Successful? Failure? What Does that Mean?

by | Jul 29, 2021 | It's Complex...PTSD | 0 comments

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I Failed Myself

Drawing showing how I failed myself time and time again by over extending myselfI failed myself. I believed that I should do more and be more. Always put others first. Always listen when others are telling their stories. It’s important for people to feel heard.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to listen or don’t have the emotional bandwidth to listen. What you want doesn’t matter. You don’t matter.

When you hit bottom, dig deeper. There is always more within you; you have to keep pushing. That moment when I can’t get up, when I am broke, and I can’t fathom getting up, then you are a failure.

But, How?

I am a failure. As I write those words, I am acutely aware of how many people reading will tell me that I am not. They will recount all of the things that I have done throughout my life. Their eyes were lighting up as they reshare my stories with me.

Those people retelling my story would be correct. From the perspective of having done cool stuff, I am still doing cool stuff (I mean, I live in an RV and am traveling the country – cool, right?). Yes, it is pretty cool and awesome. 

I am not a failure because I have or have not done or accomplished. Nor am I a failure because of the cool things I have not done. I am a failure because I failed myself. I didn’t realize the distinction until recently. There are different ways to fail, and there are different levels of failure.

Learning to Fail

People learn about failure throughout their lives. We learn about failure, from learning how to ride a bike to getting or not getting a promotion at work. The child whose goal is to ride their bike the one block in front of their house fails when they fall off their bike.  They did not meet their goal; they failed. And that is okay. 

I think it is especially okay to fail others as long as you are not failing yourself. Prioritizing yourself, ensuring that you are taking care of your needs first, you will never be a failure. Not ever. But that is not what we are told by our families, by society, through the media, etc.   

I failed. I did not put myself first. I was standing in line and allowing others to get in front of me until I realized that I would never be at the front of the line. I had not moved from that spot because every time the person in the front moved forward, I allowed another person in front of me. I was stagnant.


I didn’t feel like I was stagnant. I felt like I was a bullet train. I was all over the place. I was all over the place and yet getting nowhere for myself. And I made myself sick with drinking too much, working too much, and pushing myself to move and be way outside of my comfort zone. 

I had already been carrying around dysfunctional thought patterns and behaviors. All of which stemmed from growing up in an abusive home. That, coupled with the feeling that I would never make it (to where I had no idea), was a daily barrage of self-abuse. I learned from the best you know. 

I failed to recognize the patterns of self-abuse. It took me years to recognize that I am an alcoholic. I did not and even refused to recognize the abuse I went through growing up affected me on so many levels. And that is where I failed myself.

“So why then do we take failure so hard?  Because we forget that success is achieved through trying, and trying most often ends in failure.”1

Success? Failure?

Learning how to prioritize myself is a long journey aheadI never really tried to get myself into a healthy place. I tried so many other ways to be “successful” (whatever society and others define as successful), but never once did I look at myself and say, “what would make you successful to yourself?” And that is where I failed myself.

And you know what? That is okay. It’s completely okay. It took me my entire life to this point to figure this out, but I think I finally did. I will continue to try new things to figure out what works for me.

Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t, and that is okay. I am trying. The difference this time? I am trying for me, not for anyone else.

I am okay writing that I have failed. I know I will continue to fail in so many areas of my life. But I will work very hard not to fail myself again. I will work to put myself first by prioritizing my health, both physical and mental.  When I am working to do that, I know I will never be a failure.

“I failed at getting everything done. That DEFINITELY triggered my anxiety. Oh, I got things sort of, kind of, to the best of my ability done, but I left so many loose ends. Which means I failed. I wanted everything wrapped up in this lovely little package, with a bow and everything.”

That quote from my post, All Aboard! Next Stop Failuresville is an example of how I see failure. I will pick this apart because I use words unconsciously, but the use of those words is very telling. The very first sentence, “I failed to get everything done.”

Everything is the keyword there. There is no way I could have gotten everything done. It is humanly impossible. I also did not focus on myself that week at all. There wasn’t the time to do anything for me, like writing or yoga. You know what, I failed myself that week. That was my true failure, not all of the other stuff.

Sources Cited

  1. Agustín Fuentes Ph.D. (October 10, 2013). Failure is Good. To Err is Human – Lucky for Us.
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