When I worked with my first coach (as a client) I remember telling her about my thoughts on failure, recovery and growth. As I was talking, I felt that spark of inner excitement. My voice got a little louder; I sat up straighter; I beamed. I felt an inspired energy run through my spirit and so did she. After a brief pause, she exclaimed “I’ve never heard anyone speak about failure that way.”
And make no mistake. I’ve n ever chosen to fail for the sheer joy of failure (no direct joy comes out of failing something you’ve supremely hoped for). Failure sucks, it always will, but I know now how valuable it is to my growth, my joy and perspective on life. I’ll say this now and I’ll probably say it again: The people who are the most self-loving are the people who have failed. They’re the people who have gone off track and they’re the people who have made a lot of mistakes.
Thankfully, I discovered this nugget of wisdom early on when I decided to turn down my education and become a full-time fashion model in NYC. Coming from a liberal Connecticut town that takes education extremely seriously, passing up college was my greatest act of bravery and the first time I’d ventured off the beaten path (and on to the runways of fashion week).
By the time I was 18 I had reached my dream of becoming a high fashion model in New York. Unfortunately, after a string of various mishaps, I saw everything I had worked for go up in flames as I lost control of my eating disorder (unknown to most, I WORKED GODDAMN HARD for that modeling contract). With my eating disorder gone awry, my dream was no longer physically sustainable. My limited teenage mind believed there was no other way to model after gaining the weight back, so on a beautiful October day I walked to my agency, ugly-cried my eyes out, and quit. I never looked back, mostly out of shame, because my teenage mind was convinced I had miserably failed.
Suddenly I found myself living at home in Connecticut again, while my friends were away enjoying their first few months of college. Suffering from a full-fledged eating disorder, it was time to focus on recovery. I eventually did recover, and here I am, college educated, employed to a job I love, and better off.
What I’m about to say might make some of you roll your eyes, and it could possibly upset a few of you too. However, I am thankful that I had my eating disorder and I’m thankful that my first greatest dream burned to the ground. In brief, there are characteristics I possess now, that I probably would not have if I hadn’t gone through that. This is why I beam when I think of failure, resilience and recovery. If you’re going through an eating disorder, or perhaps any sort of heartbreaking failure, perhaps you will experience these silver linings.
Your ability to feel will expand- in both directions. I always quote Newton’s third law: “With every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” Whatever depth of sadness you reach your ability to feel joy with heighten that much, or even more.
It will be easier to forgive (and love) yourself. When you go through hardship, you learn to be kinder to yourself and others. You’ll grow stronger; you’ll have more “backbone.” The small stuff won’t shake you as much as it used to and you will have a renewed sense of compassion for yourself and others.
You’ll gain a new (and freeing) perspective. When you witness yourself experience hell and emerge out of it alive and well, you’ll recognize you’re strength and you’ll witness the magic of time. Every feeling, every state, every experience, is temporary. It’s freeing to have proof of this concept in your own life.
You’ll be more resilient and confident, and therefore life will be less scary. This is a big one. Knowing that you’ve overcome a hardship before, you’ll be comforted when faced with future (perhaps even more awful) moments in life. You’ll be aware of your strength and have the confidence to get back on your feet or move forward with more bravery than before.
You’ll take more risks/leaps of faith. When you build your resilience, you learn that you have the ability to recover from anything that doesn’t kill you. With this perspective and newfound confidence, you’ll have more courage to take risks and leaps of faith. They might not go as well as planned, but you know that mistakes are 100% survivable and can actually lead you to where you’re meant to be.
Now hear me out. None of this is guaranteed. You have to choose to see the silver linings here. You can focus on the cloud and stay in the rainstorm if you want. It’s your choice.
Have a wonderful weekend.