The Fear of Failure
Our columnist knows all too well how to fail and how to pick yourself up again, and again
Column by Jo Gregory
When I sat down to write this, I had grand plans for writing a column which talked about my transition over the last year. How I’d gotten stronger from all my work with therapy, exercise and meditation. However, as that ‘strong woman’ began to type endless words into the keyboard, I began to feel myself unravel again. And that’s when I realised. Happiness is not consistent; you don’t fix yourself and ‘ta-da’ you can live your life like a Disney movie. Nope, reality is you will may well crash again. But that’s ok.
I’m an exceptionally emotional person. I’m your classic ‘wear my heart on my sleeve’ kind of girl. These emotions are more than often very happy ones but in January of 2019 I found myself in a very dark place. It was six months after my marriage had broken down and I’d just started a job that wasn’t right for me. However, I put on a brave face and tried to put my best foot forward. Ladies and gentlemen, this is dangerous for two reasons. First of all, you may be fooling people, but not yourself and secondly you could end up almost killing yourself or someone else whilst attempting a mindless U-turn on a duel carriageway. I was a mess and I was too busy trying to put my emotions into a box to realise the gravity of the situation.
As I sat in the middle of the road, my car door too caved in to open and an audio book on ‘How to Be Single’ blearing from the stereo – I felt like your archetypal Bridget Jones. Except in my version I didn’t get to shag Colin Firth. Instead I had (an understandably angry) middle-aged man I’d collided with, shouting at me on the roadside while I clutched my bruised ribs (and ego) in agony.
I arrived at my parents that afternoon. I sat by the fire smoking endless cigarettes (I don’t really smoke) and I felt like a fucking failure. I failed at my marriage, I was failing at the job I’d just stared and now I failed at sticking to the highway code. I think the universe was trying to tell me to switch things up, I knew I needed a change.
I decided to drown myself in therapy which, if you’ve never done it, is probably the best thing a person can do over the age of thirty. If you find the right therapist, it can be a wonderful experience. Speak to friends for recommendations, you’ll be surprised at how many people are already seeking help of this kind. It’s not all leather couches and speaking about your childhood. It gives you the tools to check in on yourself in an objective way. It helps you breakdown the root of the issue rather than reacting emotionally to situations.
I also took a transcendental meditation course which sees me doing two 20-minute meditation sessions a day. The benefits are incredible, and I wish I’d have found it sooner. Friends and colleagues have seen a huge difference, so much so that they’ve ended up taking the course themselves.
Transcendental meditation is different to any other meditation I’ve tried. No clearing the mind, trying desperately not to think of anything. Seriously, how can anyone clear their mind? Especially when it’s an anxious one! They give you a mantra to repeat and allow thoughts to flow, but the key is to always bring it back to the mantra. It’s really simple and the four-day course helps bed in the technique. It’s not always easy to find twenty minutes in the afternoon when you’re busy or out and about. But you somehow make the time. In some ways it forces you to have some alone time and I’m totally down with that.
The one key area that seems to have a consistent impact is exercise. Aside from dancing my tits off every few months, I rarely get myself moving and I wanted to finally get fit and not die when I ran for a bus, so I signed myself up to a personal trainer. First of all, you’re moving your body which gets a bunch of chemicals working in the brain. It’s basically a way of sifting out all of the crap that anxiety just loves to cling onto. I felt stronger and more in control and my body shape completely changed. The effects exercise has on me are profound. I know from experience that it’s not easy to find something that suits you. I found myself feeling incredibly intimidated in some classes but stick with the search, the payoff is huge!
After having a brilliant run, I felt in control of my life again. I’d fallen in love, got a new job and I felt happy for the first time in a very long time. But fast forward a year to sit down and write about the changes in my life and bam, my anxiety popped it’s head up and was hanging out like that annoying person at a house party who no-one seems to know and is always the last to leave.
The problem was I’d stopped exercising, I’d overindulged at Christmas and became a little complacent. Sadly, if you’ve suffered from anxiety it will at some point come and bite you in the arse again when you least expect it. At first, I was frustrated, why after all of this work was I beginning to feel like this again? There’s nothing drastic happening in my life to bring this on and everything around me was seemingly wonderful. Yet, that’s not how this thing works but as soon as I accepted how I was feeling, things became easier. I stopped fighting it and decided not to fall into the trap of putting that brace face on again. I didn’t feel ashamed of telling people where I was at. At the end of the day we all ‘fail’, we all sometimes take two steps forward and two steps back and the worst part of this is we often feel shame around it too. Own it, be honest with people but more importantly be honest with yourself and know that ‘this too will pass’ because it will, and you will come out the other side stronger than when you went into this. Just don’t operate heavy machinery whilst in the midst of a dip.
- Transcendental Meditation
Search for therapists via counselling-directory.org.uk/
The Unexpected Joy of Being Single by Catherine Gray
How to Fail by Elizabeth Day
The Power of Vulnerability Brene Brown