Finding fortitude in Failure

Camille Allcroft

Images: Jack Sweeney

Images: Jack Sweeney

It is ironic that writing a piece on the theme of failure has proven so difficult that I almost failed to write it at all. I suppose that failing to write a piece on failure would be amusingly poetic, but the more my thoughts on this topic refused to come forth, the more determined I became to share them. I am hoping that by giving my own perspective on failure, I will help others who are navigating its rocky terrain. I see failure as a complex topic and just reading the word conjures up a host of negative connotations including fear, doubt, shame and uncertainty. Despite its status as an almost dirty word however, we regularly encounter failure throughout life in one form or another ranging from insignificant everyday failures (missed a meeting, failed to poach an egg…) to graver, often life-changing events such as failed relationships and businesses. As soon as we are old enough to comprehend the concepts of success and failure, the former takes on an almost celestial status, while the latter is leaden with images of defeat and doom. Personally speaking, failure has played a part in my life and I have learned to recognise that it makes success taste so much sweeter. This month I finally passed my driving test and having failed it twice in the past made me appreciate passing all the more, which leads me neatly to the idea that embracing failure makes life so much easier in the long run. 

Failure has been an integral part of my personal growth and as a child I always felt I failed to fit in. I was the tomboy who lived in the farmhouse on the hill, resolutely holding on to my love of ponies and nature while my teenaged contemporaries were already discovering dating and make up. I was the archetypal late bloomer with puppy fat, pig tails and a robust smattering of freckles across my face and I always felt like an outsider.  Despite the malaise I sometimes felt when I was younger, now as a 36 year old woman I attribute my confidence in part to my failure to fit in. From a young age, I learned the art of resilience and I also realised that being surrounded by people is not a shortcut to happiness. 

Deeming failure to be a good thing  may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes when we fail it is life’s curious way of showing us that we have taken a wrong turning down a path which was never meant for us.

Even the most soul destroying failures can see us come out the other side a wiser, stronger person. I am bold enough to admit that failure has provided me with a few interesting potholes along my road through life  so far, yet they have all contributed to the person I am now.  My failure to fit in when I was younger made me focus on my own self-worth and from a young age I realised that big friendship groups would never be for me.

 Even now, I am by most standards a bit of a loner and I am fine with that - as a writer I enjoy my own company, and being alone fuels my creativity. Some of the failures I have experienced over the years have left me crying in to my pillow, reaching for the gin and generally feeling like I am less of a person for having tried my hand at something without success, but given the option to go back and erase past failures I would say no. Just as there is beauty in imperfection, there is fortitude to be found in failure and though we associate failure with a barren wasteland of defeat, it can often lead us to blossom in the most beautiful and unexpected of ways. It is an intrinsic part of our nature as human beings to fail and although we are flawed and we make mistakes, when we find the strength to try again the universe often rewards our perseverance with more success than we could have ever hoped. It is ok to fail and it is ok to try again, but don’t let failure get you down – it may appear from time to time, but it rarely hangs around for long. 

Geri Dempsey