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Redefining Failure

June 13, 2012

We all do it. We have harsh thoughts toward ourselves, or say self-deprecating things when we don’t fulfill the expectations that we set in our minds. We compare ourselves to others, even others that we only know virtually or in passing, and wonder why we can’t do or be the things we perceive of them. We focus on all of the unchecked boxes on our mental to-do lists and consider ourselves to be failing.

I know that I do this. I know better, but I still judge myself harshly in this way sometimes. As I get older, little by little I grow wiser, and am able to let go of things a bit more here and there. However, I don’t know that very many people can claim to ever get over this self-judgement completely in their lives. It is a daily battle for most of us, even if only in seemingly small ways. “Oh, I forgot to pick up milk while I was at the store.” Failure. “I never got around to making that appointment this week.” Failure. “I don’t have time to make the dinner I had planned and now we will have to spend more money picking something up.” Failure.

A while back, I read a particular statement written by the ever-inspiring Amanda Blake Soule: “Having a super clean house isn’t important to me. Making things is.” These words struck me at a time when I felt I was floundering a lot in my new role as a stay-at-home mom. I had always thought that parents who work at home should have no excuses for not having the cleanest house on the block because I assumed they had more time. I, on the other hand, had been home with my son for weeks, and I was still surrounded by clutter, shelves that needed dusting, piles of laundry, and streaky windows. I really did feel like a failure. I felt like I was not doing my job properly. Then, I read that quote and I began to realize how foolish I was being.

When I actually thought about my true priorities in life, I wasn’t failing at all. I was succeeding. The things that are most important to me- quality time with my husband and son, being creative, taking time to appreciate my days-those were the things I should be measuring my success by. Why was I spending so much time worrying about a spotless house? Because that’s what I thought I should be focusing on. But I don’t owe anyone a “perfect” home. Livable and safe, sure. But I know my child would rather I sit on the floor with him and build a tower out of Legos than spend my time dusting.

Once I redefined this concept of failure, and shifted my focus back onto what actually matters to me and my family, I felt a lot happier. I realized that I do not need permission to choose an afternoon at the park over getting all of the laundry folded. I am still ok if I pick dinosaurs over dishes. I would rather look back over my life someday and remember the time I invested in my family, than time spent cleaning.

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