How to Press On When You Continue To Fail

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It’s always fun to write about something you have accomplished. You wanted something, you faced an obstacle, and you found a way to overcome it. But what do you do when you’ve been struggling in the same area for years and just can’t seem to make any progress?

Every once in awhile, I am reminded of how much I struggle with jealousy. I am fortunate to have a lot of amazing friends, but my cardinal sin has always been to compare myself to them. To me, the fact that we’re around the same age tells me that we should be in similar places in life. This obviously isn’t true, but it’s been hard for me to accept. If I see or hear about someone I know succeeding at something I failed at, my insecurities light up like a Christmas tree.

I haven’t solved my jealousy yet, but along the way of continuing to fail, I have learned two important lessons:

Lesson #1: The goal of life isn’t to be perfect

One of my fundamental goals in life is to grow. This has served me well, but it also has a side-effect: I’m regularly tempted to link my value in who I am with how much I grow. If I’m not growing as fast as I want, I feel guilty. Over time, however, I’ve realized that the true reason I’m suffering this guilt is because I am trying to be perfect. I don’t want any part of my life to be less than perfect, so when I’m not improving, I get upset.

I now think it’s all fake. I think we get into trouble when we assign impossible standards to ourselves and then beat ourselves up for not hitting said standards. I now believe that our value as humans doesn’t lie in our ability to produce, but to exist. No matter how much or little we do, we are accepted and loved. Our value is built-in, it is not based upon what we can accomplish.

Lesson #2: I’m probably making progress, even if it’s not obvious

This summer I took an interest in live theater and started to go to plays at our local park. Theater is interesting to me, not only because of the number of things happening the background – actors moving around or changing costumes, stagehands preparing props, directors/producers giving the next steps – but the amount of preparation that has to take place for one show to be successful. It can take from several weeks to months to prepare for a production and yet we, the audience, only see the final result.

What if through some magical device, we could see behind the scenes of our lives? Would we not see so much action and activity that we could not help but be filled with hope? True, our obstacles may be difficult to overcome, but what if we are constantly overcoming them, little by little? After all, in virtually all other areas of life, growth happens so slow that it is not noticeable.

How would our lives change if we became more accepting of ourselves, realizing that our value doesn’t lie in our ability to grow? How could we be more patient with ourselves, understanding that long-lasting change takes time?