Recently I had gotten involved in a group offering a wonderful business opportunity, which later I realized I had taken on too much and I had to back out. In the conversation that ended my involvement I was told, “I see this as failure, because it is quitting.” At the time this bothered me because I knew this was not true, but I let it go, because I recognized it as a strategy to change my mind and was not meant to be malicious in any way. My personal truth in regard to this situation is, it was not failure – and I am not a failure because I made this decision – nor does it mean I am a quitter. This statement was simply an opinion, and I think it is alright for others to have opinions in their assessments of me; however, it does not mean that I have to adopt these opinions as fact.
In retrospect, this situation helped me to realize how far I have come personally speaking, as, had this comment been spoken to me a few years ago, it would have bothered me until the end of time, where it would have manifested as a defining factor of who I am as a person. I think for many of us, the fear of failure is at the forefront of many of our relationships including family, partner, and peer groups, but it can be particularly tied to career failure. This is because there is so much emotion tied to our work through passion for what we do as well as financial – our work is often our livelihood, so failure at work leads to loss of income.
Striving to succeed in an often unstable world contributes to thoughts of “I am unlovable” and “I am not good enough” because we have failed before. But, have we, really? Or, have we simply heard messages from others, and from society, that the challenges we have gone through equal failure? If we reflect on these past situations and really dissect them, it may become apparent that the word ‘failure’ is a label placed on us due to an opinion of our involvement in something, from an outside source. This begs us to ask the question, “Does this opinion of me define who I am, and furthermore, should it?” Far too often, we look to the external when the answers we are seeking come from within us.
Competition is a reality in today’s world. We are in competition for everything; the things we have, what we do and where we do it, and who we associate with. At work we compete for jobs, and then we compete with colleagues for clients, achievements, or numbers so that we can maintain our position and thus, our lifestyle. However, we rarely compete with the one person that truly matters, and that is ourselves. If we start comparing the side of ourselves that we show to the world with our personal truth, values, and aspirations we may find that we start to become the confidence we show to the world. In essence, we are better able to compete in the world by first aligning internally. We may not be able to shed the ‘failure’ label, but we can change the way we think about it. Labels are not actually about us. We alone get to decide whether it is true for us, and if failure is an opinion, then the label doesn’t matter.