Before I joined the church four years ago, I would’ve never considered myself much of a crier. As a young child, I remember only crying when I got into my dream school after taking my school placement exams (Common Entrance Examinations) when I was 11-years old.
I found that as the years rolled by, that I cried only when I got into trouble or in the rare occasion when someone died. It meant that by the time I graduated high school at age 16, I had already become a master of emotional regulation.
This all changed when I became a member. I’d like to think that somehow, I had found a way to tap into the emotions I had suppressed during my teenage years.
I soon found that this was a double-edged sword which had the power to inflict more emotional trauma than I ever thought possible. Less than a year into my membership, nosy members sought me out as their target for possible matchmaking with available boys who attended sacrament meetings. Although their intentions were pure, the anxiety left in its wake left deep scars which I hope one day will heal entirely.
I remember fondly one such experience where I felt like a complete failure after my branch president at the time suggested that I not return to Barbados single following two trips in 2018 during the midsts of mourning my grandmother’s death. Returning without a prospect for marriage meant that in their eyes my entire trip had been wasted and I was more likely to become one of the “left-over women” who were extremely unlucky in love and couldn’t seem to find Mr. Right.
It didn’t matter that I had always been a strong, independent woman who valued her freedom. It didn’t matter that I had always marched to the beat of my own drum. What mattered most was that in the eyes of others, I had become “lesser-than” simply because I had failed to secure “time and all eternity”. I didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen anyone who was my type. All that mattered in my eyes was that I had failed.
And so…I cried. I cried a lot.
Although I can’t turn back the hands of time, I recognize that I simply can’t handle failure that well. When I believe that I haven’t done my best, I tend to take the path of self-sabotage and undo all the work I’ve accomplished in other areas, so I don’t feel the dull ache of letting myself and others down.
Now, although I know I am the Latter- Day Saint Bridget Jones when it comes to romance, failure in spiritual matters can sometimes be the hardest trials we have to overcome. In my short time as a member, I have heard countless stories from women (and a few men) about what they assumed were their own shortcomings. Most of the times, these self-inflicted thoughts can be so damaging in every aspect of their lives and without the mindset to change their thinking, these negative thoughts will continue with them until they believe in themselves.
Recently, I had my own experiences with this. Back in February, my family and I (excluding our four pupperinos) contracted Covid-19. Before my exposure, my grades were extremely good. However, after three weeks of bedrest trying to recover, I realized that no matter how hard I tried that I couldn’t concentrate on the assignments.
To add insult to injury, I could barely sit upright for more than five minutes at a time. Two of my instructors were super understanding and tried their best to help but with a body on the mend, I had to put my own health over my education.
Week by week, my grades plummeted, and I was unable to complete my final exams. I thought of so many things during this time. I thought about the fact that I couldn’t afford to retake these classes. I thought about how much I had let myself down and how much I had let my parents down as well.
It didn’t matter that my parents understood. It didn’t matter that they said that I could retry at another time.
In my eyes, I had failed. I was a failure. I had failed. Me… Momo. On the day when I realized I had failed all three classes, I called myself such horrible names. Then I self-sabotaged by closing my emotions off.
It was only that night when my parents inquired about my grades that I finally broke down. My dad hugged me tight and told me it was okay. Still… I only heard all those awful words.
I recognize that now after all that I’ve endured that if it ever comes down to my health over any achievement, that I will choose my health each and every time. Still, I realize that doesn’t mean the sting gets easier to accept… in fact it may just get harder.
The lesson that I have discovered here, is to see myself as someone who has failed.. but who isn’t a failure. I’ve learned that I need to be kind to myself and to trust in my ability to succeed.
Especially in this uncertain time, the best lesson we can learn is to be kind to ourselves. Failure is not our final destination… it’s simply a roadblock on a path of winding roads throughout our life. If we find the strength to overcome and muster through, we will find that these temporary setbacks only bring us to greater successes in the future.