Fern & Oak


Embracing failure

Failure. A small word but heavy with negativity and highly emotionally charged. Failure is not really something you would want to associate with yourself and sometimes it may feel like it is the only thing you can associate with yourself.

Feeling like failure, or believing you have failed in something can feel so damaging and hurtful; hitting yourself repeatedly with the “fail stick” is something I am all too familiar with. I wanted to share with you how I am actively trying to work with my failings and embrace them as part of my life in my quest for self discovery and growth.

So, this is going to sound kind of cheesey, but I first came across this quote on social media and it really resonated with me:

“- If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means "first Attempt In Learning" - A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Suddenly, the word fail had been transformed for me, from something to be ashamed of to something I could be proud of. Just because I hadn’t succeeded in achieving what I wanted to didn’t mean I had failed or I was a failure, it meant I had learnt.

I like telling stories, so like my previous blog post “what is creative living?” I am going to tell you another story to illustrate my point...

A couple of years ago, I was crippingly insecure about my artwork. I was a perfectionist and I didn’t enjoy painting as I felt no matter how long I spent on something; it wasn’t good enough. I felt like a failure with my art, as I couldn’t render a hyper realistic portrait or draw fingers that didn’t look like spikes on a potato. In fact, I was so disappointed with my artwork and myself that after I finished university I threw away all but 3 drawings I had completed over the course of 3 years. I remember looking at my piles of drawings of paintings and feeling such a detachment from them, I didn’t want to look at them anymore. So they all went in the bin. That was just under six years ago. I didn’t paint or draw regularly for four years after that.

Then one day, I started creating again. There were many factors that led to me picking up my paintbrush again, but that is not what this story is about. This story is about embracing my failure to be an accomplished artist. When I started making art again, I made a promise to myself that I would not throw any more of my artworks away no matter what I thought about them. I also made a promise to myself to be gentle and kind. It didn’t matter what my art looked like, what was important was I was making art. And with practice, I felt confident my skills would improve.

Slowly, my art did improve, to me, and I felt more and more confident. Sure, some paintings I wasn’t keen on and didn’t like the outcome very much. But I kept them all, and now I actually derive great pleasure looking back at old paintings not just to see how far I have progressed but also because I love them. They show my journey and tell my stories. They are a part of me.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and when I create something I don’t like, I now know that is is something I don’t care for. Then, the next time around, I have learnt not to use that particular colour combination or composition. If I was overjoyed with every painting I created, my style would never be able to develop and everything I painted would always looks the same. How dull!

I deeply regret throwing my old paintings and drawings away and cherish the 3 I still have. Every time I look at them, I am reminded of the lesson I taught myself the day I threw the others away; I was not a failure then, I was still learning to embrace my own artistic style. I am not a failure now, I am just on a continuous path of learning and discovery. Whatever you are trying to achieve, please don’t ever think of yourself as failing or a failure; it is just your first attempt in learning.