Thursday, November 02, 2017

Self-Image and Failing Well

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Monroe County


We all fail. How we handle our failures depends on our self-image. A healthy self-image allows us to fail well. An entitlement attitude causes us to fail poorly.

John Townsend writes:

"You need to learn to fail in healthy and redemptive ways, because fail you will. People with a healthy and accurate self-image don’t have a big problem with failure." (Townsend, The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way, p. 132)

Here, writes Townsend, is how failure is handled by someone with a healthy self-image.

1. They experience disappointment.

2. They lean on God. "I need God's help and wisdom in this."

3. They find support. They talk with friends who have healthy self-images.

4. They learn. "What was my contribution to the problem? What do I need to change?"

5. They adapt. "It's time to swing the bat again and try things a different way."

"That’s how it should work when we fail. Since failure, and even repeated failure, is simply a given in life, then over and over again we go through these five steps, and each next time we fail well and at a higher level." (Ib., pp. 132-133)

The entitled person struggles to fail well. Townsend says they have two self-images, an external one, and an internal one. Then external image appears confident, even arrogant. The internal self-image of the entitled person is insecure and afraid. 

"Above all," writes Townsend, they are "risk-averse." "The entitled person is deathly afraid of taking a risk and failing... So he postures about his specialness, but he never gets anywhere because he remains frozen in his ability to take normal risks that everyone has to endure to get anywhere. His internal self-image says, “I can’t do this and I can’t try.”: (Ib., p. 133) 

Townsend counsels the following to help the entitlement person.

1. Understand that you are loved by God, not because of your competence, but because you are God's child. God loves you, by grace, not performance, success, or failure.

2. Try new things. No one does them well at first. As you struggle, even fail, keep the first point before you; viz., God loves you.

3. Practice, learn, get advice, fail, and adapt.

4. "Gradually, you begin doing things better. Now the self-image says, "I am loved, and I am competent."

Townsend concludes,

"This is what works. Love precedes confidence, but confidence can’t exist outside of failure and adaptation. When your self-image aligns with what is real and true about you — in other words, how God sees and experiences you— it works for you and not against you." (Ib., pp. 134-135)