Why it's OK to fail

I used to be terrified of failing, but the funny thing is, I didn't actually realise it. If you had asked me if I was scared to fail I probably would have shrugged, said no, not really, and then carried on with my day without thinking twice. 

But when I look back now, I can really see how inside of the hard-working, committed-to-the-cause woman was a scared little girl who was terrified of getting it wrong, of not being good enough, of the consequences of what would happen if I failed and more so than that, what other people would think. 

We're taught from a really young age that how we behave matters. That what others think matters. I remember going to the doctors when I was a little girl, and getting dressed, my Nan told me that it was important to wear clean knickers in case I got run over by a bus, and what would the doctor think if I hadn't changed my pants? Now I'm not debating the necessity of clean underwear, but it does cross my mind now that if I got run over by a bus, I'd have bigger things to worry about than what the doctor thinks of my underwear. I'm not sure how I interpreted that message aged 6 or 7, but it's obviously stayed with me. 

These ideas - that what others think of us matters more than what happens to us, or what we actually do with our lives - can really hold us back. For a long time, I worried about what others thought. I bought women's magazines disguised as health magazines when really they were another way to judge myself against not very realistic standards of lifestyle and image, and to inevitably fail. Even when I was probably at my fittest, running half marathons, going to spin class, swimming AND yoga, and working at a sector leading charity, I never felt like I was good enough. I was living to the unspoken rule that what other people thought matters more than what I felt, and so I was doing things to impress these mysterious other people, who were not only impossible to impress, but didn't actually even exist anywhere outside of my mind. 

Moving past this is a lifetime's work. Our conditioning is so strong, the media so powerful, that, as women in particular, we need to really work at building our own supportive community, of learning what it means to nourish body, mind and soul, and to let go of preconceptions of what we should be doing. 

Learning to fail is a good place to start. I've been for hundreds of job interviews in my time, I've booked a flight to Malta and then bottled going on my own at the last minute. I've lost money through poor planning of a workshop. And I've certainly pushed my body beyond its limits, at one point ending up in hospital with a kidney infection. But not only have these experiences ended up benefiting me - I got the job I wanted at Oxfam, I travelled in Italy, Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia on my own, I've run lots of sell-out workshops and I have learnt how to take care of my body properly - but they have also taught me one thing: it's OK to fail. The world doesn't fall to pieces, things don't usually matter as much as they think you do, and actually you're not really in control of all the stuff you think you're in control of anyway, so why not just say f**k it, and give something a go?

Seriously, what can you let go of today and just do? Book a flight, go for a run, sign up to something new, or go home and lie under a blanket with your favourite dvd box set? Can you you give something new a go and not worry about the consequences, not worry about other people think, not care about what you should be doing, and instead just say f**k it and do something?

I spent most of my time in New Zealand saying f**k it and it was 100% one of the happiest years of my life. (I hadn't event planned to be in NZ, by the way, I actually planned to go to Australia for a month. 12 months later I was in Auckland, had spent months in the mountains and beaches of the southern hemisphere, and boy, was I happy.... but that's another blog!).

Life happens when we let go of the reins. When we care a little bit less. And when we take a step into the unknown. If it doesn't work out, you'll be OK. And if it does work out? Imagine how that could look...