This is me, holding the COACH Diploma that certifies that I successfully completed the Coach Training Program. This is me, bewildered and excited that I was finally holding this Coach Diploma, after one year and a half of training, extensive reading and countless hours of peer practice. This is me who succeeded all the exams. This is me who succeeded.
But this post is not about success. This post is about FAILURE.
The truth is that before I succeeded I had to fail and boy how hard that was! The truth is that I initially failed my oral exam, an exam in which I had to coach a total stranger, a person whom I never met, just as it happens in real life.
I could have posted a fancy story about success, about believing in myself that I could do it, a stereotype story which would have said « if you want it enough, if you fight it hard, you will succeed it ». But it would have been wrong and futile.Gabriela d Spencer
I had succeeded the writen exam and the coach report that I had to hand over, but I had failed the oral exam. I had failed it, despite wanting it so badly, despite preparing hard for it, despite watching and analyzing coach demonstrations, despite participating to conferences on coaching and investing over 300 euro in additional books on coaching.
I wanted to be spotless. I wanted to offer the highest level of quality in terms of the coaching service I was providing. I worked hard. I wanted it badly. Just as we are taught to do. And yet I failed.
The irony is that I initially failed simply because I did not allow myself to fail. I failed because I did not trully allow myself the right to make errors. I was so attached to the end result: success, result, performance. I wanted to coach in a perfect way. And I wanted to succeed. And this was interfering with my capacity to stay trully present for the person in front of me, a person who was seeking safe time and safe space to explore a situation in a different way.
For a moment, I had forgotten that it was the coachee who was doing the work. I was responsible only for the coaching process and ethics and I needed to be fully present for the person in front of me. My initial exam was not bad. It was actually pretty good. But I knew that I could have been better.
It was so damn hard to fail. I cannot express the extent of my emotional response towards this failure, especially that I had wanted to succeed so hard. I got stuck in pain, especially that in my life I had not really failed my exams.
But this story of failure has something special in it. For the very first time in my life, having failed was not met with criticism, sarcasm, sanctions or rejection.
I grew up in Romania, where there is still a highly critical culture. At school if I was not performing good, I would have publicly been ashamed and criticed. In the society I was raised, had I failed, I would have faced sanctions, rejection and exclusion.
Once a teacher hit me in the head with her glasses, for not being able to solve a math exercise at the board. I cannot mention the amount of shame I had experienced. One of my literature teachers had critised and belittled me many times in front of my classmates, stating that I would not succeed my future university admission exams. In his view I was not good enough and I could not prove it the other way. Therefore, I learned that failure was not an option. And the more I was avoiding failure, the more my fear of failure was growing. And with time, the shame of a potential failure had become unbearable for me. Thus to compensate, I had to be perfect.
I worked a lot on my perfectionism. I am still working.
And then came the day I failed something I wanted so badly, something for which I worked so hard, something that really mattered to me. And beside the excruciating emotional pain and self-doubt, I experienced failure in a different way.
For the very first time in my life, failure was accompanied with compassion, kindness and group support. It was not the end of the world. People around me did not accuse, nor criticesed me for having failed. I was still part of the group, I had not been rejected. Despite the shame I was feeling, I got support, help and continued to be included.
We often forget the value of the group support, the importance of compassion and the power of the social encouragement. We believe that we have to be tough, endure hardship like a rock and do it all by ourselves. But just the way it takes a whole village to raise a child, we as adults strive better in a caring and supportive community.
This failure experience showed me that I can still be accepted, supported and cared for even if I had failed. The success story taught me that if I let go the pressure of obtaining a certain level of result and performance, if I simply am in the present, accepting the unpredictability and just letting things happen, then the outcome can be wonderful and even exceptional.
Failure is not supposed to be a matter of blaming and shaming or a matter of comparison. Failure is supposed to be about learning something new, about progress and development. Enough with all this blaming, finger pointing and shaming!
I could have written a glamourous story about success. But before suceeding, we sometimes have to fail, accept and embrace our vulnerabilities and then learn our personal lessons.
And if you failed recently or you are afraid of failing, if you fear showing your vulnerability or if you criticise yourself before even starting, reach out and allow youself the safe space of coaching to explore your reality and then move on, in your own rhythm.
Learn more about coaching or book your chemistry session here: https://gabrieladspencer.com/coaching/
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