Finding Motivation in Failure

I find inspiration in the Rocky and Star Wars movies. I can find motivation in a lot of movies and books, but those two in particular. Sometimes a simple quote or dialogue or monologue or movie scene can be just what you need to get out of a rut. Like Kenneth Branagh’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech in Henry IV. Watch it on YouTube. Super motivating. Makes you think you can take on an entire army. That’s the type of feeling I’m talking about. Give you that extra push, light the spark, whatever you want to call it. I keep a folder of photos on my phone of inspirational quotes and quite a few are from movies. Just something to call to when I need a little extra.

Lately, it turns out, I needed that extra. Probably more than a little bit. I need motivation and perspective.

I thought I had this figured out. I thought I had it beat. That I was going to come back stronger before and that I had overcome this mental battle against myself. I had hoped that my brain would stop fighting itself, that the torture of hating myself would end,  and I could live in peace.

I was wrong. Like, really wrong. And this time, when I fell I fell hard. Getting up took time. Falling, however, prompted some serious self-reflection. And I am pretty sure part of it was long overdue.

There’s a difference between surviving and living, managing day by day versus enjoying the world around you. I was getting by each day but not really gaining anything from it. I wasn’t drowning but I was just keeping afloat.

I thought I had experienced a failure. And it angered me, it upset me, and it broke my damn heart. I’m a perfectionist. When I set a goal, I’m pretty hell bent on achieving it. I’m fairly this certain this is how I ended up in a Master’s program at Penn State right as I started work full time. Perfectionist and overachiever combined with anxiety isn’t the best combination. It’s a dangerous combination.

I was told I hadn’t failed, and I totally can see that point of view. I get it. But damn if there isn’t part of me that’s still down. My logic is that anything but completion of a goal is failure. I hadn’t done what I set out to do. Incomplete. It was a failure.

I was very angry and disappointed with myself. I thought that I had disappointed others who believed in me when others didn’t. There is part of me that still believes that, and I have a hard time letting this go.

Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm, but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. -Yoda.

But! Like I said. This led to some serious self-reflection. I was told that it isn’t failure until you give up, full stop. I’m also really stubborn so that wasn’t really an option on the table. But I realized then I could keep going. Hearing that failure doesn’t happen until you give up was like the light bulb going off in my head. I still had a chance.

I have some more Yoda thoughts to share. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Yoda lifts the X-Wing from the swamp using the Force, Luke says that he can’t believe it. Yoda replies “That is why you fail.” I have watched this movie literally countless times. Yesterday (when I began writing this post) it occurs to me that Luke failed because he didn’t believe he could complete the task using only what he already had, i.e. the Force. It goes back to “Do or do not. There is no try.” It’s kind of a cliche; that the power or ability you seek is within you all along. It took me 26 years to make this connection. And that maybe, it applied to me too. That between my anxiety and lack of confidence, I was setting myself up for failure.

You had the power all along, my dear. Glinda, the Good Witch

I have thought a lot about myself and my mental illnesses and how they impact my everyday life. And I realized that I am not as well as I thought I was and I’m not living, I’m just getting by. My anxiety is holding me back in a lot of ways I hadn’t considered before but are definitely more obvious to me now. What I’m doing isn’t enough or working well apparently. I thought I was beating the depression and anxiety down, but now I’m pretty sure that I was just suppressing. And there is a huge difference between the two. When its suppressed, the darkness can still get out through the cracks. It’s like a shadow following the light. Eventually, the shadows eclipse the sun. But, as first theorized by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller, as quoted by Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, and another version of which is attributed to Victor Hugo, It is always darkest just before the dawn. So, I guess I believe that there is still hope that I can beat this. Guess sometimes you need a breakdown to see what is really going on.

I had to take a good, hard look into myself and ask what bothered me about this failure. Not just this specific instance, but overall. What did failure represent to me? How did I think it defined me as a person? And then, where did my anxiety fit in? What was holding me back from all the things I wanted to do? Some things that I should be able to achieve? Why wasn’t I taking that extra step to do more, be better? And that’s how I found the problem with self-confidence too. As cliche as it might sound, I really think that by not believing in my own ability and giving myself a chance, I was setting myself up for failure. I was listening to the bitch that is depression and anxiety and letting it bring me down. Letting the bitch tell me that I didn’t deserve success, that these goals were out of my reach. That is was out of my league. Such a long way for me.

This was kind of a game changer. I was really close to giving up. As much as I would have hated it, I think I was going to walk away. But this little bit of self-reflection kind of allowed me to gain new perspective.. I thought I understood the hold that mental illness had over me. It’s been a six long years with it, but I thought I knew its tricks and lies. Apparently, I didn’t. Apparently, mental illness is something I have to obliterate the shit out of. Not just suppress or contain. I need to knock it out.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! Rocky Balboa.

