Don’t Let Your Failures Become Flounders


I’m a long-time flounderer. In fact, floundering has marked almost every area of my life at some point or another. You know why? Because I’m also a dweller.

Yep, I dwell on my mistakes. I dwell on my failures. I dwell on my imperfections and misspoken words. I dwell on the ways that I don’t measure up, the boats I’ve missed, the shoulda, coulda, wouldas…

But guess where that has gotten me? Nowhere. Hence, the floundering.

Then, in the midst of my floundering, I look at my friends and my co-workers and I see hard-working, top-quality, nose-to-the-grindstone winners and producers. When I do this, I start to feel a little more, well, flounder-y, and then I’m just plain stuck. Next, my husband usually wonders why I’ve got my “chin in the clay” (it’s a baseball thing), and I’m too ashamed to tell him what’s really going on in my head because, well, he’s a go-getter, never-miss-a-deadline, cream of the crop, employee of the century type of person, too.

Have you ever found yourself floundering and dwelling on your mistakes?

If so, let me tell you something—you have got to stop. For your own sake, and the sake of your relationships, you have got to stop the dwelling and the floundering. Because the truth is that those people will still love you—true friends and family love unconditionally—but they cannot change anything about you. They cannot make your decisions for you or change your thoughts. They can tell you that you’re beautiful, have worth, are loved and cherished… But if you still feel like a big bump on a log, you’re not going to see yourself the way they do… And it’s going to be really hard for you to treat them the way you really would like to because you’re feeling sorry for yourself and sometimes, you’re hating on them because of the way you feel.

Don’t you want more for yourself? Don’t you want to treat the people you love with the utmost respect and build them up, too? I know I do.

So what are we flounderers to do?

First and foremost, we must take responsibility. This is hard because it takes our acknowledging that all of this time we have felt this way has been our own doing. Yikes, nobody likes to do that!

But, I was listening to The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield, one day and that is what he said to do. “If you want to get from here to there…” you must start by taking responsibility for where you are. So, I reached out to my uber-successful best friend and told her that I wanted to take responsibility for the pit of self-pity I had dug out for myself to hide in. I told her that, for the first time, I didn’t expect anyone to drag me out of it and fix everything for me… I just wanted her to be the person I hold myself accountable to and update as things progress, because this time, I was determined to progress.

There were three specific areas that I wanted to work on. I told her about each one and what my plan was for how to progress and pursue each area. Instead of my weak areas, I was going to make them my growth areas.

It felt good to have an action plan, a map to get me from here to there… But I was still scared. I was scared that I was “unchangeable”—just stuck being this person I don’t like sometimes. Secondly, I was scared that my efforts to change would simply not work… That I wouldn’t see any marks of progress, and that I would inevitably throw in the towel again—leaning back on that old faithful lie: I cannot change.

She was so sweet. She told me, “Of course that isn’t true. But you must not get too caught up in the way-distant future. Just focus on today. Set your mind on what you want to accomplish today and then go for it. Win the day. Just keep winning one day at a time and then, eventually, those days really will snowball… And you will amaze yourself. I know you can do it.”

We both agreed that “winning the day” was a very cheesy line, but for whatever reason, it worked for me. I got through Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of my goals… And all of a sudden, I started to believe that I could really do it too. And let me tell you, that is a huge deal for a dweller. Days 4-6 flew by, and I was feeling unstoppable. And then, Day 7 came along.

Caution: beware of discouragement!

I woke up with a bone to pick—with myself. Good grief, I’ve got issues. But it’s true, I just felt unenthused with myself. I felt like I should be further along than I was for working so hard for so long (a whole 6 days!). Yes, I am currently aware of how ridiculous that sounds. But that’s where I was, discouraged. And, oh boy, discouragement is not good for us—well—you know who we are…

In my defense, I tried to fight off the dweller in me. I got up, took extra time to get ready in order to try and feel a little more put-together, checked in with my best friend to tell her how I was feeling discouraged (so I wouldn’t slump into my old pit). I pressed on… Until about 6 o’clock. And then I belly flopped into the pool of misery. I threw my goals out the window, seethed in my frustration, sat on the couch and accomplished very little—other than picking a fight with my husband. He just couldn’t say anything right. He was being so discouraging and insensitive… Right.

Truth is, I was just angry and took it out on him. Yuck. I hate to even type that out. But it’s true, and that’s why we have this community, right? So we can be truthful (even in our messes) and encourage one another through them.

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Well, as I lay in bed, accepting my husband’s unnecessary apology for being “insensitive” I knew that this was really a moment where I needed to make a decision. Was I going to lean into my old ways, and let the six whole days of good decisions and dream-chasing be laid to rest? Or was I going to give myself a break and say, “Hey, you know what, you had about 5 hours of the old you come back to haunt you for one night. Look that girl in the face, tell her to back off, and use it as motivation for tomorrow. Tomorrow you will push yourself past mediocrity and work toward becoming that woman you will feel proud of.”

Solution: apply grit and grace.

And that’s what I did. I woke up, got to work, threw away the rest of the sleeve of Oreos that the old Ashley bought last night (and, in my defense, I only ate three, which is a huge improvement for me!), and I focused on the woman I want to become. And you know what? I found that I’m proud of this woman—right here, right now. The one making the hard choice to keep going.

I will no longer allow my failures to become flounders. I won’t let my mistakes define me, but rather, I will choose to respond to them in such a way that I build my character. After all, The Grit and Grace Project is a place where we believe that life’s challenges neither defeat nor define us. This is a place for strong women and those who want to be—a place for those who are still becoming. And we live within that beautiful balance of grit and grace.

So today (Day 8) I am giving myself grace for Day 7, and I am using every ounce of grit I have to win this day.

Looking for more inspiration in self-growth? Check out:

Free to Fake it ‘Til You Make it
Setting Goals and Meeting Them
Dear You, You Were Made for Something More
6 Ways to Focus on Self-Growth as a Woman
For the Woman Who Wants to Be Strong

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