Banning the "F" Word, For Good

Banning the "F" Word, For Good

I’ve heard the “F “word three times in the last week, all from successful women describing their careers.  I use this word myself, a lot.  It’s an ever-present and nagging term that buzzes around my ear and taunts me.  What is it about the “F” word that we women are obsessed with these days?  Failure.

My relationship with the “F” word is like a funnel.  It starts on the wide end of the cone as I worry that my career, which I've fought hard for having since a kid, will fail.  Then I narrow it down.  This initiative will be a failure, this relationship will fall apart, this email is practically incomprehensible.  It goes all the way down to my blog and right to this post.  Will this very article be the final nail in the failure coffin?

Wendy’s Failure Funnel

the funnel

Exhibit 1

Now, you wouldn’t know this if you were talking to me.  You would never think that I’m often wracked with self-doubt.  Just look at me here on WGN last month.  Cool, calm, and collected.  High energy.  A natural.  Those are the words people have used to describe me.


Exhibit 2

Want to know the truth?  My right armpit was sweating profusely, I could barely think straight, and it took all of my energy not to leap off the couch mid-interview and run out into the street and across the country like Forrest Gump when his one true love, Jenny, leaves him.  I picture a pack of women right there with me.  We’re a team of letdowns, and our T-shirts all say the same thing: “I’m running away from these awful feelings of insecurity that consume me every day.”  OK, you’re absolutely right, that’s a lot of verbiage for a T-shirt.  How about "The Fear of Failure Club”?

I can’t figure out what exactly makes us embrace the “F” word.  Why can’t we see ourselves for who we really are?  I’m not religious, but the Serenity Prayer keeps popping into my head.  It's about the desire to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could indeed accept the possibility that making a bad job choice, pissing off a boss or client, or committing a non-malicious career blunder does not make us failures?

I also wonder about the other side of the equation.  What is success?  I look at the women who proclaim to be failures, and I see smart, talented people who attended the right schools and got the right grades, jobs, projects, promotions, performance reviews, and so on.

Looking at them, what I find is that they haven’t failed in their careers; their careers have failed them.  The've failed to provide the self-esteem boost or sense of self that they (and I) have been looking for.  Despite our bests efforts, it turns out that no paycheck, promotion, or pat on the back is going to give us the validation we’re seeking.  Whether it's a scale that registers a few pounds too many for our liking or a commission that's way too low, none of it should define who we are and how we see ourselves.

So here I offer you, and me, the words of a wise sage, Pink.  Can a sage be someone who's around 30 years old and curses like a truck driver?  Hang on while I check out the definition on Google.  Here’s the first that pops up: “A profoundly wise man.”  Well, if that doesn’t speak volumes about this situation, I don’t know what does.  Here are some lyrics from her new song, F**kin' Perfect.  You can also listen to the song in its entirety on her website.

Pretty, pretty please,

If you ever, ever feel

Like you're nothin,'

You are perfect to me.

You're so mean.

When you talk about yourself,

You were wrong.

Change the voices in your head.

Make them like you instead.

Wow, does Pink nail it.  And she’s right; it’s time to toss away the self-defeating scripts in our minds and find a new favorite “F” word for us women.  How about fabulous, fearless, formidable, feisty, fun, forceful, finicky, or just frickin’ amazing.

I got the pic from here!


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  • Not that quite as many men seem to blog (present web site excepted) but you never hear them blogging about not being good enough etc. V interesting.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Funny you should mention that, Expat, I was thinking the same thing! Do dads wonder about failure as much? Also, what's your website? Would love to check it out.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    To borrow a line from one of the finest men your British islands have produced:

    Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
    - Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

  • it's natural to be your own worst critc....that being said, we should focus on the positive and keep the failure word out of siight and mind. So my "f" is for focus.

  • In reply to pcvrobyn:

    Totally agree, pcvrobyn! "F" is for focus. Love it!

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    Why so afraid of failure? We fail because we put ourselves out there, 110%. It's as it should be so that when we succeed we can really claim ownership of ourselves and our accomplishments. Fear can be an energy source; what can keep us going. We shouldn't run away from failure but run toward it unabashedly, learning from mistakes, being stronger women. I think that if you aren't occasionally failing you aren't doing it right. You're playing it safe and not taking the risks you need to propel yourself forward.

  • In reply to Elaina Basabe:

    Elaina, your words are music to my ears.

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