Do You Ever Feel Like a Failure in Your 60s?
I sat bolt upright in the middle of the night and suddenly felt I was drowning in my own inadequacies. From different corners of my mind I was hearing, “Lazy! Weak! Running out of money!”
A life devoted to my family suddenly felt like enmeshment and enabling.
My quiet spiritual days spent in Nature felt like I was just avoiding reality and hard work. In the morning, the failure feelings were still there.
I looked at all the women close to me and felt overcome by a sense of being not good enough. They are all working in meaningful jobs, many more hours than my one night a week at the therapy clinic. They pay their bills on time. None of their children are divorced.
Their grandchildren all seem more stable and cooperative than mine. They do not receive late night frantic text messages from a teenage grandson that his father is ignoring him and only paying attention to the new stepfamily. They do not wonder if anyone will be coming for Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving.
Should Have, Could Have
The women close to me all seem stronger, more able to set boundaries and limits, more able to detach and use tough love, whereas I am just a responder, trying to rescue and fix everybody.
Most of my life I have liked myself, felt pretty good about my choices and the ways in which I was different. But recent events seem to prove that I was wrong all along. I should have worked more, been less focused on my children.
I should have spent less time reading and more time keeping up with my bills and dentist appointments. I should have spent less time hiking and more time getting my taxes in on time.
I should be more outspoken, less afraid of conflict. I should be less dreamy, more practical. I should be more resilient, not so easily brought to my knees by family pain.
Easier to See the Good Qualities in Others
When a client, usually female, talks to me about feelings of failure, I can always see, loud and clear, the wondrous and special things about her, even when she seems blind to them. Why can’t I do that for myself?
Sitting one day in the sunshine on my warm wooden deck, I heard other voices from the corners of my mind: “You took care of your parents when they were dying.” “You have deep and joyful relationships with your grandchildren.” “You have helped people in your therapy practice.” “You are a good friend.”
And I felt a bit better, a balance was restored.
Keep Being Me
In the end, I guess it’s all true, the weaknesses and the strengths, the failures and the goodness. And not everything that has gone wrong is my fault, or my responsibility, or within my ability to fix. I know the failure feelings will return, but I can only forgive myself, accept myself, and keep being me.
Although it wouldn’t hurt to pay my bills on time.
Do you often feel like a failure? Do you tend to see the good qualities in other people but not in yourself? Please join the conversation and share your tricks to deal with feelings of failure.
Sheri Saxe is a psychotherapist with a focus on helping women to accept and integrate their painful experiences and blossom into new life. This is called radical acceptance. She has a passion for wilderness backpacking, meditation, and being a grandmother. She is the founder of the blog Seasoned Women Over Sixty.