All our Failures are Lessons

Learning them requires self-awareness and accountability

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Photo by Ian Kim on Unsplash

Perfection doesn’t exist.

We all know this and yet it doesn’t stop us from striving for it even though we’re doomed to fail. And when we do, we don’t always have the humility to acknowledge our shortcomings or even own (up to) our mistakes.

Instead we find a convenient excuse, or better still, a scapegoat.

Rather than look within, take stock of our actions and behavior, and try to figure out how those led to infelicitous consequences, we look outward.

Blaming someone or something else absolves us of responsibility, accountability, and guilt.

It also insulates us from the reality of failure while perpetuating the illusion that success was always a given.

If only circumstances had been different or others hadn’t stood in our way.

For example, when a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s because the other party behaved poorly or wronged us. That we may at some point have placed unrealistic expectations upon them or failed to take their needs into account doesn’t even cross our mind. It’s much easier to let someone else carry the blame, especially when they’re no longer around to share their side of the story.

Co-opting victimhood uses up less mental bandwidth and less time than introspection. Finger-pointing is the shortcut of the emotionally immature, one that lets us blame an entire gender for the faults of one of one individual, for example.

And yet, a relationship never contains just the other person: We’re in it too.

Rather than take a long, hard look at ourselves, we whinge and whine and wallow in self-pity to invite commiseration and sympathy.

How many of us are prone to acting like spoiled children when things don’t go our way?

In a culture where participation trophies are the norm lest the sting of failing or not coming first should be too much too bear, “adulting” is hard.

Being and behaving like a grown-up is so unfathomable to many that this hideous term has emerged and infiltrated common parlance. It still doesn’t feature in the dictionary and yet it’s been co-opted by those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Alas, hiding behind others means we can never learn anything nor achieve self-actualization. Enlightenment doesn’t happen by osmosis, it takes self-awareness.

But because looking inside ourselves and questioning everything is deeply uncomfortable, many of us choose to remain stuck in childhood, clinging to our security blanket as we expect to be soothed with a reassuring “There, there.”

Where does this reluctance to hold ourselves and be held accountable for our actions come from?

In an individualistic and competitive society like America, being first and being right is all that matters. Our view of the world can sometimes be so small it doesn’t even extend beyond our borders.

When everything is about “me, me, me”, others aren’t viewed as peers but as means to an end, commodities we use to deliver the results we seek. Be it in the bedroom, in the boardroom, or at home, human relationships from sex to friendship become transactional.

Competition, not collaboration.

Many of us go through life with a deep-seated sense of entitlement as though we felt the world owed us a living. Instead of going after opportunities, we expect them to find us; we fetishize success without being prepared to put in the work. We worship at the altar of barefaced greed and elevate those who practice it to stardom, living vicariously through them.

But when we fail to connect with others, earn credibility, inspire respect, or find love, we don’t understand why. Because we’ve always held ourselves in such high regard, we feel hurt, aggrieved, victimized by those we despise but whose approval we seek.

If we had the intellectual and emotional honesty to accept all that we are, we wouldn’t dare blame fellow humans for our own character flaws.

Nor would we ever be repulsed by theirs.

Instead, we would all fail forward, together, toward a greater understanding of what it means to be a human among other humans.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

The human condition is not a pathology・👋ASingularStory[at]gmail・ ☕️

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