CrossFit · Olympic Weightlifting · Powerlifting · Strongman · Strongwoman · Success

Are You Comfortable With Failure?

By Brittney Bergen

“You gotta get angry!” A weightlifter in the stands at nationals yelled at me, as I walked out to the platform.  I was about to attempt my third clean and jerk, after missing the second.

“You have no idea what’s going on with me up here, man.  This is purely physical.  This isn’t mental.  Something feels off physically today.” I responded in my head as I gathered myself to rip a heavy barbell off the floor.

I missed.

I got light-headed for the third time that day.

  • After my opening clean, I gathered myself enough to make the jerk.
  • After my second clean, I started swaying before the jerk, and bailed before attempting it. (Apparently the crowd even laughed – I didn’t hear it; the room was going black for me.)
  • After my third clean, I still felt light-headed, but I was determined to give it all I had. I attempted and missed the jerk.

After getting light-headed like that, I went to the back and said to my coaches, “I don’t know what happened.”  They said, “We do – you’re catching the barbell too high.  You need to push your shoulders forward so you don’t catch it in your throat.”  But it was too late to change my technique.

I ended up going 2/6.  I had my second worst total of the season.  Some would call this day a failure.

For me it wasn’t a failure.  My intention for the day was to feel joy, pride, excitement, and love – and that’s exactly what I felt.  I knew I’d done the best I could that day.

But if I told you I wasn’t a little disappointed in my performance, I’d be lying.

When’s the last time you disappointed yourself?When’s the last time you disappointed yourself? via @idealistisabel

What do you do when you get disappointed?

At first, I tried to flee it. I tried to get rid of the feeling, and to only focus on the positive emotions I had around the day (you are reading, Idealistic Isabel after all, not Pessimistic Patty).  But the disappointment wouldn’t go away, and so I got curious about it.  Why do I still feel this way?

The feeling wouldn’t go away until I learned the lessons it was there to teach me.


Are you comfortable with failure? Are you comfortable with failure? via @idealistisabel

(All feelings are good – they are our compass guiding us in the direction of our growth.  Positive feelings pull us towards our greater good.  Negative feelings push us…So, maybe they’re all positive? *wink*)

I took my disappointment and turned it into fuel for my fire:

  • I got back under a barbell faster than I ever have after a meet
  • I’ve been working on my positions with a dowel daily
  • I’m increasing my awareness of my body and connection with my breath and the barbell

But I also had a really cool training session this past week that gave me an opportunity to redo everything that went “wrong” at nationals.

Here’s the video:

I think you can see I got light headed right after the first clean – at only 55 kilos.

For a moment I said to myself, “This session’s a write-off.  Physically, something’s off today,” and then I recognized the opportunity.

I pushed my shoulders forward, and I nailed the next five cleans (every minute on the minute) with ease.

I missed 75, and I heard two voices:

  • My coaches in the warm-up room at nationals who made me repeat a weight before heading out to the platform, saying, “Catch the bounce in this one,” (I didn’t tell you that part of the story until now).  And, you guessed it;
  • You’ve gotta get angry,

I think on that day at nationals, I honestly didn’t know how to get angry, or how it would help me.  I wasn’t in touch with my anger.  Anger was something I repressed, pushed down, swept under a mat so no one could see it.

In the last few months, I’ve allowed myself to feel when I get angry.  I’ve found healthy ways to express it.  I yell into a pillow.  I write out my thoughts and feelings (and then burn the paper).

Or, I release it by lifting a barbell.

I got angry, and I caught the bounce.

All emotions are good. All emotions are good. via @idealistisabel
  • Failure can be our fastest teacher
  • Disappointment can be a powerful driver
  • Anger can inspire you to act in ways bigger than you’ve allowed yourself before

So the next time you feel like you’ve failed, turn your gaze to the opportunity in front of you.

The next time you feel disappointed in yourself, instead of trying to escape that feeling, lean into it.

Anger?  She’s an interesting beast, and I’ll tell you more about developing a healthy relationship with her next week.

In the meantime, you might not have to get angry, but I hope when you’re pushed to your bottom point, you choose to catch the bounce and to give it everything you’ve got to stand back up.

Related Articles:

Intense and Idealistic

The Lady Lifter’s Guide to Training and Hormones

Do You Pee When You Lift?

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