Sunday, February 16, 2014

I'm a Failure Because...

Let me begin by saying that this is not going to be a very helpful post. I'm warning you (with peace and love): if you're looking for help of any kind, you're probably not going to find it here. If you're looking for advice or good cheer, you've definitely come to the wrong place.

If you're a person who knows even a little about psychology, I'm sure you've heard of the cognitive distortion called "all or nothing thinking." Unfortunately, that's the way my brain works. Everything is either black or white. There's no gray. There's no half-filled glass. It's either full or empty. That's just the way it is.

And when you're a perfectionist on top of it, you're pretty much doomed (at least inside your own head. I suppose I appear relatively "together" on the outside).

So, the other day, I was going about my business when I heard Prickly Dad upstairs, vacuuming the family room. Granted, I was filled with gratitude that he was helping. I have a wonderful husband. But then the cognitive distortion started:

I'm a failure because my husband is doing housework.

And it didn't end there. The thoughts just kept on coming, one after the other...

I'm a failure because I can't keep up with my chores.
I'm a failure because I'm not the perfect wife.
I'm a failure because I can't get this depression cured.
I'm a failure because I'm always tired.
I'm a failure because I don't feel creative.
I'm a failure because my hair looks like a squid.
I'm a failure because my stomach is flabby.
I'm a failure because I can't find a bra to fit these stupid boobs.
I'm a failure because I ate gluten today.
I'm a failure because I can't get my family on a paleo diet.
I'm a failure because I feed my kids Teddy Grahams.
I'm a failure because my kids' nails are too long.
I'm a failure because my kids need haircuts.
I'm a failure because I'm an American and I think consumerism is dumb.
I'm a failure because I can't get motivated.
I'm a failure because I don't feel like playing with the kids.
I'm a failure because these stupid breakfast cookies didn't get made again.
I'm a failure because I'm too sad to appreciate any of this.

Sadly, trains of thought like this are pretty typical for me. As you might know, I've struggled with mood disorders my whole life, so I'm just used to it. I think my defeatist thoughts and plod along as best as I can. The thing is, that night when my husband was upstairs vacuuming, a novel idea popped into my head at the end of that barrage.

What if I were to stick the word "not" in all those sentences? Wouldn't that make all those hateful declarations a little more truthful?

I'm NOT a failure because my husband is doing housework.
I'm NOT a failure because I ate gluten today.
I'm NOT a failure because my kids need haircuts. 

I have to admit, these revised statements are true. Adding "not" to my black-or-white thoughts doesn't automatically make me a smashing success as a mother or as a human being, but none of the things mentioned above is bad enough to warrant labeling myself as a failure.

It's a baby step, but I took a step. I'll try to remind myself that things can be gray.

Do you feel this way, too? I want to share some resources that might help.


  1. Grace. We all ALL need it. You- YOU need it too. No one is perfect and certainly NO ONE does parenting perfectly. I hope you keep adding those "not's into your thinking...

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm always trying to work on my perfectionism. :)

  2. Great post. This is such a simple but profoundly effective technique for working through cognitive distortions. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thinking positively is the first step to achieving goals. Even if it is baby steps. I love the more positive turn. Thank you for your honesty.

  4. Thank you very much for this post. I have been feeling like a failure for longer than I realized. It snuck up on me by comparing myself to others and their "perfect" outer self. I appreciate your honesty. The vacuuming part really hit home. I have been sick A LOT in the last six months and my husband has stepped in and taken care of the family. I have felt bad because I'm not contributing. Now I realize that I feel like I'm failing to keep my house together in the midst of sickness. Thank you so much!!!

  5. Mike Cruse from PapaDoesPreach.comJuly 10, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    You are in no way a failure. I have this conversation with my Wife all the time, and she has it with me when I get down on myself. We must giver ourselves more grace and not be so hard. We are truly doing the hardest job in the world, being parents.

  6. Hi, found you through the Honest Moms linkup! I do this to myself all the time - beat myself up for all my failings. We can't do everything and be everything - what we are needs to be enough. I'll try flipping the switch on my failure statements, thanks to this post.

  7. I truly need to add more statements on the positive end in my life, too. I think it is just so easy to put yourself down and look at the negative, but harder many times to be positive and upbeat about the things in your life that might be shortcomings, but could very well be anything but. Thanks for the reminder here today.

  8. I have depression/anxiety and am currently recovering from an early pregnancy loss, and these thoughts have been rearing their ugly head at me recently. Thanks for this.