The Real Reason I Hate Failure and Rejection
This is one of those things that seems like a no-brainer. Of course no one enjoys failing or being rejected. There is a slight difference, however, between the discomfort of failure and rejection and the crippling fear of it.
I have always hated competitive sports, contests, or anything with a winner or loser. While this might come across as a sweet, egalitarian quality at first glance; it actually is exact opposite: I am so competitive I can't even bear to compete. The thought of loss or failure was unacceptable to the degree that I preferred not to participate rather than take that risk. This is such an unappealing quality (sore loser much?) that it has taken me forever to even admit that I feel this way. Only, these days, I'm becoming curious about why I feel this way.
"She found that bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up--and the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses.
Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble
their efforts, rather than give up."
She goes on to explain that:
"Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: more often than not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice. "
Mz Grant Halvorson then expands on the role of praise ("good girl!" vs "come on, you can do this if you apply yourself"), and social constructs surrounding gender in the creation of this belief. There's definitely something to that, but these are the words that made the lights go on:
"innate and unchangeable" and "effort and practice"
I don't hate failure because I'm a sore loser, or because I'm afraid of hard work. I hate failure because, to me, it appears to be the final verdict on my value. If my skills and abilities are unchangeable then "not good enough" is a sentence. However, if I believe that I can develop my abilities it becomes a call to action. It becomes "not good enough... yet".
"Yet" is powerful. "Yet" makes me curious. I want to know what I can do better. I want to see what didn't work; what skills need attention and focus. It's a challenge. It means freedom and control all at once.
So in my case it's a simple re-frame: it's all about potential. Talent offers the potential to make a good thing better. Failure is the call to make a weak thing stronger. Rejection is the opportunity to reassess or reassert my goals and desires. Ultimately this is all driven by the idea that strength lies in being flexible. The truth is that feeling challenged doesn't determine anything about my nature or who I am. My skills, (or lack of them) are fluid and changeable. The determining factor lies in where I choose to invest my time and energy.
Suddenly, I am no longer living in fear of finding out that I am not good enough. Effort and practice is nothing to be ashamed of. Being a beginner is unavoidable (and temporary). Bright kids take heed: you don't lose your "bright kid" badge for not being immediately proficient at something new.
So, who wants to play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey or basket ball? I have some catching up to do.