This article began as an exploration of how much I’ve failed in life, and somewhere along the way, I attached the word “love” to all of that. “All of that” is meant to evoke the very true notion that I fail. A lot.
However, in thinking deeply about it, I am not positive at all how I feel about failure. This is again where contradictions rule my vision of life in this universe. It is very clear to me that my OCD is rooted in not wanting to fail. That is a key tenet of OCD that we’ll go into from another angle. At the same time, at my age and with my life experience, it is very clear—as cheesy and daytime-talk-show sounding as it is—that by failing I have learned most of what I know. I’m not going to post a motivational poster here, but I do find that all of what I would consider my positive qualities have come from learning from failure.
Let’s start with the negative1. My OCD has its roots in an over-arching construct of “failure” that I’ve applied to my living in this universe. I have a way things should be, and when applied to myself there is a bright-line2 delineation between success and failure. I am obsessed with not only doing things right by me—which is somewhat obvious—I am also obsessed with others not seeing my failures.
Here’s an example of how both scenarios play out often (hating failure, and learning and growing from failure) involving my own mind and the minds of others. I am a creative person. I make art of all sorts, I write. As always, I add a disclaimer to the end result of my creations having their quality judged by others. And that I am fine with. Basically, I know my art isn’t for everyone3.
However, I steadfastly refuse to let anyone see any of my work in progress. I am extremely secretive about my work until it is “finished” according to my own dictum. Heck, I am like this about any work I do. I only want people to see the end result. From there, judgment is less of an issue. Still an issue, but less so.
Judgment, while I am working on something, triggers a very odd type of OCD. I’ve explained the compulsion end of things—I hide my work. But the obsession lies in the way I feel my own vision of my works-in-progress will be skewed when the lens of others’ perceptions are added to that which my work is viewed through. That is to say in simpler terms—my OCD considers others’ views of my incomplete work to be like dirt I need to cleanse my brain from. I can’t stand it—good or bad.
Oh, and that is an important angle to all of this. Good or bad. If people don’t like the work I am in the process of doing, it makes it very difficult for me to reach an end result I am happy with—because I feel it has been sullied. At the same time, if people like—or worse, love—work I am in the process of making, I have an almost indescribable feeling I become obsessed within. This feeling is a mix of embarrassment, a mix of worry that the work won’t continue on a path they’re seeing as currently good, and a sense that the work I am creating now is merely to make others happy and no longer just according to my own vision of good work. I am a people pleaser, even in creativity. But I don’t want to be. I don’t feel my work is best when I succeed according to others’ rules I found out about along the way.
I would almost rather fail.
And failure I am good at. I’ve failed so often, but I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to hide such failure. I know deep in my heart I am not good at what I am tasked to do in life. I am in over my head. I do not have the proper training or historical learnedness to be embarking on nearly all the work I do.
I’ve been praised quite a bit for my work. In all aspects—jobs, business, and art. I also know the realities of how ignored my work truly is. It is obvious, especially in our new universe of social media and the like. I’m popular, but…eh… not really. And all of that is OK, as I’ve really decided that my best path is to do work for myself and to be happy if I find my work to be good.
I’ve had people ask to purchase my paintings at times. I’m so tremendously hesitant, I just let those requests die on their own. And the funny thing is I need the money!4
Moving on from others’ views of my life—I know I am a failure if we’re merely counting. The summation of the “failed” column produces a number higher than the summation of the “succeeded” column for me.
The nice thing is the “learned from” column is always in clear view.
Except when it isn’t.
1 Obviously, if you know me. [BACK]
2 Also if you know me, you’ll realize everything is bright-line. [BACK]
3 Not yet! [BACK]
4 As well the way I’d price my work would be… probably a bit insane. Insanely high. Because once we start talking about money, a whole other obsession comes into play. [BACK]