This month’s article is written by guest author, Kristina Naden. As well as a Senior Lecturer, and Digital Delivery for, Kristina is mad about horses, expect to find her galloping the black sand beaches of the West Coast, judging equestrian events or cleaning horse gear.  On her holidays you will find Kristina collecting water samples in the small island nations of the South Pacific, Kristina would like to see Leptospirosis eradicated during her lifetime.

When I was a kid, it seemed like (as some guy from NASA said) failure was not an option. I don’t remember it being overtly said but the perceived opposite of failure – success – was quietly but very clearly celebrated by my family around me. There was no celebrating for trying and failing at all and that was pretty stink.

I went to school in the era when scaling for exams was a ‘thing’. There was a rumour in our school that some people would be failed in exams just to make that lovely bell curve of results valid, 50% had to fail so that meant only 50% passed. I have no idea how true that was and I don’t think I agree with the concept of scaling, but it made me think about the idea of failing in general? Is it really so bad?

I teach at a tertiary level now and I tell my learners that “Failing is good! Failing is how you learn!” and then I try and remind myself the same as soon as I tell them this. I tell them of the times I’ve mucked up to show that, hey, I turned out ok despite that cock up. And then I spend the next 10 minutes in my internal monologue re-working that exact same failure, because it’s still a failure in my head, despite me both actually learning from it, and not repeating it. 

Why are we so hard on ourselves and why do we spend so much time gnashing and wailing over our failures? Do we spend the same amount of time celebrating our successes? 

Nope, me neither. 

So, why am I not celebrating, I mean really celebrating my successes for just giving something a go, instead of still beating myself up about something I messed up a month ago?

I think, and feel free to disagree, it’s because it brings up some pretty yuck feelings – embarrassment, disappointment and shame to name a few.

Let’s look at those quickly:

Embarrassment – the whole WORLD will know, my friends will hear about it instantly, it’ll be all over social media, there’ll be a “I failed!!” tattoo on my forehead. Hmm, really? It’s kind of like the newspaper – news today, tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper.

Disappointment – do we only get one shot at things? Most times, it’s not your only shot. Most times, the worst that can happen is you might lose a little time, or maybe some money – and the money thing is a whole other discussion but not for today. 

Shame – ahhh this is a complicated wee critter, and also a whole other discussion in itself! Shame usually comes with feeling foolish or embarrassed. “Oh how could I have trusted him/her to return my feelings?”,  or one of my personal favourites “I knew I shouldn’t have entered that competition, there were so many others better than me in it, I had no business even trying.

These are all pretty uncomfortable feelings to sit with and we as humans are pretty good at either shoving them back in that box they came out of, or more commonly, wallowing in them and asking them to come right on in.

Now I’m no fortune-teller, but the reality is that you and I will definitely have failures in our future. It’s just going to happen, but my challenge to you is when this happens, and you have the feelings of shame, embarrassment, disappointment, or anything else, just take a moment to acknowledge them. I think even if we’ve hurt someone else or made a mistake that most people are amendable to an authentic and sincere sorry; it’s the acknowledgement that we hurt them even if we didn’t mean to, that counts.

So my challenge to you is to just sit with those feelings that are about as comfortable as a pair of shoes two sizes too small, that you need to wear all day long. Sit with them, and acknowledge them before you dismiss them. There’s no need to analyse them. Look at them neutrally, slow your breathing and breathe properly and deeply into your belly, shut your eyes, preferably not if you are driving, and relax your shoulders and see where in your body they are sitting. Is that feeling of rejection sitting in the pit of your stomach still or has it moved into your chest cavity?

Observe them as if you are observing a bird sitting on a fence outside your kitchen window. Become aware of the sensations around you as you do this – what are three things you can hear? What are three things you can feel? How about three things you can smell? 

You might even find as well as lessening that uncomfortable feeling it also takes the yuck from inside your body right outside your physical self and you’ve let nature transmute it.

Then? It would be polite to thank the emotions for visiting, and reminding you that you are an amazing human who is not perfect, wouldn’t it? Before you wish the yuck well, and ditch those too-small shoes and pop your comfy slippers back on, give yourself a huge hug, a warm grin and a hearty pat on the back for facing yourself, confronting the depths of your feeling self and making the uncomfortable comfortable.

I salute you for trying because that’s a step towards self-mastery wrapped up in a little bit of magic, right there.

If you can do this deep-diving into yourself when uncomfortable feelings come up vs squashing and repressing them?

Not only will you be able to change your relationship with yourself and begin to like yourself more you will be able to exponentially improve the relationships you have with others.

As always, we’d love to hear how you got on!