1. lack of success of great size, amount, or intensity

"Her failurerific day was remembered for years to come.”

Have you ever had a job interview where you were asked to describe a time you failed? While I understand that employers are trying to gauge your resilience — your ability to adapt, change course, and learn from failure — I wonder: is it healthy to focus on failure? 

An article titled “Women and Stress” published online in the Cleveland Clinic’s health library notes:

“Men and women share many of the same sources of stress, such as money matters, job security, health and relationship issues. Perhaps a little more unique to women are the many roles they take on. In today’s society, women’s roles often include family obligations, caregiving for children and/or an elderly parent (statistically more likely to be a woman) and work responsibilities as well as other roles. As demands increase to fulfill these roles, women can feel overwhelmed with time pressures and unmet obligations. They may feel a sense of failure in not being able to meet expectations for themselves and others.”

On the other hand, recent articles in Elle (elle.com) and U.S. News & World Report (usnews.com) both report that while women tend to be affected by failure to a greater degree than men, failure is an important and necessary step in building resilience and leadership skills. 

So, failure is bad and good?

When asked the above interview question, I’ve tried to spin my answer to focus on what I learned from the failure and/or what I changed as a result. However, it’s sometimes hard to find the good if the sense of failure feels supersized aka failurerific!

I made up the word failurerific, but the feeling is real! For me, life can feel failurerific for many reasons, including work craziness, guilt over not making enough time for my husband, Roger, or my friends, dissatisfaction about my weight or face when I look in the mirror, or the relentless weeds in the flower beds that mock me, etc.

To mute failurerific feelings, I have three strategies:

1. Choose happy

2. Fake it ‘til you make it

3. Keep breathing

Choose Happy

I once heard a motivational speaker discuss how we choose — whether consciously or unconsciously — how we react to situations, especially stressful situations, and that these choices can affect our moods and sense of self-worth. Simply, we could choose happy.  

This may be easier said than done; however, I was struck by the idea that I have the power to change my mood. I regularly return to this concept when I’m feeling out of sorts, and I pause and ask, “What’s causing me to feel ‘not’ happy?” 

This moment of acknowledgement and self-reflection helps me switch off my despondency and choose happy. An added benefit: identifying the root of the problem forces me consider what I can do about said pesky root. This girl loves a plan! 

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

They — the mysterious they — say to dress for the job you want. The same concept applies to self-confidence. I keep expecting friends and colleagues to notice that I am a hot mess, but somehow I keep fooling them by pretending that I have myself together.

It’s rather like having a super-heroine alter ego that I put on to convince myself and others — but mainly myself — that I’m a strong, confident, successful woman. 

Also, the more I pretend, the more I believe it myself. The other day, my step-mother described me as “invincible.” I was pleased to hear that my disguise is working. 

Keep Breathing

One of my favorite bands, Garbage, said in the song of the same name, “the trick is to keep breathing.” This means several things to me: 

  • Exercise, especially yoga;
  • Therapeutic walks or other activities with my girlfriends; and,
  • Learning to prioritize myself.

I’d been doing weekly yoga for a few years, but I developed a daily yoga habit as a coping mechanism after my breast cancer diagnosis and while working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m no longer working from home, but I made a point to reorganize my office so that I had room to roll out my mat. Most days, I make time for yoga during my lunch break and even 15 minutes does wonders for my emotional and physical health. 

I’m also fortunate to have amazing girlfriends, and these ladies are a very important part of my support system. Not to dismiss my male friends or Roger, but the relationships I have with my girls are special and essential. There’s a shared experience that makes it easier to vent and/or laugh as the situation demands. 

Of the three strategies, I struggle the most with prioritizing myself. I tend to prioritize everything else first — work, housework, cooking, Roger, work — but I’m trying to get better. Having breast cancer has made me consider what I’ll regret not doing if my cancer comes back. So, I’ve started to find ways to relax, like facials and a monthly massage. I bought tickets to a concert in New York with two of my favorite bands, New Order and Pet Shop Boys, neither of which I have seen. I got my nose pierced because I wanted to. I’ve said “no” or at least “not today” at work. 

Turning Failurerific Into Terrific

If you’ve had a failurerific day, know that we’ve all been there. Embrace it, learn from it, turn it from failurerific to terrific! Let’s try together — I’ll go first!

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Considers life to be one big anthropological field experience. She observes and reports. She enjoys travel, food and wine and adventures with her husband, Roger.

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