Feeling Failure

Just what is failure?

I suppose that for each one of us, it can have a different meaning.

For me, it’s a feeling of not measuring up. To society’s standards. To my own standards.

When I think of the word “fail,” I think of going to school. To fail a test or a class meant you didn’t meet the standard.

My biggest fear as a student was of an F.

Because F = Failure.

When I was writing last week, that Failure of the past seven years sometimes felt a lot like an F.

So just what standard did I fail to meet these past seven years?

The main standard at which I feel I failed was the one that tells me that to be successful, I must have a job that produces money.

That to be a worthy member of society, I have to produce income.

These past seven years have made me question that assumption. Does everyone I consider a worthwhile person make money?

The answer is definitely NO.

I know plenty of stay-at-home moms and dads who don’t produce monetary income – but who are some of the most worthwhile, productive members of society I know.

I have friends who don’t have to work, either because they’re retired or because they have enough wealth to support them. Are they “worthless”? Absolutely not.

So where did I get this idea that to be worthwhile, I have to produce money?

Did it come from my family, from my community? From our society at large? From being born a human?

Where did this whole equation of Income Production = Success come from?

I think it comes from the other word I felt so much this past seven years.


I realized that in MY mind, income production means I’ll be safe, protected. That I won’t have to worry. That life will be easy.

That if I’m working in a job, I’ll be valued. And valued people are taken care of. That bad things don’t happen to valued people.

Even though I know better than that, know differently than that, there’s a basic assumption that I seem to have been born with. That being productive, making money, makes you invulnerable.

And, in these past seven years, I’ve had to realize that that kind of thinking IS A LIE!

Nothing makes me invulnerable.

Not money. Not success. Not faith.

Being alive in this human form means I’m vulnerable.

Sometimes that scares me senseless.

But sometimes. . . . sometimes, when the light is just right, when it’s quiet and empty, when I can release a tiny bit of the tension in my body. . . I realize that my very vulnerability is precious.

That vulnerability is the only thing that can break through the barriers I’ve spent 56 years erecting. That the crack, the F, the Failure, is the very thing that I need – to be fully human, to live fully in this murky, muddy, magical world.

Who’d a thunk it?

That just what I needed was failure??

But there you have it. My F these past seven years has meant much more than any A or gold star or trophy I received in all of the years before that.

Because all of the “successes” didn’t do one thing to help break open the armor I put around my heart.

Only failures have done that.

Failure. Fear. Vulnerability.

My greatest teachers.

My greatest heart openers.


Early spring wildflowers

4 thoughts on “Feeling Failure

  1. Such a powerful post….and you could place me right along here with you. I’ve been thinking a lot lately how I think I would feel better if I got a part time job, along with keeping “Polly’s Porch” going. That making more money for the family would make me feel more useful. The funny thing is, no one has ever expressed to me that I should feel this way….I make myself feel this way! Sometimes, I feel like unless I’m “running on empty” with endless deadlines and responsibilities, I’m wasting time. It’s hard not to be hard on myself. Granted, having two kids in college with only one strong income is a challenge for sure. Maybe that’s the root of it…but your words make me feel better, and I thank you for them. 🙂

    • I think we absorb that feeling from our society. Protestant work ethic and all. Salzburgers sure have it! And I think our over-busyness is also a way to avoid feeling, being present. And that goes back to fear. Fear is at the root of all that makes me uncomfortable.

      But I’m glad this post makes you feel better. 🙂

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