“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
I remember one business meeting where my fear was so active that I was shaking. My head knew I would survive, but my body and emotions were panicking. I asked myself in that moment, “What do you want: to succeed — which is unlikely – or to heal?”
I chose to heal, which meant that I was willing to let myself shake no matter how bad I looked. Sure, I did control my shake some, but I didn’t stop it. I felt the shame and all the judgments come up as I kept shaking. My voice began to crack as my hands shook.
All this was happening as I did my best to speak my truth – what I wanted despite it going against what others were saying. My best was not too good. I kept telling myself to focus on what I felt. I had my back. Everyone else in the room at the time was going after me. Some part of me was standing up for me in a way no one ever did for me as a kid.
I failed. I did not communicate well. I was not articulate. I did not persuade others.
By winning, I deliberately was letting myself fail. I wasn’t a victim. I allowed my old trauma to release.
What do you hate more than failing? If you are like me, it’s others seeing that you have failed.
As you know, I grew up failing in many areas. I hated it. I became frozen in my fear of failing. Eventually, I gave up trying to succeed. I tried not to care. That didn’t work. No matter what I told myself, I stilled cared what others thought.
As men, our value is equated to our ability to perform. When our performance fails, we translate it into being a failure. For me, the stress of doing something perfect builds, which takes me out of my experience and resources and increases the chances of failure and shame.
How do you break that cycle?
You ROC it. You use our ROC Formula: slow down to Relax, Open up to be vulnerable, and risk Connection.
I had to learn to slow down and feel. That meant that I had to feel the fear and shame. That was not fun. Then, I also had to act, which immediately increased my discomfort. That action needs to be conscious; I could not check out if I was going to get on the other side of my fear and shame.
I kept checking out. I kept not feeling my emotions. It was easier simply to action and not feel — to be a robot performing the needed task. I needed to bring myself back to the questions, “What do I feel and want?”, then fully feel the emotion and body sensations.
I also had significant failures where multi-million-dollar ventures did not go as planned. Like most of us, I had relationships failures. They all gave me failure resiliency. Now, I frame a pending failure as a healing and learning opportunity. I don’t know if I fail any less; I do know that panic about failure is gone.
Lean into your failures and your resistance to them — as you allow yourself to feel them.
Is there a failure about which you have never told anyone? Or is there a failure you still feel shame in sharing? In the safety of your group or friends and a partner you trust – speak the failure. The critical part: feel more of the emotion and body response than you ever have before.
Your mind knows you are safe, but your emotional physiology does not. Have your own back by allowing yourself to share; what about your failure has you feel shame? Go short on the story and certainly on the analysis and justifications.
Your intent is not to tell a beautiful story, or even receive support. Your intent is to feel what you were unable to feel during the trauma(s) or stressful event that occurred.
As you listen to another person share, listen beyond their story. Have your body feel what his body wants to feel. Allow his experience to activate yours. Use your ability of co-regulation that we spoke about to connect to a man’s experience.
This can be some of the most powerful work we do in groups. In witnessing and accepting others, while you experience fully, you can reverse decades of held trauma and shame.