Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.
— Dennis Waitley

Being disqualified was a journey that started when I was in college. I was always a confident person, but when I walked into my first actors' training class, each of us had to recite a monologue we had prepared. I was first and, luckily, I had received laughter and felt pretty good about myself; but, as I heard 20 students go next, I realized that I was way out of my league. You know how it goes: you're the best in your class, head to college and sit among peers who were, also, the best in their classes, and you begin to feel small. I received nothing but praise and encouragement from my professors and classmates, but still, my confidence slowly started slipping and the voice inside my head got louder and louder. “You can’t cut it, you aren’t good enough, and you’re a failure.” Was I wasting my time, my professors' insight and my cohort’s collaboration? I was one year in and the doubt was growing roots. I began to hide behind my social life and, by the end of my last two semesters, what had started as just a thought in the back of my mind began to manifest in my actions. I was succeeding in my studies and yet there was this thought that I couldn’t put out of my mind. I started staying our til the early morning, charming my way into bars, partying too hard, and barely making it to class. I dismissed any caution from my parents, teachers and close friends. I had lost sight of why I went to school, why I chose to pursue theater, and why I believed in myself—all because I let doubt come from the back of my mind and move to the front to dictate my decisions.

I was lost, had no direction, and identified as your typical 20 something—fresh out of college, not knowing where I was going. It wasn’t until my mom suggested that I move to L.A. with a family friend to take some space and find myself, that there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I package my bags and moved 3 days later to a town where I knew no one. I was determined to do my life differently; I bought as many self-help books as I could find—or that my mother kindly suggested I read—and headed to the nearest coffee shop.

Let me first paint you a picture of the town I had just moved to. I grew up in a town that had a church on every corner…not kidding, every corner. So, when I walked into a well-known coffee shop in this L.A. suburb to witness guys playing worship songs, surrounded by girls singing out loud and people hosting bible studies at each table, I stepped outside and called my mom and told her, “I moved to a cult town,” (now you see why I was in theater).  What I came to discover was that the town played host to a very conservative Christian college, who had very limited views on some major deal breaking theology--but that’s for another post. I had gone from underage drinking to the bible belt of L.A. in less than three days.

Thankfully, I was desperate and would not let doubt of the unknown dictate my actions. I was willing to dive into any conversation, whether I agreed with it or not. I began introducing myself to anyone I could get my hands on, I began unlikely friendships with professional gamers, contractors, biblical-studies majors and my soon-to-be roommate, who was a massage therapist. I tried out college groups, self-help groups, and even a Panera knitting group. I was offered a job, while at a ballet studio, to work for a Private investigation firm and help set up and expand their office, and to teach their investigators how to use Myspace and wear a full suit every day (so fancy). I moved in with 4 roommates who were independent, outspoken, and each leading her own unique life. I found myself saying yes to things I would have never agreed to before, but the motivation not to let fear and doubt dictate my actions trumped any previous patterns I had established.


Today, I'm thankful for the failures I made then and the ones I still make today. My failures are what motivate me to try new things, to say, yes to new opportunities, and build confidence and trust in my discernment, abilities, and instincts. Through my failures, I have learned how not to be afraid to say no and to let people down, and to stand up against injustice in whatever fashion it may present itself.  I have the confidence to be okay with change, saying I’m sorry, and making a 180 to head in a new direction.  I’m not going to lie, when I fail today, I still battle the same thoughts that haunted me in my early 20’s, but my rebound is quicker and the healing comes deeper because of the patterns I have in place. I allow myself the freedom to process my feelings, dive head-first into my fears and trust some amazing counselors. Seriously, everyone should find a counselor.  I no longer see myself as disqualified, but rather I see all the things that tried to disqualify me have, in fact, been the same things to make me stronger.




Ashley AuerbachComment