What happened when I stopped using the (other) 'F' word
. Recently, I was going through my collection of journals and found a little black one with a black rubber band piece that wraps around and keeps the journal shut. I carefully removed the rubber band, opened the journal, and saw the first page. The first page had a generic, factory writing that read: “This journal belongs to.” A blank line underneath signified a place to write a name. I wrote “A failure.” The very first page of my little black journal read: “This journal belongs to a failure.”
For a long time I had seen myself as a failure. In high school, I was a healthy weight, but so many of my classmates were thinner. I always felt overweight and nothing I did ever really made me thinner. I was a failure. When I took my SAT, I received very mediocre scores, despite studying diligently for the exam. I was a failure. When I graduated college and could not find a job, I was a failure. When I was 22 and had yet to be in a serious relationship, I was a failure. When I was 23 and had to move back in with my parents for monetary reasons, I was a failure. When I had to move in with my brother because a job didn’t work out as promised, I was a failure. I could go on and on with all of the reasons that made me feel like a failure.
For years, I could only see the negative. I held impossible standards for myself and didn’t allow myself to be less than. If I made a mistake or experienced a hardship, I would immediately see myself as a failure. And if something was going well or if I did something great, it went unnoticed. I was seeing in through a negative lens.
Looking back on all of the things that made me identify as a failure, I see that my pessimistic attitude was keeping me from seeing things realistically. In high school, I was a healthy weight and looked good. There is no reason why I should have felt less than, just because there were thinner girls in school. Now, I’m a little bigger than that weight I held in high school, but I take pride in my curves and can’t imagine being any thinner. That SAT exam… well I know that I am intelligent, but I just don’t mesh well with standardized tests. Now, as an educator, I see more than ever that a standardized test is not the best way to assess someone’s knowledge. Not finding a job immediately after graduating college… um duh! I graduated in the midst of a recession AND my major was creative writing. Of course finding a job would be a struggle. But I did find a job eventually.
And that whole bit about being 22 and not in a serious relationship? Well I take pride in that now too. I didn’t waste my time on guys that didn’t matter. I didn’t have to mend a bunch of broken hearts. Now I’m with someone I love deeply and I don’t care that it took time to find him. If I wasn’t so picky, maybe I would have never found him and that thought terrifies me! And finally, the job that was supposed to work out, but didn’t, well that wasn’t my fault. The position I went into was supposed to go full time in the fall, but the school cut funding. I was lucky enough to have a brother who took me in during that hard time in my life. If anything, that should have shown me I am the opposite of a failure.
I don’t know what caused me to stop referring to myself as a failure. Maybe it was age and perspective. Maybe I just stopped being a pessimist. Perhaps it was something else. Regardless, I’m so happy I did. Seeing myself as the success I am and seeing that my experiences were completely normal has lightened my load. I’m not down on myself anymore.
Recently opening that journal and seeing how hard I was on myself, just made me feel sad. Sad that I looked so negatively on my life. Sad that I couldn’t see past the negative lens I used to wear. Now that I see things more realistically, I see I was never a failure. None of us are failures. Sometimes we experience hardships. Sometimes bad things happen to us. But we persevere. We push through and keep going. That makes us all successes. Besides, putting it out in writing that I was a failure could have brought negativity to my life. Perhaps for my next journal, I will write, “This journal belongs to a success.”
(Image via iStock)