“Fail fast, fail hard, fail often.  If you haven’t failed, you’ve never really tried anything,” Annette said as she began our yoga session.

It was my first yoga class in over a month.  I’m not sure why I had been avoiding this so much, but I’ve noticed when I get down, I stop taking care of myself.  I let a lot of things go, and my personal health has been one of those things I let go of recently.  I’m happy to say I think I’ve taken a turn back on the upswing–making sure my apartment’s clean, trying to go to bed a bit earlier, buying healthy food instead of fast food, and of course, now going to yoga again.

It seemed oddly coincidental that, in my first session back, the mantra with which the instructor chose to lead the session was about failing hard, failing fast, and failing often.

Well, I can certainly say that I’ve been doing that recently.

I got dinner with a friend a couple of weeks ago, while the sting of my break-up was still piercing through me, leaving my body in a state of numbed shock.  We mulled over all of the details, cutting deeper into the wound with what seemed like a dull knife.  I found that I had been beating myself up–beating myself up for giving away too much too soon, for loving too hard, for being too much of me, for advocating too strongly for what I wanted, for laying my purest and most whole version of my heart on the table.  In hindsight, I think I was sorry for being me.

And so my relationship failed.  Miserably.  I found myself in a very similar predicament to the one I was in less than a year ago.  I had truly tried, truly given it my all, only to find out that I had failed… again.

So what’s the difference between these two instances?  Not much, really, I suppose.  In fact, at times, it felt like I was in the same relationship all over again, confining myself to someone who was not emotionally mature enough to function in an adult relationship, meanwhile convincing myself that I was the problem, I was the one who needed to slow down and wait it out–that it would fix itself if I was just patient.

“I think that takes f***ing balls, man,” my friend said to me. “Laying it all out there like that. You just have to know that someday it’s going to pay off.”

I stared back at him, with a half-smile on my face, knowing he was saying exactly what a friend is supposed to say in that situation, meanwhile feeling like a turtle, retracting my head back into my shell, wondering if I’d ever be able to just “lay it all out there” again, wondering if I’d really be able to do better next time like I promised myself a year ago.

So now, I think it’s time I start listening to myself more.

I lead with my class with a mantra similar to the one the yoga instructor was spreading last night.  I tell my students to take risks, to be wrong, and to allow others, and ourselves, to learn from mistakes.  In fact, I thank my students all the time for their wrong answers, for saying something “way off,” because it allows us to see what the “wrong” looks like and how to rebound from it.

So I’ve been wrong twice now.  I’ve heard the little voice in my chest–that little voice that slowly begins to shake my heart, making it palpitate with bubbles and tremors; that little voice that slowly grows louder as its ignored time and time again, and I think I’m ready to begin trusting it more now.  Because that’s exactly what I wasn’t doing before, trusting myself.  I was listening more to the voices of others than my own, externalizing my self-worth, and allowing the others’ insecurities to permeate my psyche, sending me on a downward spiral of self-doubt.

But I have learned some things.

I failed “hard” when I lost trust in myself and when I stopped listening to myself; I failed “faster” than I did last time, not waiting around for five years to see what I already knew was true (a truly successful failure, if you ask me), and I suppose I’ve failed “often.”  Failing twice at the same thing seems often enough for me.  And so what did I learn?

I learned that I need to listen to myself and trust my instincts, even when I don’t like what they have to say.  Our instincts are there for a reason, and date all the way back to our earliest of ancestors, our most basic being “fight or flight.”  I know now that, without a doubt, when my body is telling me to “fly,” I best be getting on that plane, even when it feels like the harder choice to make.

I learned that I’m awesome.  I learned that I do things hard, fast, and often, because I am an innately passionate person, one who has a desire for self-improvement and learning, one who realizes that true periods of growth do not come from walking on eggshells and being tentative.  True personal growth comes from taking a risk, throwing in everything you’ve got, and simply waiting for the time that it pays off.

I grew because I cared, and I grew because I tried. And so I’m going to continue laying it all out there, caring with my whole heart, trying with every ounce of energy.

And I’m going to continue to grow.

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