Perceptions of success and failure

baby with laptopI’ve been thinking about my mum lately – she’s never touched a computer, save maybe to dust it, and now she’s taking a computer class. This morning I got what I hope is the first of many emails from her…well done mum! Week 1 – she was inspired. She was telling me that there were about ten people in her class, many of them older and slower than her, so she felt pretty good about the pace and being able to keep up with the new concepts she was learning. Week 2 threw her off. Six people dropped out of the class – according to mum, the six slowest people! Great, I thought, she’s the fourth quickest person in her class at a minimum. But for mum, her confidence was rocked a little. No longer did she have a safety net of hiding behind the slower learners, no longer did she have the benefit of them asking questions that saw the teacher repeating instructions over and over – according to mum, now she is the slowest in the class, struggling to keep up with the others, slowing everyone down.

It occurs to me how often the goalposts change in our lives, you only need to think of your first day of school or first day in a new job to remember how out of your comfort zone you felt initially, in the face of everything being new. But remember also, that while there seemed to be more information to remember than you could possible squeeze into one brain, after a while you fit right in, tasks became almost automatic. Remember learning to drive? Remember dreading having to change gears, swerving each time as you took your eyes from the road to look at the gearstick. But now you change gears without a second thought. New things can be scary and challenging, but they bring also an excitement and thrill, especially after your first successes.


creative daydreamMy mum’s an artist; she does things with stuff (paper, paint, discarded junk, bead, broken things, plaster, fabric, tiles, clay…stuff) that I couldn’t even dream of. She’s amazingly creative, but she mostly hides her talent. A few years ago my niece and I set up a Facebook page for her artwork, and after much encouragement she set up her first market stall. She had been terrified initially, not feeling ready, not feeling her art was good enough. But she went on to sell a few pieces – success definitely boosts the confidence and inspires us to persevere.


I realise that what gets us down is expecting we should be more – should be better, quicker, should know more, etc. etc. Sound familiar? And this comes from judging ourselves against others. Like my mum who went from feeling she wasn’t too bad at learning beginner computer skills because there were others who were struggling more than her, to now feeling like she is too slow because everyone now in her class has had some experience with computers except for her.


So the solution?

  • Acknowledge your progress,
  • Be kind on yourself,
  • Celebrate even the small successes.

In this way you keep it personal, making comparisons only to your own starting point, judging the journey based on how far you have come.


There are lessons here for my writing too – apart from the obvious: keep writing, celebrate the increasing word count, etc., I can untilise these feelings of inadequacy to explore how my protagonist, Annabella, felt when she moved from her grandmother’s remote house to the village and then to the castle. She went from being the centre of the universe to being a small part of it – what a blow to her confidence this must have been, how resilient she would have to have been to triumph over these circumstances. I can also use my feelings about my own mum to explore Annabella’s relationship with her prime carer (her grandmother).

Watch out for my upcoming posts for these!

love-of-booksIn the meantime – keep writing, singing, painting, dancing, or whatever it is you do!


Photo credit: baby with laptop

Photo credit: creative daydream

Photo credit: love of books

Follow me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *