Hello, everyone! I want to talk about something that has been irking me lately. It’s this little word that we use so frequently on social media that, I think, does more damage than good.
It is the word, FAIL.
In my social media bubble of Zero Wasters, Minimalists, Eco-Warriors, Tiny House Dwellers, Vegetarians, Vegans and so on, I commonly see the hashtags: #fail #zerowastefail #veganfail, etc. used to describe unsuccessful attempts at these lifestyles. I would say we use this particular hashtag to show our imperfections on the perfect stage that is social media. We use it to be relatable, funny, meme-worthy. So what’s wrong with using it?
Simply put, the verb fail is negative.
And while our intentions are innocent, we must remember that we are framing our pursuits to live more consciously in a negative fashion. And, what did our mothers teach us? Words Matter.
When I decided to tackle veganism I had been vegetarian for six months, I was proud of my accomplishment and determined to achieve equal success in my next challenge. However, I was imperfect — I still am. Whether it is due to lack of choice, preparedness, knowledge or willpower – I do not live up to the goal I originally envisioned.
I used to describe the bumps in my journey as #fails.
Some might say that documenting our failures is a way of showing our humanness, and a way to connect, to relate to others. But I would argue that in circumstances where we are tackling, what can seem to be, daunting life changes it is unproductive, even destructive. Sharing our adventures in dressing ourselves, cooking, baking, crafts, etc., and documenting our unsuccessful attempts in these areas as “fails” is acceptable, even funny — because the consequences are understood. For example, sharing the cake, you baked that turned out to look more like a zombie than The Little Mermaid as a #fail is humorous. And, most parents will relate to your situation, but it will not dissuade them from attempting to bake themselves.
But shaming ourselves publicly for failing to be perfect at Zero Waste, Veganism or any similar lifestyle has far greater consequences. Perhaps we think “outing” ourselves, on social media, will help to keep us on track next time, but shame tends to have a contrary outcome, a downward spiral effect that can lead to self-doubt, repeating the behaviour you dislike, or worse – giving up. Additionally, we must remember that these lifestyles are ones that most people already believe are unrealistic, so why would we choose to reinforce that line of thinking by highlighting our fails? If someone is brave enough to start down one of these paths, we should be here to encourage, cheer on and draw attention to how far they have come – instead of reinforcing their “fails” with likes. We must flip the current story line that has people believing these lifestyles are impossible to one that has them saying, “I can do that!” We do this by focusing on our victories, by drawing attention to the benefits and the positive ways these lifestyles have enriched our lives.
I am not saying, “let’s pretend,” but what we choose to focus on is important. It is important for ourselves, so we do not internalize our sentiments, and it is important for others who are following our journey. Think about it, are you inspired to change by people who publicly document their journey negatively or those who are positive, enthusiastic and joyful?
With this in mind, I have made a conscious decision to celebrate my commitment, how far I have come and where I want to go. It is not about perfection, so who cares about the minor slip ups along the way.
Today, I try to approach my journey realistically. I have two children, a husband, and dog and, well — sh*t happens. Do I document every bump as a #zerowastefail? No, and neither should you.
I get up every morning with the intention of creating as little waste as possible, consuming only plant-based foods and learning new ways to conserve resources and reduce consumption. Therefore, I’ve decided to only document and celebrate the commitment I make every day to live consciously!
I invite you to do the same #celebratecommitment
Instead of beating ourselves up for not being perfect, let’s choose to look at our imperfections as areas we simply have not mastered yet. Asking ourselves, “what could we do differently next time to ensure a better outcome?”
I receive messages from people starting out on their Zero Waste journey, saying they have “failed” at some particular Zero Waste endeavor. Every time I read a message like this my heart sinks. All I want to say to these people, to anyone committing to reduce their carbon footprint is, “Thank You! You are doing fantastic things, and YOU are an inspiration to those around you — Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff!”
Transforming your lifestyle, diet, and consumer habits to be more mindful of the Earth’s resources is positive, and therefore you should acknowledge every attempt you make at change. Throw the public criticism out the window and pat yourselves on the back – and while you’re at it, praise the victories, big and small, of those around you. Positive energy and support of ourselves and one another are what will continue to inspire, motivate and grow these movements. And, in the pursuit of changing climate change, Nothing Else Matters.
“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”