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Posts Tagged ‘failure’

  1. The Upside To Being an Introvert

    August 30, 2015 by Diane


    Hipster girl holding a stack of books

    In junior high, I had a physical education teacher who doubled as drama coach. Mrs. Wattenberger, a stout woman with calves like footballs, whose goal was to make us “sweat like pigs” (an odd and impossible feat), directed the school play. I don’t recall the name of the play; it was the sort of melodrama you’d find in a volume titled Best Plays for Junior High School Students Who Need to Sweat Like Pigs, requiring zero royalties and minimal scenery. We performed this low-budget flop in my seventh year of formal education, and I landed the choice role of “The Curtain,” along with eleven other boys and girls.

    Here is the gist of our performance:

    At the end of every scene, we scuttled single file onstage holding a length of fabric, faced the audience, announced “the curtain falls,” and promptly collapsed to the floor. After several excruciating seconds of silence we announced, “the curtain rises,” scrambled to our feet and scuttled off, stage left.

    Mrs. Wattenberger was over the moon with my debut. “It’s so wonderful to see Diane come out of her shell,” she gushed to my parents after the matinee, as if she and her football-sized calves had booted me from a life doomed as an introvert.

    I’m sure she meant well, but I cringed.

    I cringed every time someone labeled me “shy” or “withdrawn” or some such demeaning adjective aimed to snap me out of my supposed state of suffering. And suffer I did.

    Not because I kept to myself, preferring to read a book rather than socialize, speaking only when I had something of value to say, but because others viewed me as flawed.

    From my perspective, those praised as being “extroverts” were the flawed ones, uncomfortable with their own company, attempting to flee it by surrounding themselves with others, feeding on mass energy like vampires sucking the life force from mortals for survival. I was as unfair in my assessment of them as Mrs. Wattenberger was of me.

    Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explodes the myth that introversion is a failing. She reveals the upside of the introverted personality—the positive traits, the contributions to society—and points out how the world benefits by valuing the quiet among us.

    It would be years, cringing from such labels, before I discovered what Susan Cain had uncovered through meticulous research. If I could, I would travel back in time, shove Mrs. Wattenberger aside, look deeply into the eyes of my younger self and say, “Stand proud in who you are.”

    But I can’t.

    I can, however, look deeply into the eyes of my fellow introverts and say this:

    Stand proud, you who keep mystery alive by wearing disguises in your profile photos, you book-lovers and creative forces who listen intently so others may be heard. Stand proud, you who converse in your heads sharing aloud only what adds value to your worlds, who make large talk, not small, thinking fully before speaking. Stand proud, you who live in awareness, form deep friendships, add calm to hectic environments and tremble when revealing yourself—because it’s a gift you give, and it doesn’t come lightly.

    Stand proud in who you are.

  2. Thinking Distortion #3: Rejecting the Positive

    February 10, 2014 by Diane

    Distorted thinking

    Here’s the hypothetical…

    You just finished writing a short story for a contest; or a report for your boss; or a school paper on Why Climate Change is Really Really Happening. You barely make the deadline, but you make it.  Then you celebrate. You mentally pat yourself on the back. You buy a double latte, a fudge brownie, maybe some Twinkies. And you settle down to read the copy of what you submitted.

    You cringe.

    You nitpick.

    You bang your head in the palm of your hand and rush out and buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream and devour it with a spoon.

    I’m a failure, you moan between mouthfuls.

    Hold on.

    That’s jumping ahead in the list of thinking distortions, to number seven: name-calling.

    Let’s stick to one distortion at a time.

    You handed it in, right? You spent five, ten, forty hours rewriting the darn thing. You did the best you could with the knowledge and experience that you currently have.

    So put down the spoon.

    Stop reading the copy.

    Take a walk.

    And when your mother or your boss or your teacher congratulates you—well done! Great job! You did it!–when you get a high-five and a thumbs-up and an A-plus don’t say…yeah, but it could have been perfect. So-and-so would have done it better.

    That’s thinking distortion number three: Rejecting the Positive.

    And number six: Expecting Perfection.

    And number eleven: Comparing Worth.

    And…well, be mindful of the games your mind can play.


  3. Thinking Distortion # 2: Either/Or Thinking

    December 16, 2013 by Diane

    Distorted thinking

    Here’s the hypothetical…

    It’s Christmas. You’ve spent the last two weeks getting ready for the in-laws and your extended family to descend upon the house. Your husband wrestled the wooden sleigh-and-reindeer display from the garage and your son peeled himself from the couch long enough to nail a wreath to the front door, then you all drove to Santa’s Tree Lot and spent an hour bickering over which tree to buy. You made four trips to the mall to buy gifts and wrapping paper and tape and ribbon and bows, and you stocked up on eggnog and booze and sparkling cider. You bought a ham and sweet potatoes and green beans and Cream of Mushroom Soup for that goopy casserole that Uncle Joe loves, even though Uncle Joe is a pain in the…

    Hold on.

    That’s jumping ahead in the list of thinking distortions, to number seven: Name-calling.

    Let’s stick to one distortion at a time.

    You set the table with the best silver and linen napkins, and by God this day better be perfect, you tell yourself, because last year was awful; you all had colds and stayed home in bed, fuming. So nothing better go wrong!

    But things do.

    Uncle Joe is late. As usual. So you keep everything snug in the oven, thinking it’s on warm, but it’s on high because one of your cousin’s kids fiddled with the knobs, and soon the ham and that goopy casserole are smoking up the house. You grab the potholders and pull the burnt ham from the oven and it falls on the floor and shoots across the waxed linoleum and the day is ruined. RUINED! You should have never taken this on, you’re a failure and everyone knows it.

    That’s Either/Or thinking. Believing that situations are either wonderful or a complete disaster. That you’re either perfect or a waste of human skin.

    Look at it this way…

    That black mound that your Uncle Joe is now kicking around the floor…it’s a crispy dead pig, not the ruination of your life.

    Order a pizza.

    It’ll probably be your best Christmas ever.

    But let’s say you’re not hosting a shindig. You live alone. You don’t have the money to fly clear across the country to see your family, or send gifts. You’re spending Christmas night alone at Denny’s eating over-salted slices of turkey and watery mashed potatoes pooled in gravy because you have a free coupon. It’s grim. It’s awful. Christmas is just an overblown retail holiday, you mutter. Bah humbug. You feel like a failure because you can’t even afford a cheap tie for your father.

    You’re not a failure. You’re short on funds. At the moment. Set it aside for now. Smile at the waitress, who’s spending her Christmas serving a grump.

    And come July, when you have extra cash in your pocket and you spy that Zen-like miniature golf game in the bookstore where you’re browsing and you think of your dad, who loves miniature golf, and this game is really miniature—the clubs only two inches high—and you picture him sitting at his desk teeing off…buy it. Send it along with a note.

    Merry Christmas!

    Thinking of you.

    With love,


    It’ll be his best Christmas ever.