One of my favorite clients called me today from Virginia. She starts the conversation with “I wish you were here and I’m such a failure”…. Huh? We are talking about decorating, right? I think this is extreme and I tell her so, clearly, she is just being dramatic. But the thing was…she wasn’t. She really believed she was a hot mess when it came to all things “HGTV”. Whether she was or is, isn’t the point. The point is why do we use the word failure at all to describe ourselves? Is it ever failing or is it learning?
Which brings me to my next point–how we take our gifts or our strengths for granted. We assume that just because we are good, or really good, or flipping amazing at something, and that (this part is huge) it comes so easily to us that clearly this ability ‘aint no big thing’–it’s generic. Isn’t everyone good at_________(fill in the blank)?
And never mind what I’M good at (whatever we think)…look what YOU can do! I wish I could ______(fill in the blank.) I’m a…wait for it…failure when it comes to that. Then to make it worse we list all the things we are bad at. We commit them to memory. We tell everyone all the time the stuff that we made a hot mess. But the things we are good at? We don’t talk about that. Those things we downplay, we ignore, and we look elsewhere to all the failures.
Maybe this sounds extreme, but is it? Do you even know what your gifts, talents, or strengths are? I’m not talking interview prep. I mean really for real. What if I rephrased it? What if I asked you to tell me what you liked doing? Or how you like to spend your day? Or what you are proud of? What about something you get complemented on all the time?
Here’s one thing about me, and I’ve had all self talk examples listed above. Maybe I can even replay it for you.
Yeah, so, whatever…I’m good with people. I guess I am good at talking with people. I guess I can relate well with people and their problems. I guess I make friends easily. I genuinely like people and I am really interested in their background. I like learning about new friends. I LOVE making new friends because there is so much new “stuff” I get to learn. And again, I mean this: So What. Isn’t that normal? Isn’t that being a normal functioning adult? I feel like by listing these things I’m asking for a blue ribbon for having shoes on, or brushing my teeth. Who cares?
Then there is my friend. He is amazing at figuring things out. I mean he thrives on it. Give him a new car with lots of technology and an owner’s manual and he will sit in that car for 6 hours delving into every iota of it’s fanciness. Just typing that makes me sweat and start to panic. I HATE FIGURING THINGS OUT. If you paid me to sit in a car for 6 hours with a manual and then gave me that car for free—I might do it but I would be completely stressed and miserable–and that’s even if I agree to do it. I swear my hands are sweating as I think about this prospect. HORRIBLE. I cannot make this point clear enough–I am terrible at reading complicated directions and then patiently following them to a successful conclusion. I have done it. But I remember all the times and it was painful. (Those front yard grapevine reindeer that move and light up at Christmas? I put together two. Yeah, I did that. MAJOR big deal for me.)
So my friend who can figure everything out patiently and successfully? That is a gift. That is a strength. But he thinks everyone can do it (except me of course.) He thinks that I’m great with people and tells me it is my gift. And I think he’s crazy. Yet give him the job of negotiating with a car salesman and he might pay sticker price. I’d get it for way less plus become friends with him and his wife and maybe become a god parent to one of his kids. Of course I would never be able to drive the car because I don’t know how to operate it as the manual is too involved…
Failure really isn’t an option. We are all good at different things and need to sit up and take notice of what we are amazing at. I’m talking to you “Herbert” from last night’s party who will end up being Rock On Teacher of the Year to middle school kids because that is a flipping GIFT from GOD how you can relate with pre-teens like you do. And I’m talking to you client from Virginia who can add 6 figures in your head and then divide them by pie. I don’t even understand pie. But I’m not a failure! It’s just NOT my gift.