Is Feeling like a Failure Sometimes the Price of Ambition?

Posted on: Apr 04, 2019

second placeI saw a funny tweet the other day: ‘Excited to announce that I’m giving up. Can’t wait to see where this opportunity takes me’. It made me laugh (well, smile cynically) because it was such a refreshing change from the ‘thrilled to announce’ and ‘exciting news!’ about other people’s success that we’re constantly bombarded with.

There’s so much focus on ambition, on hustling, on ‘making things happen’, but what happens when it doesn't go to plan and you feel like a failure?

A couple of years ago, I started selling things printed with my illustrations on Etsy; mirrors, notebooks, things like that. It has not been as successful as I hoped. There, I said it. Why is that so hard to admit? That despite compliments and support from both friends and strangers, and despite spending hundreds of pounds on stock, I’m yet to hit 50 sales online.

To be clear – this is not an invitation to a Pity Party. I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me.

My goal in sharing this is to be honest about feeling like a failure.

And I’ve been wondering if feeling like a failure is simply the price of ambition?

We all have dreams and goals in life, some of which we try and ‘make happen’ (you might have guessed that phrase sets my teeth on edge), some of which are resigned to the bottom drawer marked ‘one day’ in our minds. The tricky thing is distinguishing between what is achievable and what is pure fantasy.

Most of the time the targets that we berate ourselves for not hitting are completely self-imposed.

I know mine are – I'm self-employed so it’s not like I've got a pissed-off manager hauling me in for a performance review. I’m the one who’s decided I’ve failed. I’m the one beating myself up about missed opportunities and agonizing about pricing and comparing myself unfavourably to others on Instagram. But I now know that trying to create a sell-out line of products alongside a full-time freelancing career is not achievable.

So what’s the solution? To give up on ambition?

God knows I’m no starry-eyed optimist who believes that a benevolent universe will grant my wishes. But equally I don’t want to become a dead-eyed pessimist who mentally shoots down any idea before it has a chance to take flight.

If feeling like a failure sometimes is the price of ambition, then this recovering cynic is prepared to pay it.

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