I can remember all of my failures and mistakes as if they were happening in this exact moment, each time I am disappointed. Every failed effort is coupled by past failed efforts and it’s as if they feed off one another in a frantic game of Hungry Hippo. Logically, I know where my value is and that mistakes only lead to great growth and new opportunities, but in that moment; that exact moment – I am totally void of the ability to gain control. The perpetual cycle of poor me is a dance I do quite well.
I used to stay in the game for long periods of time, chomping at every bit of excuse and self-loathing as if it were my life line to some warped reality of survival. Before I knew it, I wasn’t just playing with my own insecurity and lack of worth, I was accusing others of theirs. Surely, my failures weren’t just my own and someone could have done something to help me. Then, the isolation would break out. The little white balls of fear were eaten all up, the board game sat cold and lonely, and I too began to break into a proverbial cage of leave me the hell alone. I’d stay there for days.
Eventually I’d toss the game into a dark corner, my pity party escalated into screw it all. The giving up of all the hard work I’d put in to achieve something. Anger, that sweltering hot house of madness, seeped in and I met it like an old friend; the kind who offers you drugs on a street corner and tempts you because it’s free and well, no one else is looking anyway. Just do it. Just give up. What’s the point of trying again anyway?
What began as an unmet success, a missed opportunity, a mistake, or even an unmet expectation I’d had of something or someone soon became the definition of myself. Instead of the situation becoming a lesson towards greater good or the overcoming of something to reach an even better opportunity ahead; I allowed my lack of value and self-worth to beat me into submission.
Through the years, I’ve played the game less and less, and the old battered and beaten Hippo’s have learned that I don’t care if I eat all the white marbles of mistakes and disappointments. I can even laugh at a few now, because the truth is … it’s a game that is never won all the way.
Failure hurts. Disappointments are painful. Un-met expectations are hard. But they don’t define us. When I’ve learned to play the game with my value, taking into account who I truly am and what it is about me that has the courage to keep moving forward; I’ve already won.
I don’t isolate. I don’t blame. I don’t self-sabotage. I see the mistake or the failure for what it is, play around with it for a minute to learn what I need to learn, and then realize that all great things begin somewhere … somehow, again and again and again.
Put the Hippo of Self-Hate away. It’s okay to feel disappointed, but remember that your mistakes and especially those missed opportunities or un-met expectations you had, well, they don’t define your value or who you are. It’s in the way you grow from it. It’s how you reach back out. Your efforts, in the trying of success, are a gold-mine of inspiration and opportunity.