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“Giving Up” Is Not Synonymous With Failing

“Giving Up” Is Not Synonymous With Failing

Sophie Coffey

“Giving up” is not a phrase that we tend to view with pride or admiration. Instead, the infamous taste of “failure” often appear to drip from every syllable.

But we have not always treated it this way.

Been there, done that, gave it up!

Looking back, we have been giving things up for years. As infants we gave up activities such as sucking our thumb or daytime naps (though there are some days when I wouldn’t mind reintroducing said naps!). Then as enthusiastic primary school students, it was often extra-curriculars like dance classes or swimming that were ticked off our lists. By the time we were tweens it was from family events or traditions that we considered ourselves graduated beyond.

Each time we reached these stages of giving something up, it was a natural progression. We were not abandoning things, but instead were maturing beyond them. Growing up involved plenty of so called “quitting” but it felt less like sacrifices and more like natural stepping-stones of development.

It does not mean you failed

However, there comes a point where giving up is suddenly treated as synonymous with failure. We do not usually give up things that we are successful at or happy with. Instead we will typically retire something because of what we perceive as an associated failure.

But giving up is not always an indication of failure. On the contrary it sometimes represents success. This accomplishment comes in the form of recognition and acknowledgment of your own limits.

I am a big fan of the idea of breaking boundaries and barriers. I love the concept of hurtling past every limit there is, particularly for young women. But there is a difference between breaking barriers and breaking yourself.

“The limit does not exist” (except it really does!)

Take for example the barriers that prevent female teenagers from engaging in sport (we spoke to Lauren Guilfoyle on this very topic). Now I am all for encouraging these sporting opportunities for teenage girls, by removing the boundaries that prevent inclusive progress. But regardless of how many hurdles we remove, at no point will every teenage girl be an Olympic athlete (and frankly my own natural abilities mean I am unlikely to be an athlete of any kind!).

Because yes, we can absolutely remove barriers and foster environments of improvement and potential. However, some limits will still exist naturally and attempting to ignore these will do more harm than good.

You cannot pour from an empty bucket

Giving up is not always a sign that we were unable to succeed. Consider the reasons why we gave things up as younger children. Often it was because we didn’t have the time. Our calendars were so full of homework, extra-curriculars and various events that it was simply not possible to do it all.

As a result, we specialized. We picked the areas that we preferred or the ones we typically excelled in and pushed ourselves in these sectors. Intention, ambition, and determination are among the most brilliant resources, but we only have so much to give. You cannot pour from an empty bucket.

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Our resources include our available time but they also include the time we can work at our best. I have 24 hours in a day but if I were to attempt to write articles for every single one of them, the standard would rapidly decline. There are an unlimited number of ways you can spend your day (well pre-covid at least!). But unfortunately there are a limited number of hours in said day.

Ready, steady, pause

Mid-term is a time for a much-needed break and relaxation. It offers a chance to catch your breath before rejoining the race at the beginning of November. When you do return to school consider it an opportunity to alter your pace. Perhaps you took on too much during your first foray back into the classroom and are beginning to regret your overzealous enthusiasm. Start the term with new boundaries. Take that exhausted burnt out feeling associated with overexerting yourself and replace it with a confidence that recognizes your limits.

Pushing yourself to achieve and succeed is one thing, but pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion is another thing entirely. It is not always a failure to give up. Be confident in your decisions and your capabilities.

So, take that step back. Say no to that extra task. Evaluate all that is on your plate and recognise that passing something on is not failing. Instead, in the same ways that we developed beyond our childish habits, mature beyond a fear of giving up.

Do you find it challenging to give something up?

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