for help. Ultimately this led me down the path to choosing the right engineering discipline for me, but I wasted a lot of time and money because I didn’t fight for myself. Not understanding course material does not make someone stupid. ASK. FOR. HELP. Your professors don’t judge you, at least the good ones, don’t judge you for asking questions. They like it. Asking for help lets them know where the gaps are in their teaching. And your loved ones will keep loving you if you show them you need help. Fearing seeming less than perfect is one of the dumbest phases of my life.
I failed at my relationship. Writing this post is really proving that mental health affects everything in your life. My lowest point was December 2016. I had just failed another class that was going to delay my graduation by another semester. That was the straw that broke my relationship’s back. Doug was very understandably angry with me. I didn’t ask for help, again, and I had lied for 14 weeks that I was doing well in school. I was not taking care of myself. My weight gain was out of control and I was binge eating and drinking like a fish at every opportunity. He broke up with me in an elevator in Miami and I was crushed. I had tied up my entire identity into a relationship where I had given up all of the power (financially and otherwise). Clearly we got back together, but when those words left his mouth, I just rolled over and took the F.
I failed financially. I let my parents’ approach to money shape my spending habits as an adult. One parent was always spending money and the other was so stingy with it. I was always so annoyed having to beg for an allowance (although I didn’t do much to actually deserve it) and yet I was given a brand new car for high school graduation. I was never taught anything about finances, budgeting, or the way banks, credit cards, or the stock market works. Let’s skip the nitty gritty details, but debt collectors are very real and having to explain that to your husband is a really low point in a marriage.
I failed at taking birth control. Not on purpose! But it turns out that birth control is only 99% effective when you take that little pill within the same hour every single day. I took two vacations in December 2016 and failed to account for time zone changes. Long story short, my daughter was born 41 weeks later. If I hadn’t gotten accidentally pregnant, I don’t think I would have a family right now. I built up so much fear around having baby that I am almost glad that the choice was made for me.
I failed to learn how to say no, set boundaries, and ask for help. My early and mid-twenties were filled with a bad case of FOMO. I worked a job that required me to be up before 4 AM, but I never turned down a late night hangout because I was terribly desperate for any sort of friendship (more about that here) and thought that if I said turned down the invitation, I would never be asked to join again, or worse, something fun would happen without me and then they would talk about it the next time and I wouldn’t be in on the joke. The whole fear of missing out thing lead me to working two mostly full-time jobs, while being a full-time student, and completing a Capstone project (last big project of my degree program). I didn’t sleep very much. I was eating my feelings and hiding the evidence. I ate a lot fewer PB&Js than I told him I did. I knew I felt terrible, drowning in the deepest, darkest pits of depression and anxiety, and I couldn’t just turn to the person I loved most in the world and ask for the help that I so desperately needed. I now realize that December 2016 was my actual rock bottom. All of this was contributed to how I didn’t realize I was pregnant until after 20 weeks. Yes, I felt tired. Yes, I felt like shit most days. Yes, I had trouble sleeping and my body felt achy, but I had been feeling that way for years. I kept taking my prescribed birth control and never questioned (or even really realized) that it had been some months since my last period. It wasn’t until I started to take care of myself in the Spring of 2017, and started dropping weight everywhere except my belly, that I realized I could even be pregnant.
I failed as a mom. Now this one is a bit dramatized. I know I am a damn good mom, and I would do anything for my kids because they have brought out the very best in me and pushed me to do things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. After finding out so late that I was very pregnant, I felt deep dread. I had spent 20 weeks engaging in selfish, destructive behavior that was not ideal for a developing baby. If there was anything developmentally wrong with my unborn child, it was going to be my fault. My daughter wasn’t even born yet and I had already endangered her wellbeing. I had been so selfish by not putting my mental and physical health above temporary mouth-pleasure. Not a day goes by where I’m not reminded how lucky I am that, despite my huge failure, my daughter was ok and that she is the kindest, sassiest, most brilliant child I could have ever been blessed with.
It’s ok to admit failure. There are many reasons for all the cliché quotes about learning and growing from failure. But I hate to tell you, they’re true. There is no way to grow without struggle. Admitting all of my failures for any stranger on the internet to see is scary. I don’t know who is going to read this, but I’m sure you have a whole lot of thoughts about me being a dumbass (me too) and I’m ok with that. Writing this was just as valuable as a therapy session…I think because I’ve never actually seen a therapist…It helped me realize that I’ve made some very big, expensive mistakes that have brought me to this point in my life where I am happy and healthy. It made me realize how much I’ve grown and changed in the last decade.
Have you ever failed at something big? Have you reflected on it? You don’t have to tell me, or anyone else, but may I suggest sitting down one day and writing it all down? Seeing the words allows us to not internalize the negative emotions around these past mistakes. It lets us remember, analyze, see where we can improve, and then let go of the guilt we’ve been holding onto. You’ll feel worse, and then you’ll feel lighter.
I hope, as always, that you found some joy in learning about my mistakes. Find me on Instagram @joyandotherthingsblog!