I have had more than a few moments in my life where I have been, by anyone’s standard, a complete failure. Like, just totally missed the mark. Some of these moments are funny now, like the lopsided birdhouse I made in high school shop class, a structure so rickety that no self-respecting robin or blue jay would ever choose to live in it. Or there was the time a friend and I attempted to make a pie from scratch, a process that went so spectacularly off the rails at literally every step that we refer to it now in solemn voices only as “the great cantaloupe debacle of 2014.” And don’t even get me started on my ill-fated summer spent working on my grandparents’ farm…the less said about that the better.
Incidents like these are fairly low stakes, so we can laugh about them now, but I also have my fair share of higher level failures: overdraft fees and past due notices, flunking out of college, relationships not treated with the care they deserved. Failures like these sting a bit more, even now. These experiences formed how I view and operate in the world, for better or for worse.
Moreover, there have also been times when I’ve felt isolated by society’s standards…been made to feel like a failure…based on my economic standing, my ability to access healthcare, even how I’ve performed (or not performed) within society’s definition of masculinity. Failing to live up to these external standards can bring a feeling of deep shame, a gnawing sense that there’s something wrong not only with what I’ve done but with who I am. Continue reading