I failed.

Last week during a reciprocal coaching session (wherein the coach and the client/coachee both take turns in playing dual roles and learn from each other), I was given the feedback that I had not understood the client’s issue at all. The questions that I asked the client (coaching is all about co-creating solutions for the present and future through powerful questioning) were like arrows shooting in the wrong direction. This was also reiterated by the silent observer in the room.

I was devastated. It was as though I had fallen to the ground with a big thud.

A part of me was aware that reciprocal coaching was all about learning. And that it is a very rewarding way of understanding areas for improvements. That part of me was also eager to learn and fine tune my skills. Yet, here was I, confronted by my own inner fears of failures and unable to accept them.

I had failed that day. Period. I understood that. But I could not get over my own shame of having failed and fallen in my own eyes. That really made me contemplate and understand how difficult it is for so many of us to come to terms with our own failures. Phrases like ‘move on’, ‘pick yourself up’, ‘you can do better’, are meant to uplift us from that state of dejection and show us the light ahead. The trouble is that sometimes, for some of us, like me, when I see that light across the tunnel, I mistake it for a fast train hurtling towards me, ready to knock me down.

So, what did I do when I was suddenly confronted with my own fears of my own capability? Something, that has always worked for me – talk about it. I turned for support within my network. Guess what, many of my friends and colleagues have gone through this journey and phase in their lives. Realising that I was not the only one helped me immensely.

I also realised that more than the fear of failure, it was the emotions that came along that had overwhelmed me. Emotions have the potent ability to sway us in a completely different direction. Long ago I had read somewhere ‘Accept things as they are, and you rise above them. When you don’t, they rise above you.’ I now actively remember this quote whenever I feel like I am stuck like an old record whining away about things that did not go as per my plan.

Once I had spoken of my fears aloud and understood the underlying emotions, I felt immense peace and before I realised, my brain was searching for new solutions to deal with the problem. It was like a miracle. Shifting my perspective made me so unshackled and energetic to take on anything new.

The fear of failure has also a lot to do with our own fascination with being perfect and being right. In this quest for perfectionism, we land up becoming our worst critics. Somewhere down this line, we stop loving ourselves just the way we are, warts, quirks, et al. Reminding myself that I am student for life often helps me be gentle with my own self when life throws a curve ball.

In our professional lives as well the very fear of failure ensures we stay entrapped in our own thinking, in the web that we create of our own making. A failure, whose sole purpose is to make us relook at the problem with new solutions, then turns in to a threat that overwhelms us and tends to question our very basis of existence and purpose.

We all learn from mistakes and when we make mistakes, we do fail. Our successes come from our failures and the way we deal with them. This is the universal truth.


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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