The Entrepreneurial journey to success is often paved by one failure after another, rather than lots of success stories. All our little failures lead somewhere, mostly forward.
That is my story. I have made a lot of mistakes, mistakes that made me feel so ashamed that I sometimes even didn't want to get out of bed anymore, let alone face anyone who got to witness it.
It's a daily practice to embrace myself in all my imperfection, to love myself inspite of failure.
Making mistakes is part of the journey through business and life. Learning how to overcome them quickly – without incurring massive emotional scars or getting stuck in a story of blame, shame, and guilt – is the thricky part.
For many years I felt really ashamed of my failures, and that ended up holding me back more than the actual failures. I always thought I needed to have it together and forgot to let myself be seen.
It’s a standard nobody can live up to. And it's pretty lonely as well.
Here are my 10 tips for overcoming shame that I’ve acquired by making a shitload of mistakes.
- Learn how to navigate the emotional landscape when confronted with ups and downs. Learn how to move through feelings of failure via self-observation.
- Realize that the path to success is NOT linear. Many entrepreneurs get hung up and discouraged by the idea that this journey to success is supposed to be a steady uphill climb. In reality, it’s more of a roller coaster, with a similar level of adrenaline. This sets a very dangerous expectation for us to get it right ALL the time. It undermines feelings of success and leads people to make compromised decisions, rather than boldly going out there to shine.
- Accept that failure is one of the stepping-stones to success. Fear of failure and the subsequent potential for feeling the pain of shame is the largest barrier to growth. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be able to rule out options, try new things, evaluate, pivot and go back out there. Shame and fear of failure can cause analysis paralysis. Learn how to view mistakes as stepping-stones to growth, rather than evidence of personal failure. Failure does not equate lack of worthiness. You will be a better leader when you can relate from personal experience. You will benefit from a full range of experiences – not just the safe choices.
- Avoid holding onto shame from making a mistake. There is a difference between communicating and owning the fact that you, as the leader, have made a mistake (and then need to either learn from it, write it off, or fix it), and standing in the face of failure and feeling like failure.
Fucking up is not the same as being a fuck-up.
- Learn from your mistakes. We will always make mistakes. The ability to move on quickly after a mistake is key on the personal journey to success. Action is the best way out of fear, but actions do not necessarily result in success. Continued actions, however, will land you on the path to success if you view them as learning lessons and stepping stones to success.
- Maintain your integrity after making mistakes. Being wrong and making a mistake is not a breach of integrity. Being able to admit wrongs and employing rigorous honesty is necessary on the path to success. Can you develop relationships with people in which such admissions are made easily and received without judgment? (Getting A COACH can help you navigate your journey to success.)
- Know when to quit!!!!!! It’s ok to let go when things are not working. Learn to refuse to do things you know in your heart aren’t right for you. Learn how to love yourself and all your imperfections, which will allow you to confront feeling wrong and making mistakes without fear and shame.
- Learn how to accept constructive criticism. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. You must discern which part of the feedback is most valuable to you. None of it is a judgment of your self-worth. Critics who have our best interests at heart can raise red flags we may have ignored, and can be the most valuable sounding boards for us IF we know how to listen without allowing our fear of failure and shame to run the show.
- Accept and ask for help without feeling embarrassed. This is a hard one. For many people, asking for help means they don’t know what they are doing, while the most successful people are those who never assume they have the answers in the first place. They usually just have the ideas, and then work with others to help them find the answers. This is an important distinction.
- Allow feelings of failure, shame, and regret. Failure is harder to handle when you know deep down that you didn’t give it all you had, that you skimmed the surface. It’s ok to have regrets – that means you learned something. Sometimes it takes a while to recover from making a massive mistake – that’s normal, especially when all evidence points at our mistake (intentional or not). We do not always have to recover overnight. We can take a moment to let the monumental pain and consequences sink in before getting back up and moving forward. Grief is part of the process sometimes.
Now all of this is fine and dandy. But what if things go so horribly wrong you can barely get out of bed?
Keep these tips in mind:
- Go where the love is. When times are tough and the road is bumpy, surround yourself with love and kindness. Do what feeds your heart and spirit – know that everything else will fall into place.
- Ignore those who take pleasure in other people's pain. Set strong boundaries. Really think about what and who you let in. The company we keep dictates how we navigate uncertainty, fear, and shame.
- Meditate like your sanity depends on it. Because it does! Your ticket out is looking inward. Separate from the mind and its fearful dictates. Make sure you keep space between action and reaction. Stay level-headed to avoid making aimless, fear-based decisions.
- Be mindful who you talk to. Who lifts you out of fear? Who helps you step into your light and find solutions? Who will bring out more fear and doubt? Avoid all people who are focused on problems. Politely disassociate!
- Stay vulnerable. Stay open. Don’t let bad experiences harden you, or make you overly cautious and protective in the future.
- Stay willing to learn. Don’t assume you know the answers. That is a sure way of developing blind spots. Learn how to leverage your failure as a stepping stone to success – it’ll make you stronger.
Enjoy the ride on this magical journey.