How to Succeed by Focusing on Failure
Every time I pick up a magazine and see a 17 year old who’s killing it in Hollywood, I think, ‘Good for her.’ Followed almost immediately by, ‘Boy, am I a failure.’
I know these things should have no relation to each other. Just like I know that the magazines I read, while I LOVE them, are designed to be aspirational – and that can have a tendency to make women feel like sh*t sometimes.
Was I supposed to be successful by the time I was 17?
That seems like a tall order for a small town girl from Ohio. And a lot of pressure for a teenager who was just entering college.
And has it always been this way? Perhaps I just didn’t notice before, but it seems like every day the bar for success gets higher and higher and younger and younger.
I joke about this a lot; about how the contestants on Chopped Jr. make me feel like I’ve done nothing with my life; about how the kids on Stranger Things are 13 and command a room better than any supermodel could (I guess it would depend on the room, though ;)).
But there’s a little bit of truth in all of those jokes, a little bit of hurt that cuts into my soul while I hide behind my sarcasm.
Because I feel like a failure. . . most of the time.
I feel like I should have accomplished more, should be more successful, have made more money, have more to show for my life.
And then I start to feel like it’s too late.
I am not a young woman anymore; in Los Angeles years, I am practically a grandmother. And I spend a lot of time telling myself, ‘It’s never too late,’ reading inspiring quotes online, reminding myself of the people to whom success came late in life. Hoping that will be me.
But here’s the thing. . . today, I started to think about why I feel this way. Why do I feel like a failure? Do other women feel this way? Is this a more widespread issue than I think?
My gut tells me yes.
As a blogger, I am in an industry that is run by the millennials and younger of the world; the 23 year olds that are blazing a trail, determining trends, and “influencing” their generation, among others.
And as an actress, I am constantly surrounded by youth and beauty; reminders that this is something that people do when they’re young, but if you haven’t “made it” by a certain age, you should probably pack it in and go home.
P.S. That age is 28.
Men are lucky; they are perceived to get more attractive with age. We women have an expiration date.
I’m sick of feeling like that.
I’m sick of feeling like because I’m 38, my life is set in stone and, well, kind of over. And I’m sick of feeling like I can’t succeed because I missed my opportunity somehow.
You see, I love so many different things. I want to be a better writer, a better violinist, a successful actor, an influential blogger, to learn the piano, take makeup artistry classes, be an entrepreneur, write a book. . . the list goes on and on and on.
At what point do we stop telling ourselves that anything is possible? I was fortunate growing up to have a support system that encouraged me to chase my dreams and be whatever I wanted to be. And I remember feeling SO SURE I was going to succeed.
When did I stop having faith in that?
I can’t pinpoint the moment that it happened, but at some time, I allowed a little bit of doubt to creep in. And I might just be having an off day today, because some days I feel like I can conquer the world.
But the thing is, I know I’m not alone in this; I can’t be. Being a human is the most weirdly isolating experience – in a world full of beings that are living such similar lives, we convince ourselves that we’re on an island. And it’s just not true.
As women these days, we’re expected to wear so many hats, all while looking spectacular and still being the life of the party. Feeling like a failure sometimes is inevitable.
And maybe that’s the key. Maybe, instead of focusing on success, we should be focusing on failure. Because failing is what makes us who we are. It is what makes the success better. Hell, it’s how we even know we’ve succeeded.
Also? There’s no real measure of failure. It’s a label we’ve come up with for ourselves, but it’s not something the outside world gauges. We are the only ones who are truly able to gauge our own success.
So I’m going to choose to keep telling myself that I’m going to succeed. I’m going to trudge ahead, even when I don’t think I can. I am going to continue to tell myself that it is never too late, that you are never too old, and that success can come at any time.