What do we do when we come to the crossroads of success and failure? When a situation encompasses both ends of the spectrum, which side do you decide to look to, and is failure actually “bad”?

This past weekend was spent at the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, NV! And for what it’s worth I walked away highly inspired! But for the past 36 hours there has been a little nagging voice in the back of my head; implanted by my “bad” performance on Saturday evening. It was not what I was hoping for. Height clearance aside, I was going into Saturday evening with two goals in mind: 1. Free take-off/left arm. 2. Inversion. <– Number two could not be accomplished because number one was non-existent. For those of you with no pole vault knowledge, just know that my two objectives in performance were not achieved.

I have struggled my entire life with the fear of failure. Failure in performance for years meant failure as a person. And if I was a failure as a person then I lacked worth. When you look at the big picture, if you define yourself as what you do (for instance an “athlete”), then what happens when you fail to perform?

“My name is Mallory and I am a pole vaulter.”

So what happens when I fail to pole vault? What happens when performance is less than ideal?
I fail at the very core of who I am.

For years I saw myself as a track athlete, and for years my worth went from high, to low, to high again based on how well I performed. And this weekend when I failed to accomplish the two goals I had in mind, that unwanted little voice started to creep in, saying that I was a failure! How rude! I truly thought I was past that whole side of me; the side that said I was “less than” because of what I did, or failed to do. So what was I to do when those unwanted thoughts and emotions came back into play??

I had to remind myself of the truth that God has so graciously showed me time and time again. That I am a daughter of the King! I am loved. I am chosen. I am adopted. I am accepted. I am a follower of Christ. I am redeemed! (See Ephesians 1). There is so much more to me than my athletic ability (or non-ability in the case of this weekend! Ha!)

Well let’s back the truck up a bit to where I stood 4 weeks ago, frozen at the back of the run-way unable to take off the ground. My mental picture was jacked and I couldn’t seem to get a grip on it. The past three weeks have seen drastic improvements in this area and going into Summit I was super encouraged. We changed a variable on the day of competition and moved my step back from a 5 left to a 6 left. Not a huge change, but enough that in competition I believe my focus shifted back to taking off the ground and off of the two objectives I set out to accomplish in the first place. So I sit here and ask myself… was I able to accomplish what my focus had shifted too? Yes. I took off the ground. And therefore I must take the positive of that and run with it! Also, with the two things I failed at… big deal! It sucked. Move on. You can dwell on it, or you can use it as motivation for change. (Just so you know, it’s not easy for me to write these words. It’s not natural to automatically think these thoughts, but it’s a mental shift that I have to be intentional with). I go into this next week of training with a fresh motivation to never let that happen again; to move forward, to become better, to improve efficiency, to gain new skills that have not been demonstrated before. To dwell on the outcome would only bring more failure. But to learn from mistake can lead to uncharted areas of growth.

With that being said, and with it being Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, I thought I would share a quote of his that I truly love, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”¬†Failure doesn’t define us; especially when you know the truth, that you are not defined by a finite circumstance. You are purposefully created with infinite worth. You are created in the image of God, to be a son or daughter of the King, to live in relationship Him. So my question to you today is: What do you define yourself as? A student? An athlete? A mother? A father? A musician? A business owner? A teacher? A gamer? A traveler? Maybe it’s time to discover the infinite worth found in Christ, and let go of the finite definitions we place on ourselves. Maybe then we will find that the fear of failure has finally been defeated.

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