I usually absolutely love the month of January. I like to boast of its vibrant blue skies, piercing sunshine, and eye-opening cold. I loved it – and not just for my January 4th birthday! (And really, I still do.) But this past month of January was a rough one. I spent many days overwhelmed with situations at work and battling things in my heart, while striving to maintain a well-kept household and healthy relationship with my husband. You see, stress or anxiety can really pull us away from things like reconnecting and selflessly loving our spouses, or even wanting to do those extraneous household tasks.
But, I pulled through, and it’s February now! Unfortunately, I don’t feel that in January I leaned on God and His promises with wholehearted trust like I know I need to! This is hard to admit. Because I know what His promises are, and I know His character as our Good Shepherd. I know I am His precious child – we all are! But it was my decision to focus on my problems and the situations in front of me, rather than tell them how big my God is…and it was not fun.
A lot of this happened as a result of feelings of failure. They swirled around me all month long, culminating in (I hate to admit this, but..) me sitting on the floor of our home library/office, looking for an important document I thought I’d lost despite attempts at organization, crying and telling my husband how I felt I had been a failure in virtually every avenue of life lately. I’m a perfectionist (which I’ve denied for a while, but Bjorn says it’s true, haha!) so feeling like a failure hits me deep.
I felt like a failure at work. I felt like a failure as a teacher. I felt like a failure at home, in terms of cleaning tasks and organizational habits. I felt like a failure in my friendships and relationships. I felt like a failure in my marriage. I even felt like a failure in my faith and in my heart things.
I had let anxiety and worry get the best of me, and for those of you who know it well, you know how it feels like a slippery pit to scramble out of once you fall in! Regardless of if I truly, 100% failed, it felt like it. And feelings are hard to deny. My husband said I wasn’t a failure, though. Bjorn is practical, logical, and honest, and he continued to reassure me that I wasn’t, in fact, failing.
I wrote in January about my Mission Statement for 2016 – how I wanted to have a healthy heart not only physically, but to possess that gentle, mature courage by years’ end. Now we’re 1 /12th of the way through 2016, and I certainly don’t think that has gone well so far! Grace, though. Always grace. On the plus side, we did go running multiple times a week, so I think my physical heart was healthier than my emotional one last month. 🙂
Since I KNOW I’m not the only perfectionist who has struggled with feelings of failure already in 2016, I wanted to share some things I try to do when I’m struggling this way.
What to Do When You Feel Like a Failure:
1 // Pray. And the type of prayer I’m trying to focus more on is, God, please use me and my continued efforts in this situation to work good for You, and less of, Please help me get through this. Invite God to make His power known through your weaknesses (after all, besides Jesus, imperfect humans are all He uses to make a difference in this world!).
I have a new devotional by Elizabeth Eliot called A Lamp Unto My Feet, which I absolutely love! Recently, I read in one of the daily passages about prayer and hard work. God will do in His power what we cannot do, and our responsibility is not only to pray but also to continue to work hard and work with excellence. This was reassuring and encouraging to me the other day. God will use your continued efforts, but you also must maintain conversation with Him through prayer and trust!
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 // Make a list. Make a list of 10 things (or more!) that you have done well, accomplished, or learned in the past year. Because you have! You have grown, and you’ve learned, and you’ve succeeded. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves.
3 // Make sure you’re being logical. Feelings aren’t always logical. We know they come from our heart and not our head, which is why “the heart” often becomes synonymous with “feelings.” I’m lucky to have a husband who is very logical and will often help me “logic out of” my less than positive feelings. But, I still need to develop this skill more in myself and hone my natural tendencies. Was what happened truly the worst thing? Could you have misinterpreted what they said? How can you make a step-by-step plan to deal with the situation? Oftentimes, we just need to step back and see that what happened wasn’t really the end of the world. It can be hard to see in the moment, though!
4 // Do 5 small tasks RIGHT NOW that you know you can successfully complete. Why? Because it gives you confidence, and it gives you momentum!! If I’m feeling like a failure in terms of housekeeping, I’ll make a list (even mentally) of a few small tasks I can do to gain momentum in the situation: put away clean dishes, wipe down counters, mop the kitchen floor. Then, once I’ve accomplished those few small jobs, I suddenly feel better and I’m more likely to keep pursuing household tasks that day!
5 // Reach out to someone else. That sounds a bit unrelated, but stick with me! This step is actually one of the most important, besides prayer! I’ve found that without fail, if I’m feeling down on myself but I choose to write a letter to a friend or otherwise reach out or encourage someone, I instantly feel better! I don’t do it for myself – but what it does is it gives you the perspective shift you might need!! Try reaching out to or encouraging someone else next time you’re feeling those thoughts of failure swirl around you.
Do you ever struggle with feelings of failure? How do you combat them in your life?