Finding Progress in Setbacks

This year I’ve failed my driving test 3 times. Whilst I could get angry at myself, give up, say “I can’t do it”; I’ve decided to take a different approach. Don’t get me wrong; the first two times I did all of the above. After the most recent test I failed I decided to look at the progress I’ve made instead. I’ve halved my minor faults every time, I was less nervous, more assertive and I finally nailed my 3-point turn. I turned a negative situation into a positive one. I found the silver lining. The result is that I feel better. I feel more confident about the next test and proud of the progress I’ve made. I feel less stressed and emotional which can only be of benefit to my recovery and on-going mental and physical health.

I am a person who usually beats themselves up when they make a mistake or fail. I firmly believe it is where a lot of my health problems come from: a desperate pursuit for perfectionism that disregards rational thinking and sees failure as an attack on my identity (if I’m not good at things who am I?). The anxiety and stress that it created caused my M.E. and the perfectionism, self-degradation and need to control the world around me caused anorexia and self-harm. A constant fear that I wasn’t good enough and never will be aroused suicidal feelings. Obviously, this mindset had to stop.

I can’t pinpoint when I started to feel positive. I think it has been a gradual shift over the last year as a result of the work I have been doing in therapy, the books I have been reading and the conversations I’ve been having with friends. I no longer fear failure or negative opinions and it is beautifully freeing. I feel like it is ok to be me, exactly as I am and act on my instincts with conviction.

Yesterday I collapsed on a train. I had gotten up at 6am to catch a train, done a full day’s work, then had to run for 2 trains; getting confused I’d run up and down multiple sets of stairs and had to cope with standing room only. After the run for my final train I collapsed in a shaking, panting heap. I drank water, took some medication to calm down my system and put on my favourite soothing music. I could have seen this as a failure, as a set-back. I thought I was pretty much recovered from M.E. but now all those ‘meltdown’ symptoms were back. Instead I chose to focus on the progress. I had gotten up at 6am, taken a complicated train journey, worked a full day in a new place where I had no idea of the itinerary and ran IN HEELS. UP STAIRS. A LOT. None of these things would have been possible a year ago.

I am proud of my progress and find it inspirational.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the negatives. Whilst it is important to learn from our mistakes, let’s try focusing on the progress we’ve made instead.

What progress can you see in a recent ‘failure’?

What negatives can you turn into positives?

Think about yourself a year ago, 5 years ago; how far have you come?

When you were a child every success was celebrated, from eating your first solids to tying your shoes, and every centimetre you grew was acknowledged. Why do we stop? Nurture your inner child; mark every little success with a celebration or at least a quiet acknowledgement:

  • You remembered to take your supplements today! Woohoo!
  • You got dressed today! Score!
  • You carried that heavy shopping bag from the car – you champ!

Have fun with your recovery. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, you’re doing great.


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