The Dirty Secret of Your Mind: Are You a Failure?
And also about fear, barking, and human faces.
The short definition of the word failure is a lack of success. The long definition refers to the list of self-flagellating judgments about our own worth that we ourselves maintain in our heads.
Has anyone ever warned you that a dog may smell your fear and bite you?
Dogs do not possess any superpowers that would allow them to read your emotions. When we perceive threat, we enter the fight-or-flight mode, which makes our body sweat, our muscles stiffen, and our eyes widen. Also, our glands release stress-related hormones, our breathing rate increases, and so forth. Dogs merely detect some of the physiological changes we go through when we’re alarmed.
The sense of smell in humans is not as advanced as that of our canine friends, but we’re still pretty good at spotting even minor modifications in the body language of other people. When you are afraid, people can tell. When you feel like a failure, people see failure. When you have doubts about yourself, others doubt you too.
Our brain knows and understands much more than we consciously realize. Have you ever talked to your partner, simply “knowing” that he or she was lying to you, without being able to explain how exactly you know? Or have you ever entered a room with other people in it and spotting right away that something was wrong, again without having the slightest idea why it felt that way?
Sometimes such predictive feelings can be driven by our intuition or even our preconceptions. But most of the time our mind and body only detect the numerous signals people give away, which provide a range of useful information on what is happening within their inner worlds.
In 1978, psychologist Paul Ekman and his collaborator Wallace Friesen published a manual to measure any facial expression a human face can make. They found out that the number of combinations of various muscular movements on a human face amount to around 10,000. Some don’t mean anything, but the researchers identified more than whopping 3,000 of them that actually do. Various faces we make are easy to tell, but many of the micro expressions are rapid and not easy to spot for an untrained eye. Yet they are always tied to emotions we (often involuntarily) express.
Even though our face is the primary display of our soul, our whole body plays a part in disclosing what we think about ourselves as well. Our posture. Our gaze. Our tone. The way we walk. The way we move. The way we dress… On the whole, the way you see yourself shows, and this in turn influences how others see you.
In a nutshell, how people perceive you and your life is a mirror reflection of how you perceive yourself in your own head.
Maybe you have cultivated your communication skills to appear composed and confident. You believe that you know how to maintain a poker face. However, if you are not able to control your mind, all of that matters only to a certain extent, since the mastery of self-worth doesn’t start on the outside but on the inside.
The Law of Attraction is a belief that “like attracts like”, which suggests that what you focus on (in other words, your thoughts) determines what eventually happens to you. It certainly doesn’t mean that if you spend your days dreaming of a Ferrari without action, it will appear one day in front of your house. Better said, our brain is a powerful instrument, whose full potential in shaping our lives has probably been fathomed by few, if any, scientists or mentally/spiritually advanced individuals.
In essence, if you have a crystal clear vision of what you want and don’t want in your life, it’s like having installed a brand new operating system onto your laptop, which streamlines its daily operations and boosts its performance. On the other hand, unproductive or even destructive thoughts make your system slow and error-ridden.
Some thoughts lead to better decisions and drive you forward. Some thoughts suck energy out of you and stall your progress.
Most people are able to define their own set of criteria if you ask them what it means to succeed or fail. And very often they like to impose them on others too, by expressing their unforgiving judgments. We have been bombarded by such failure images of other people, some real, some imaginary, since we were born. Fascinated by those mirages, we have pieced together our unique checklist of what we should own, where we should live, who we should date, what we should look like, what career we should have… to prevent the reek of failure from permeating our lives.
However, even the richest of men can be sick of defeat in their hearts, even the prettiest of women can suffer from broken self-esteem. What gives rise to failure is a thought. One single, seemingly innocuous, thought can provoke a chain reaction of hundreds of others that infect our beliefs, and ultimately our self-image. Besides, this chain reaction is not limited to the bounds of our bodies. Wrong thoughts attract wrong people to our lives. Destructive thoughts birth misfortune and shame.
The more you feel like a failure, the more you end up living a failed life.
Does it mean that we can do whatever we like? Since it’s all “in our head”, shall we just follow our momentary desires, without thinking twice what tomorrow will bring?
However appealing it may seem, it would most likely not make us happier. Humans feel fulfilled if their core values are respected and if their all-important needs are met. If it’s not the case, we may start gravitating towards a black hole of failure once again. Common sense tells us that the bare minimum of what we can do to avoid such an ending is…
- Not to purposely hurt anyone or anything that lives on Earth.
- Create some sort of lasting value.
And I would add one more and that is…
- Respect the gift of life by filling it with joy.
The rest is rather subjective. No other human being has the right to label you with “success” or “failure” tags. Not even your parents. Yes, they made you but they also had had a chance to shape their own destiny once. Now, it’s your turn.
Try to find out what you really want out of your life. What is it that you value? What is it that you believe? What is it that you need?
Make a plan. Draw up a strategy… and simply do your best to keep fighting.
Fear of failure is a psychological trait, so it is hardly surprising that by altering our psychological attitude toward “failure” (by carefully choosing our goals), we can affect the degree to which we fear it.
〜 Irvine, William B. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. Oxford University Press.
When a dog detects your fear, it doesn’t automatically trigger an attack. As long you don’t pose a threat to him or don’t show any prospect of food or entertainment, he doesn’t care. When a human being detects fear, they most likely won’t offend you physically, but their words may hurt your self-worth even further. Don’t give them the satisfaction.