Last week I wrote about recognizing people who excel at what they do and thanks to all of you for engaging in my little rant. I say rant because that's how I was feeling at the time. I've had time to reflect on that perspective and contemplate insightful feedback from a colleague (a wise and compassionate woman who's opinions I greatly respect and admire) about the other side of the "don't reward everyone" perspective. She said, "We need to be teaching people to be kind to themselves even when they fail... otherwise we won't want to fail... meaning we won't grow." This isn't so much about rewarding failure, but maybe more about "honouring" it.
As I was doing the research for last week's post, I came across articles that were similar to my colleague's acumen that I initially intended to include in last week's post, but I couldn't quite make it fit and decided it deserved its own post.
Without failure, there is no success. People need to know what it feels like to lose or fail. When we fail at something or lose a game, we learn to work through those emotions, we develop resiliency and persistence. When someone fails at something, they will try again. They tend to reflect on what went wrong, change their approach or methodology, and develop the determination to do do better the next time. Those who have never failed will never learn to cope with failure and could potentially become rigid in their approaches, lack creativity and persistence. Failure is also an opportunity for us to learn self-compassion.
Most of my life, I struggled daily with self-esteem issues, but more so the last few years (it's going to take a few blog posts, maybe a book to unpack all that trauma). But during that time, Stuart Smalley's words from Saturday Night Live "I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me" would suddenly enter into my conscious mind. The memory surfaced when my colleague shared a few pages from the book The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, where the authors reference Stuart Smalley's quote in the section "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall". They refer to Stuart's quote to illustrate that people often confuse self-compassion for self esteem. The point the authors are trying to make is that self-esteem and self-compassion are not the same. Self-esteem is how we judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others, it is conditional on how we compare ourselves socially - such as physical looks, body types, and how successful we are compared to others. Self-compassion isn't a judgement, it is how we relate to ourselves and it is where we can accept that we are not perfect and we don't need to compare ourselves to others or constantly strive to be better than others as it is a losing battle. There will always be people who are smarter, better looking, or more successful than ourselves and if we are constantly striving for higher self-esteem, eventually, it will let us down (Neff & Germer, 2018, pp. 21-22). Self-compassion is that consistent friend who will always be there for us and love us no matter what, it is the unconditional love we have for ourselves. Self-compassion gives us the opportunity to honour our failures, to learn and grow from them while being kind to ourselves without judgement.