Lessons From Failure, the Inner Critic & Malcom Gladwell
A while back I asked my therapist for feedback on a youtube video that I put out.
The topic was “Intuitive Eating”. That should not be a surprise to you. Anyone who knows me, knows that Intuitive Eating is my passion and the direction that my chosen RD profession took. The life altering cause that I chose to pour my heart and soul into.
She watched the video for a bit (I don’t even think she listened to what I was saying) and said “I think we could change the title of this video to ‘This is the Story of My Best Friend Dying.’” She pointed out that my facial expressions and body language were telling a very different story than my words.
Needless to say, I was hurt and offended.
But I wasn't just hurt and offended. I concluded that I was bad, wrong, a loser, and why on earth did I listen to my business coach and “just do it.” Why did I “Just start” like she told me to. “It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be out there”. “You will get better”. And I actually did do it. I put myself out there. And now, as it turns out, what I projected to the world was depression and sadness.
This feedback spurred a bout of me drowning in my own self loathing and unworthiness.
Fast forward to a few days later after I had a chance to process this feedback. I was thinking about it a lot and even discussed it with some people in my close circle. I was told objectively that this kind of feedback can be hurtful to hear. After some self discovery, I realized something interesting about myself and this encounter. I wasn't really upset about what she said. I just did not appreciate criticism.
The next time I spoke to this therapist, I told her honestly, “I am doing okay but the criticism you gave me in our last session really hurt me.” She didn’t recall criticising me.
I told her the comment she made that spurred my feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt. She suggested that we process this together.
I had never really done that before - where I honestly told someone how they hurt me and they responded by helping me process the hurt. In that session, using some new techniques I had never learned before, I was able to access a different part of me that I had subconsciously shoved deep down inside.
Together we found a young child inside me who felt emotionally abandoned and unworthy of anything.
Recently I was listening to Malcom Gladwell being interviewed on a podcast. The Malcolm Gladwell that has written 6 New York Times best selling books. He is extremely successful in his career and one of those guys you think “has it all together”. Yet, he spoke about a different time in his life, when he was attempting to become an advertiser and got rejected by 16 companies. The interviewer (Cathy Heller) asked him how he was able to pick himself back up after all that failure. He responded that he just needed to pick a different path each time.
Just like that. Not attaching any ounce of self worth to his rejection.
He actually spoke about many people he had known who were dyslexic and said that the reason they became successful was not despite their dyslexia, but because of it. Their challenges made them need to work that much harder to build their skills, but the devotion, work ethic and adaptability they gained from their challenges is precisely what set them apart from their peers. It was the challenge that spurred the success.
Brene Brown delineates between guilt and shame. She says “guilt is I did something bad, shame is I AM BAD.”
To be 100% honest and share openly here, this encounter with this therapist in this session has changed my life completely. It was a light bulb that needed to come on inside me to shed some light on my long ago abandoned parts, so that I could openly explore the reasons for my strong reactions.
This therapist told me that one day, I would again ask for advice from a mentor, get constructive feedback, and be truly grateful because it won’t feel like a threat. That I would one day say “thank you for pointing that out to me, I didn't see it before” and really mean it.
I know with certainty that some people reading this will not relate to it and others will relate with every fiber of their being. Until recently, I was one of those people who could not relate, like so many others who walk around on this earth feeling unworthy, and who will do anything to get that void met.
Ahhhh…. To feel worthy. To feel loved. To feel accepted. To belong.
When you don’t feel worthy, every piece of your life hangs on that fact. It’s not your fault when you feel that way, but if you do, I urge you to take responsibility for it. Owning those feelings allows you to become free of related intrusive thoughts. Like everything in life, those thoughts are meant to be there, but they don’t have to stay with you forever.
As humans, we all do good things and bad things. But it’s usually because of the flaws, the missteps, the falling that we are pushed to rise. When you jump, you have to bend your knees and crouch lower in order to propel you forward.
Sure it hurts to fail, but failure doesn't have to flood you with an ocean of unworthiness.
If you struggle to function, to get through your day, to stop mindlessly eating, to accept an ounce of criticism... I really hope you can take my word on this one and learn to process that pain.
My wish for everyone is to feel their pain of unworthiness, unpack it and let it float away like a red balloon (as a client told me once). Thank it for being here and teaching you something, and watch it drift to the sky.