So what was my big revelation? Fighting and beating this isn’t something I can do alone. Depression and anxiety might be attacking me in an internal struggle, but that doesn’t mean the fight itself can’t be external. It is so hard for me to talk about how I feel and my problems. It is much easier for me to write about it, hence this blog. It is so hard to describe but I am not exaggerating when I say it fills me with despair, hate and a restlessness caused by anxiety and nervousness. I am never calm and content. But I have to keep fighting.

I need someone to show me my place in all this. Rey

I am not really sure how to get better about talking about this to others. But I also know that I need someone on my side. I know I am not alone, but there are definitely times where I can’t imagine feeling anymore alone. It’s hard to know who I can reach out. And it’s not that I don’t want to reach out. I don’t know if I just need to do it and start talking? Still trying to figure this one out.

One thing I do know that I don’t want to do but that I have pretty much accepted that I have to do, is go back to therapy. I hate therapy. I know people that have loved therapy and therapy has changed their lives. That has not been my experience. For awhile, I did have a great therapist. Then she had to make a work change and left the practice I was at. Haven’t had a fit since, and boy that is frustrating, trying to find a therapist. It really left a bad taste in my mouth. Just getting an appointment can be a process in itself. But I don’t really see a route where I don’t end up in therapy again, so we’ll see. Admitting that I need to go back to therapy is progress for me, I think.

Your focus determines your reality. / Concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think, use your instincts. Qui-Gon Jinn

There has to be a way to settle my mind. I have always wanted to get into meditation and practice it consistently, but it hasn’t happened. I need to get into that. I know that there are apps for it and I plan on using those, but I also think that yoga and just kind of being out in nature can help. This is definitely going to be a combination of things. Yoga, going for walks and hiking has helped clear and settle my mind before. I think I need a more conscious effort on that type of thing.

The nerd that I am, I am also going to read. I have read more self-help books in the past year or so than I ever have in my life, and I’m looking for more. I previously had reviewed Erin Falconer’s How to Get Shit Done, and I just picked up Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis because I was seeing it everywhere. But I’m always looking for more books in that area! I also want to pick up more books on meditation. That’s the best way I learn. It might sound weird, but I feel like I definitely have to rework and challenge my mind. Put the negative fire caused by depression and anxiety out. Knock it down.

If this is something you wanna do, and if this is something you gotta do, then you do it. Fighters fight. Rocky Balboa

Another thing that I am pretty sure of is that this is more than just a mental battle. I am fairly confident in saying that there is a physical aspect to this as well. I know that I “feel better” after a workout, but I think I need to redirect my approach on it. What I don’t have from working is more energy; I am always tired no matter how much I sleep. That is definitely something that I want to figure out because I am going to guess if I feel rested, I might be at least a little more pleasant with the world (I really do try to be pleasant in day to day life. I am sorry to those who get the brunt of my attitude) and myself.

Post-college, I have gained a lot of weight. Much more than I am happy with. I had tried Weight Watchers, it worked for awhile, I fell off, tried again, and they changed the system and I didn’t like it. I think now I’m just going to go with the “eat less crap” method. Really start that moderation is key lifestyle, because I don’t see a reality where I completely cut out beer and ice cream forever.

See that look in their eyes, Rock? You gotta get that look back, Rock. Eye of the tiger, man. Apollo Creed

The benefits of a strong body shouldn’t be underestimated. As Thomas Jefferson once said, A strong body makes the mind strong. We all know the numerous benefits of exercise. But I feel like I know what Apollo is talking about here. That drive, that fight for something, whatever it is. Everyone’s reason is different. All that matters is you gotta keep going. I lose that look, that passion, and I need to get it back.

Working my body is going to be just as important as working my mind. I think gaining literal strength and endurance will be great for me mentally, it’ll be a more tangible way of seeing progress. Being able to see progress will give me motivation. I go to the Y now, but I am going to get a personal trainer through there. I also want to look at trying things like CrossFit and Orange Theory. I want to build muscles and endurance. Running is another habit that I want to get into. Before, I didn’t really have a plan and I think it is because I was holding myself back. I was listening to that diseased voice telling me that I didn’t matter and had no chance of succeeding. Again, I wasn’t trying to beat the crap out of this. I was letting myself be defeated by it by just suppressing it, kind of hoping it was going to go away. Maybe it, ironically, seems crazy, but it is important to actually have a plan. I really hope I don’t sound like a broken record. But I think it took this breakdown to look at myself and realize where I was and how much further I can be. Now is as good as any time to really beat the shit out of this. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I don’t have any desire to push those limits anymore so I figure lets see how strong I can get from this. It is going to take a lot more self-reflection and some serious criticism of myself and some hard, physical work too. But at least I know that I don’t have to do this on my own and that things can, and will, get better. And I’ll be better for it. Thanks for reading my ramble.
It’ll turn out alright in the end. You’ll see. Mrs. Potts

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