Last updated on 13/08/2021
I’m delighted for Simone Biles. She took the time she needed, continued to train and noticed how she felt as well as being assessed daily (again, I cannot even IMAGINE how triggering it might have been for her based on the abusive team doctor she and her colleagues had survived).
And she came back to win Bronze on Beam (with a non-twisty dismount she said she hadn’t done since she was 12 or 13). Simplifying her routine enabled her to compete again.
It was also beautiful to see her showing up to support her team mates at every event and all of the gymnastics finalists seeming to genuinely support and respect each other – world leaders could learn a lot from these young women.
I would love all of them to be winners and I especially felt for Lu Yufei when she fell on Uneven Bars, literally landing flat on her face and stomach (the commenter dismissed this horror saying they’re trained to land that way and not to worry) but coming back to complete on other apparatus.
The Olympics are obviously high stakes but I was struck by a gorgeous interview with two of my favourite comedians (and humans), Seth Meyers and John Oliver.
They’re both incredibly successful now but delighted in sharing stories of earlier days where Seth had just 11 people in an audience and 9 were blood relatives. John remembered having just two people and both (separately) walking out.
They related tales of delighting in jokes bombing and their past onstage failures. They could have given up so many times but got better at comedy by learning what worked.
I imagine, at the time, these ‘failures’ hurt and they weren’t laughing but it got me thinking about some of my own failures, slow starts, periods of extreme stuckness etc etc.
Ultimately, they’ve all helped me.
1) ‘There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback’
It’s a bit of an NLP cliche but it pretty much always true. If what we’re doing isn’t working, we can allow ourselves the time we need to wallow – this is NOT about toxic positivity or brightsiding – and then we can reflect (and ask for outside feedback) in order to better assess what, in our approach works, doesn’t work and what can be tweaked or even transformed. We get to choose whether we continue with an approach that isn’t working or to grow from the experience and do better.
2) Remember that you’re so much MORE than this ‘failure’
This – however huge it feels right now – doesn’t define you. You are much more than this moment. You are much more than this aspect of your identity (whether it’s a ‘failure’ at work, in a relationship or something else). What might be trying to emerge at a soul level in order to help you grow from this experience? Is the situation a masterclass for you in terms of learning to be more patient, boundaried, accepting or something else?
3) Congratulate for building resilience right now
This experience will make you stronger if you let it. This doesn’t mean ignoring the feedback you’re getting from the situation and ploughing on regardless. It also doesn’t mean forcing yourself to try again before you’re ready. By taking whatever time you need AND finding ways to keep going, you can potentially do better next time. (Again, am in awe of Biles continuing to train while at the centre of a global media circus, dealing with grief, fear and other issues.)
4) This can enhance your confidence
I value things more when I have to work harder for them. When I get there eventually, it means more to me than those times when I potentially undervalue the thing because it was so easy. Whatever you’re doing again, the practice will help you improve at it. Getting BETTER at the thing (communicating in your relationship? Performing that piece of music? The work thing?) will in turn increase your confidence
5) Own your struggles
US Congresswoman Cori Bush refused to let opponents trying to shame her for tough times in her life where she was evicted and homeless. Instead, the experience helped her stand stronger in her fight for millions across the US and, this week, help save their homes!
Yesterday, she tweeted:
One year ago today, we won our primary.
A few weeks earlier, a mailer sent to homes across St. Louis smeared and shamed me for being evicted. But I kept on, because there is no shame in struggle.
Today, that struggle is helping keep 11 million people in their homes.
In your own life, whatever you feel shame around might well be golden in terms of helping you do more than you’d ever imagined. When you connect with Future You, what might this current struggle help you heal not just for yourself but for others?
6) Listen to your body
Failure hurts. Rejection registers on the brain like physical pain Sit (or lie or stand) and notice, what sensation feels most prominent in your body right now? What does that sensation need from you? It might be a need to curl up and cry (emotional tears release stress hormones and, in a supportive setting, help us access support. It’s a release). It might be a need to find a loved one an hug. It might be to stomp and rage and punch something (safely), break crockery (again, safely)… Honour your body.
7) Accept support
When we’re ashamed or feel like failures, lower oxytocin levels can make us feel on the outside so we withdraw and behave in ways that leave us even more isolated and alone. It’s all very well entreating people to ‘reach out’ when feeling low but this can feel physiologically impossible when we need to the most. Still, you might be able to make a list of the supports you wish you felt able to identify and access. What would be your wish list for mental support (eg, therapy? A tutor if you’re struggling with coursework or similar)? What about physical? Physiotherapy? Medical? Complementary therapies? How about emotional support? Who would you like to reach out to if you felt able? Who do you wish you had in your life to support you through this? Spiritual? Whether it’s hugging a favourite tree, floating in the sea, lying face down on the earth or going to a Church, Temple or Mosque (etc) that brings you solace, what can you access? What might you seek as you feel better and start making tweaks to your life?
I hope this post has helped you begin to think of ways in which you can be more gentle with yourself when life is already feeling tough.