Reframing Failure

Written by Teri Hales

Big life changes can throw you off balance. I empower women to find clarity, direction, and JOY in their new life.

February 28, 2020

You always start as a beginner

Have you ever desperately wanted to do something new, but you were SUPER afraid that you’d suck at it?

Yup. Me too.

Have you ever worried so much that you’d make mistakes or make a fool of yourself that you let that fear keep you from even showing up and trying?

Again. Guilty as well.

The next thing I’m going to say will feel like a “duh” comment, but I believe more of us need to hear it and let it really sink in. When it really sinks in, it’ll change the game in every aspect of your life.


I know…I know…you’re having a “thanks for stating the obvious, Einstein” kind of a moment right now. (At least, I did when I first heard it). But when you really allow yourself to be ok being a beginner, understanding that it’s not just you, it’s EVERYONE that fumbles in the beginning, it’s easier to give yourself grace to learn.

Learning involves making mistakes

I want you to picture yourself as a small child. (You’re pretty freaking adorable, right?)

Think of all of the things you learned when you were little. You had to learn to roll over, sit up, walk, sleep through the night, sleep alone, feed yourself, dress yourself, talk.

Did you do ANY of these things perfectly the first time or even the hundredth time?

Did you come out of the womb able to hold adult conversations? or regulate your emotions? or articulate your desires? Um, no.

We come out of the womb LEARNING, which ironically looks a whole lot like making mistakes and then course correcting.

We come into the world eager to try out new things, make mistakes, and learn from them. And the world is eager for us to do the same.

Our parents clap for us when we struggle to roll over or take our first Frankenstein steps on our own. We smile and shriek in delight at our first feeble efforts. Why?

Because we understand that this is how we learn, by trying. This is the ONLY way to learn.

And it feels pretty freaking amazing to grow and expand our abilities. It feels like victory to take those first few steps and to continue to become coordinated enough to walk seamlessly and eventually run.

Learning in a shame-free environment is expansive and freeing. It makes us feel like we can do anything.

Shedding the shame

So, what changed between that adorable, chubby faced time in your life and now?

Even though no one meant to, somewhere along the way, your mistakes began to be corrected with shame. Shame was used because it’s a POWERFUL motivator to correct behavior. As humans, we’re wired to connect and be accepted. For our ancestors, being cast out of the tribe meant certain death. So, shame and guilt are literally hardwired into us to alert us when we’re doing something that could ostracize us from our chosen community or close relationships.

But, society is only JUST starting to understand how detrimental shame can be to the learning process. (We’re talking this stuff started being researched only in the past few decades. We have hundreds if not thousands of years of unlearning to do in this area).

So, if you can remember being shamed for breaking something, saying the wrong thing, forgetting to turn in your homework, or just not showering enough…you’re right there with the rest of us awkward humans. We’ve all made mistakes. And we’ve all been accidentally shamed for those mistakes because it’s all humanity has known.

Until now….

Not mistakes; learning opportunities

You were built to learn through doing, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. What if we reframed the idea of making mistakes or even failure?

What if from now on, we called the times when we fall down learning opportunities?

Would that change how you view your journey into the unknown?

Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

What if from now on, you determined that there was no shame in the process of learning. What if you considered all of the experiences opportunities to either “win or learn”?

You could accomplish just about ANYTHING you put your mind to!

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