All of my life, I’ve been afraid to fail. I remember growing up, watching class clowns get scolded by the teacher and be told how they were failures while being kicked out of the classroom. Or the family member that was a ‘bad mother,’ or ‘bad father,’ or addict, that everyone talked about, judged and shamed for failing at what their definition of that person’s life should have been. Or the guy in the neighborhood, that “could have been something” but he got “caught up” in something or another and had to come back home, “and now look at him.” I certainly didn’t want to be like any of them, since that’s how the world looked at and treated people who failed. When you look at the definition of failure, and all the personal meanings that people associated with it, of course, I, and everyone would be afraid to fail? As I began to grow and start to forge my own path, I began to realize that I needed to redefine what failure and success meant for me. Can I be successful in my eyes and a failure by someone else’s standards? Yup! Is money, status, title, material possessions, fame, and luxury the scale of success? For some, absolutely. For me, not necessarily. Is failure necessarily a ‘bad’ thing, can I find success in my failure? YES! Everything I’ve ever succeeded at mostly taught me how my ego likes to be fed and what accomplishment feels like; both lessons are necessary to experience and learn, because I believe that it is important that all parts of our character be fed, but my greatest life lessons, life-skills and “Ah-Ha” moments have all have come out of the pits of my ‘mess’ aka my failures.
The strongest feeling of failure I ever had was when I was jobless, sleeping on a blow-up mattress, on a relatives floor, at 20 years old, with my then older boyfriend, in an abusive, toxic relationship (Talk About Poor Life Choices – I shudder), I felt worthless. This was when I began to realize the benefits of failure. Failing stripped away the unnecessary people and things in life, that I put so much value and emphasis in and on. It left me raw and vulnerable, with no choice but to stop and face myself for who I truly was; lazy, spoiled, naive and kept. I literally had nothing, or so I felt. Hope was no longer a strategy; it became a force that pulled me into focusing all of my energy into becoming better than the person I was already pretending to be. My focus changed a few times during my journey, which I now understand happens when you grow; your perception changes, your taste changes, and your desires change. That once overwhelming feeling of worthlessness also changed when I realized that I was actually drowning in wealth because I discovered myself and I was priceless.
I would never have found the determination to get my act together, learn my strengths and weakness, and become a stable, productive member of society, if not for my greatest fear of being a failure coming to pass. I failed, but I didn’t die. I survived, learned and even began to thrive. I became responsible, dependable, brave, and independent.
I’m A Proud Failure
realized that “rock bottom” wasn’t hollow ground, it was a firm foundation, which I was able to stand and build on. I began to dream and learn how to turn those dreams into goals and then make them a reality. I became a living example of life after failure, and it felt good. I knew I’d fail again, and again, at many things, but now I am equipped with the tools to process it and use those feelings and lesson productively next time around. Reaching that mindset felt great! Failure is inevitable. No one can live this life, without experiencing it in some area. If someone somehow makes through life without failing, I believe that means they were too cautious, with too many rules, regulations and boundaries, which says they didn’t really live at all. That in its self if a form of failure, in my opinion. I now know that it’s not about failing, it’s about falling forwards or falling backward.
- Failing Forward – If you learn a lesson(s), apply the new knowledge, don’t allow it to limit, paralyze, or break you, and use it as motivation to and have the mindset of onward, then you’ve failed forward.
- Failing Backward – If you allow failure to stunt, or stop your growth, consume your mental space, and negatively dictate your life, you have failed backward.
There is freedom in failing. It reminds us that perfection is a dangerous myth. When you always win, there are high, pressure-filled expectations to remain in that space, and you lose the ability to be creatively free; along with losing pieces of your humility. This is not to say I don’t enjoy winning, I certainly do, and work hard to win in life. But I don’t want to get caught up in the hype of winning so much so, that I don’t see the value and evolution that losing brings. Personally and professionally, when someone tells me they failed after I’ve validated their initial feelings; I say: “YAY! This is so wonderful! Do you realize this is a gift? This means you were chosen to learn something new! What did you learn?” Oh, yes, people think I’m crazy at first, but after they’ve processed their feelings, most often, during our next coaching conversion or interaction, they ‘get it,’ and began to process the valuable lessons learned. I rebuilt my life, and self-worth thanks to failure, and I believe that no matter what you’ve failed at; marriage, job, business, family, friendships, health, school, finances, or anything in life; you can too.
How do you fail; forward or backward?
About Stefanie Fuentes Kumnipa
Wife, daughter, sister, friend, entrepreneur, writer, life coach, motivational speaker; all of these are titles I possess, but none of them define who I am. Who am I? I am a brave soul, who travels this earth, seeking purpose, connection, happiness, healing, growth, knowledge, inspiration, kindness, pleasure, fun, balance; and most importantly, love.
Stefanie Fuentes Kumnipa, Life Architect
Founder of Better Life Choices of New York