Friday, April 07, 2006


I was just thinking how wonderful it must be to give yourself permission to fail.

To give up all the struggles and just give yourself permission to fail.

To let yourself eat as much chocolate as you want and get fat.

To let the house become a complete and utter tip.

To let your kids take swipes at each other and not bother disciplining them.

To head for the doctors and say, 'I need PROZAC!'

Is there a big relief for people who do this? A weight lifting from the shoulders? Or are humans so conditioned to succeed that they can't even fail properly anymore?

Why are humans so good with guilt? Is it just me? As a writer this intrigues me, as a mother this worries me. What do you think?


  1. Failure - I was never allowed to fail, I wasn't encouraged to succeed either. What? Well, whenever something was bothering me, or I didn't like it, the parents let me just quit. A kind of failure? Maybe, but I would never know whether I would have succeeded or not. This set me up for life - I would give up too easily. That's why I'm determined to get this book finished, even if it takes a year. Just to do it.

    I think sometimes, though, you need to just give up on some things in order to deal with the others. Maybe not get fat, but not be so obsessed with every pound. I don't know - I just might be a little punchy at the moment anyway. I'm trying not to think too deeply.

  2. Interesting question, Toni.

    I think that most people are conditioned to succeed, but many (far too many) are conditioned to fail. How many times are we told as children that we "can't". When you are a child, *nothing* is impossible. The world is fresh and new and everything in it is possible. Until we are told we can't.

    Switching gears, I think guilt can definitely be an after effect of failure, but I think that nowdays it precedes failure too often, because many people are so afraid of failing, they never try and thus a vicious circle ensues where guilt is the primary emotion of the day and it's one people become familiar with and so "better the evil you know" rather than the one you don't is the one we choose. Women are especially good at this, I think.

    I do believe that guilt can serve a healthy purpose though, as long as it's not chronic.

    Now that being said, I'd wager my house is a complete tip (what's a tip BTW ;) but it's that way because I choose to focus on writing and my children. I'd rather grub around in a mess and play with my kids than spend my days as a rubber gloved germ warden at the ready for a surprise inspection. And I don't think I'm failure for doing so, but at the same time, I do feel a bit guilty, especially when visitors arrive at my door.

    Now if you want to talk about "real" guilt, let's talk about my hips. ;) That's chronic.

  3. Yup, interesting question, Toni. But instead of thinking in terms of Success vs Failure -- I like to think in terms of self-acutalization. If you're self acutalized, you're happy as a human being and those around you become happy, too. If you're continually fighting against something, perhaps there's something different that needs to be addressed. Perhaps your goals are not yours, but someone elses?

    And if a messy house means you are acheiving your dreams in other ways -- be they writing, spending time with the kids, or simply enjoying the sunshine on a spring morning and taking time to listen to the birds sing ... whatever, then a messy house is a good and happy thing :).

  4. I was just about to say something similar to Eve. It isn't a matter of allowing myself to fail, it's more a matter of others demands that I cannot fail.

    But, wait, if I fail them then yes I fail myself. And the guilt eats away at me. What I need to do is leave the entire family and strand myself on an island. Gosh, what a thought, no outside influence. Makes you wonder what you might discover about yourself.

  5. Umm .. now if only I could spell ... VBG

  6. If I had been fully alert, I would have said all of this - honest ;-)

  7. Wow--deep and insightful. I think I would actually like failing to be easy. I had a friend who committed herself to the mental ward of the hospital (I am not reccommending this BTW), but she'd been through hell and could not cope, so she handed herself over to others to look after. I have family members who use failure as an excuse to be taken care of.

    Hmm. Bottom line is I don't have it in me to just fail. I can change direction or have a rest, but failure?

    Self-actualisation (sp?) is the best way to go, Loreth, I agree. Generally we have a happy family, but stress can tip the balance!!

  8. With me it's not the failure, it's all about control. There's nothing worse for me than feeling that I have no control over a it's a power struggle with everything.

    I've always struggled with weight gain and wanting to be thinner and I've noticed that the times I DO start loosing weight is when I am not obsessed with it, I don't worry so much about what I eat every second of the day and I don't get on the scale every minute either. Of course my scale is a BIG FAT LIAR, but that's besides the point LOL

  9. Good points made by all. Guilt is a necessary emotion. One that keeps us in check for many things.

  10. I would LOVE not to be obsessed with every morsal that goes into my mouth. Unfortunately, I have to be now. Of course, there are times when I just say ok, let's not worry about it for 30 minutes while you enjoy a treat. Sigh...

    I know that I FEEL better emotionally when I do what I'm SUPPOSED to - exercise, eat right, write, spend time with my daughter, etc., etc. And to me, that is success.

  11. I think I have that split personality problem. I am the rubber gloved germ warden, but spend a lot of time grubbing :)

    A tip is a rubbish tip. Garbage dump.

    Sandra, I'm a control freak too. Terrible combination with kids LOL.

    Brandy--guilt can be a great thing to motivate you--all good in moderation, but not when it eats away at self-esteem (IMO).

    And isn't it sad so many of us are obsessed with weight rather than loving the skin we're in? I looked at my behind in the mirror this morning and nearly fainted! However, Melissa you're right, when it is your health at stake you have to be careful what you eat.

    Thanks for your comments. It was really interesting to read your thoughts.