Stance: The heroics of failure


Sometimes to lose is to be victorious, sometimes to be wrong is to be the heroine of the hour…

There is great stock in the highlighting of failures – newspapers, magazines and now new media all capitalise on the failings and shortcomings of celebrities and crow about the downfalls of the successful and rich. Often they’re set alongside tales of derring-do in weightloss and makeover.

The motives in publishing this don’t escape the cynic – they are warnings of the perils in failing to ensure conformity in consumption. Perfection is a product that can be purchased- so why wouldn’t you buy now.

However to assume that this is the sole driver for stories of this type is lacking in a more rounded insight. These stories sell because there is a market in place willing to consume these tales – so why are we so keen to take in tales of falls from grace, celebrity fails or winners being taken down a peg or two? 

Is it our inner sadist relishing in others also not being perfect – making up for our shortcomings, satisfying negatively our own need for validation?

This week Lena Dunham has felt the stinging lashes of media disapproval – she wrongly called out Tentaciones Magazine for airbrushing her image. So the Daily Mail obviously ran a crowing piece about Ms Dunham “backtracking” alongside gratuitous paparazzi pictures in her tracksuit with no make up.

And on a different scale I’ve seen two of the truly great women in my own life being at the point of feeling like failures this week. 

One, a #girlboss busting her guts to make her company a success, has had to endure the indignity of (temporarily) moving back home to help realise her dream of home ownership, this terrifying situation – caught between what she was leaving behind and what she was reaching towards – made the day-to-day kick ass stuff almost unthinkable. The other, an aspiring senior leader, had to make choices between an impossible role, that was at the point of breaking her, and her family and health. These situations were truly prime fodder for the office gossips and a real reason for haters to revel. 

All three of these women though, to me, have demonstrated the real need behind our craving for shame. In the way they have carried themselves they have become shining exemplars of womanhood by failing, even if only for a moment, then demonstrating their strength. In admitting their shortcomings and using their resolve and good cheer they have made things right.

Lena Dunham mastered what many people have failed at over the years – she said sorry and admitted she was wrong.  

 #girlboss reflected on how she was actually moving forward, instead of going back, and was able (in grand style) to zip up her lady suit and go back to the office, make the changes that meant the business returned back to its upward trajectory. 

Aspiring senior did, as I have seen her do many times before, took a good hard look at herself, had a word and invited the impossible to kiss her grits. She got a new job and, like any woman with a plan she can control, is beaming uncontrollably. 
None of these three probably even realise the impact they have made on the world, by just being themselves in the face of “failure”. They’ve learnt that Henry Ford’s maxim – “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” – is a self evident truth and in doing so they have blazed new trails which others can now follow.

In suffering our losses we see what we are made of. In suffering our losses with good grace, the wish to do better for others and in our determination to overcome we can become role models.


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