Struggling With Feelings of Failure

Why do so many of us struggle with the feeling that we’re failing? In our writing life, parenting, jobs, friendships, or whatever it is, so often we don’t feel like we’re measuring up, either to our own expectations or those of others.

I’ve had many such moments of inadequacy, especially over the past year of juggling a growing writing career and family responsibilities.

My four year old daughter has a pink Barbie laptop, and she follows me around doing her “writing.” In her short life, she’s only known me as a writer-mama. But my oldest son has had the experience of a non-writing mom. For a long stretch of time during his early years, I didn’t actively write. In fact, after my twins were born, I didn’t type a word for a number of years.

My son has an established picture of what the mom-role looks like based on the years when I was busy having babies, changing diapers, and learning the ropes of homeschooling. Now that I’ve switched gears and am spending part of my time pursuing a writing career, he’s struggled with that change.

There have even been a couple of times when he’s come right out and said, “I don’t like that you write.” He’s expressing himself, which is good. But it’s at those moments I can’t help but feel like a failure as a mom.

I know I’m not a failure. But it’s easy to let feelings of inadequacy creep in. Based on the comments in response to the Super Mom Syndrome post, I’m guessing I’m not alone in my struggle. Many of you had a hard time seeing your unique gifts and roles in a positive light.

The fact is most of us can’t quit our day jobs, so we resort to squeezing writing around other responsibilities. We can’t do everything and do it all well. So, sometimes we have to let certain things fall by the wayside.

As I’ve pondered this failure-trap we fall into at times, I’ve wondered how we can learn to pull ourselves out. I’d love to hear your thoughts, because I certainly don’t have all the answers. But here are just a few things I try to remember:

*Organize and use time wisely. Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself of what’s truly important and make sure I’m living that way. It’s easy to talk about priorities, but a lot harder in reality to make the time for the things that matter most.

*Re-evaluate from time to time. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or wondering if I’m on track with what I’m doing, I use my husband or my mom as a sounding board. Sometimes an objective opinion helps us gain fresh perspective on where we really need to focus our time and energy.

*Turn failures into feats. My new demands have forced me to let go of some duties and hand them over to my children. For example, my 10 year old daughter loves cooking. If I hadn’t been attempting to reach my word count goals every afternoon, I may not have given her the opportunity to take over the kitchen and grow more proficient in making dinner.

*Keep perspective. Even when we’re doing our best to set priorities, there will be times when urgent issues demand more of our time and attention. When a deadline looms or when I’m finishing a book, I get especially focused on the task. I remind my family the end will come and I won’t always be so busy.

*Know not everyone will understand. Maybe my son won’t “get” my writing. But I can’t let his opinion define me. I have to rest secure in the knowledge that writing is part of what I need to be doing at this point in my life.

*Don’t forget to celebrate. I try to involve my family in the successes of my writing career—no matter how small. Finishing a first draft, accomplishing tough rewrites, getting an agent, finaling in a contest—I look for ways that we can all celebrate, laugh, and enjoy being together.

Yes, we will fail at times. But that doesn’t mean we’re a failure. When we stumble or fall, we have to pull ourselves back up and press onward, remembering we’re each unique and gifted in our own special ways.

Have you ever experienced feelings of failure? What are some of the ways you’ve pulled yourself out of the failure trap? Or are you still in it?

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