Self-Care Series Vol I: Perseverance

Repeated attempts or failures when trying to make a change isn’t a loss or indication that we want the end goal any less. It’s evidence that we’ve kept trying, kept going, and haven’t quit.

This week on The Self-Care Series we’re taking a look at self-judgement in the face of failure or what we perceive as failure. How and why it’s so easy to berate ourselves for the missteps and the re-tries…when the learning, the attempts, and the effort is evidence of one of the most beautiful and impactful human qualities: perseverance.

So how did I arrive to this topic? On one of many evenings descending into Youtube oblivion, I stumbled upon an interview clip with Dax Sherpard on The Off Camera Show. Led by Director and Photographer Sam Jones, these interviews are unlike any we’ve seen before: raw, relaxed, and with the same conversational energy you feel when diving deep with a close friend.

Some backstory: I’ve loved Kristen Bell and Dax Sherpard since The Sloth Video when Dax surprised Kristen with a sloth and her inexplicable reaction of excitement-tears made internet history.

I mean, first: amazing gift. Second: her reaction is hilarious and wonderfully authentic. This Ellen interview including the clip of Kristen melting down over the sloth arrived in my inbox from friends saying “this is you when you use those tiny pencils at Ikea” or “doesn’t this remind you of the time you saw that baby racoon and tried to keep it.”

So, when I saw interviews with both Kristen and Dax on Sam Jones’ interview show, I knew I wanted to watch and engage with my Hollywood #RelationshipGoals couple. I first click on the interview with Dax Shepard on myths about hitting rock bottom and it profoundly has shifted a way of thinking for me, in the 7 minutes I spent listening to him speak.

In sharing about his sobriety and process to quit drugs and alcohol, Dax relates a story of connecting with radio host Gordon Keith, also in recovery, who while staying at Dax’s house found and looked at his AA book. Written in it were all the dates Dax has set as days he had quit drinking and drugs, then crossed out when he started using again.

The last date in the book is uncrossed.

Dax relays that he sees all the crossed out dates as failures of times he didn’t manage to quit and get sober. Gordon noted that he sees Dax as someone who just never quit trying - who didn’t given up.

His repeated attempts to meet his goal are evidence of his perseverance, not of failure.

But as Dax shares in the interview below, what he felt was overwhelming shame that if and when someone saw all the crossed out dates, or knew he had tried and failed to quit over and over, that they would see him as a loser or failure, rather than how Gordon saw him: someone who persevered. What I’m struck by in his retelling of this pivotal moment in his life is how our perspective on making life changes can be the game changer - whether we are able to frame our attempts at changing as the real indicator of intention to eventual success, rather than evidence of failure.

What stayed with me after listening to this interview clip (and then proceeding to watch at least 10 more), is the way we can relate it to any changes we want to make in our life, however big or small.

We get so bogged down in the shame of the not-there-yet, and the repeated attempts to change , that the only thing we’re failing at is failing to see our own resiliency in keepin’ on and trying and trying again.

Reflect & Write

In what areas of my life have a persevered?

When we can re-frame our repeated attempts at making a change as evidence of our resiliency to not give up on ourselves, we allow in acceptance and compassion to replace any shame we may have been holding onto about what we once framed as failures.

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I’m celebrating 6 months sober this Sunday March 3rd. September 3rd will be my uncrossed date. The time I made it and really quit. Before September I did booze-free Januarys and Sober Octobers and six week stints with no whiskey and always bargained with myself that I could keep control and just have a few drinks. A few drinks with friends always turned into eventually numbing myself from any difficult day, past shit surfacing, self-hate, or feelings of worthlessness. The booze became a go-to to solve any problem. By numbing the problem. Or, numbing myself to not care, or not feel the impact of the problem - at least in those moments of whiskey-induced joy.

I don’t see the times I tried, started drinking again, bargained, reduced drinking, ramped up again, tried again - I don’t see any of that as failure. With thanks to Dax sharing his lived experience I have the language and way of framing of sobriety that I hadn’t had before.

All of those repeated attempts were me not giving up. I never gave up on myself. Let’s celebrate the ways we persevere, the ways we keep trying, and the ways we come back to ourselves, over and over again.

Laura Liz Hughes

Laura Hughes is a Niagara-based community educator, poet, and motivational speaker delivering equity and arts-based programming to youth, educators, and organizations on leadership and team-building, addressing & ending sexual violence, supporting students' mental health and wellness, building and supporting girls’ and women’s resiliency, teaching inclusive sexual health education, and creating consent culture. Her Master’s of Education research focused on queering sex education to centre queer, non-binary, and trans youth in Ontario’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum and in classrooms across the province. She is a trained counsellor for sexual violence survivors and advocate for creating space for our stories and experiences to be shared. Laura has facilitated over 60 workshops across Southern Ontario to elementary, secondary, college and university students and is currently booking for Fall 2017 - Spring 2018.