Failure an Inherent Part of Learning

Failure is an inherent part of learning. Failure is an inherent part of skill development. Failure is an inherent part of healing. Failure is an inherent part of life.

Since starting to work on healing from child sexual abuse I’ve read over and over how each person needs to fail in order to learn any skill. Even those who are prodigies must learn by trying and failing most every other skill in their life.

One story I’ve read many times over the years is that a baby doesn’t learn to walk just by standing up and walking. They totter, they fall, they get back up, they toddle, they learn over time through failure and practice to skill.

A lot of learning in a youngster’s life is through play. This is very obvious in any mammal’s growing up years. You see it on every documentary. A little cute animal practicing life skills through play that they will use later in life in order to survive. They look pretty cute playing at hunting, and not so cute later on when they are hunting other animals for food.

Children learn through being with other children. My nephew, who was an only child, used to talk to himself when he played. I’ve heard from others that their children have done the same. I suppose it helps them to develop their language skills through practice. I know that it helped my nephew.  Well he was also used to talking with adults, which really helped him develop many of his skills. But he never got over his frustrations from interacting with children younger than himself, until he had children of his own. Being a parent is one of the biggest challenges to developing life skills around. Being a survivor of childhood abuse is an even bigger challenge to and need for developing life skills.

I remember when I was in my Child Development course in college learning about the difference in boys and girls play. Boys focus in play with other boys in physical activities where they develop their motor skills in their large muscles like running and sports. Girls play with one another in physical activities where they develop their fine motor skills in their small muscle groups, when they do activities with their hands and fingers, like crafts and games. This difference isn’t a generalization, it is something discovered through child studies.

What the studies concluded was that girls worked on developing their fine motor skills because they were born with superior large motor skills and continue to be superior to boys through childhood in that area, hence the need to focus on developing the large muscle groups as much as boys needed to. Boys as a group did not have this physical advantage and so focused much more and longer on the development of large muscle activities to develop and learn those skills.

I suppose everybody is concerned about failure, even though those who are not child abuse survivors, though I think it is much more difficult for those of us who are survivors. The embarrassment and negative self-talk are hard to deal with as well as potentially negatively impacting self-esteem. Survivors of child sexual abuse have more negative self-talk and probably lower self-esteem than most children, making all of this much more difficult and challenging. Achieving a new skill can also increase a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence, and, self-esteem.

Most new skills are achieved through practicing the skill over and over. I think that the more that we do, no matter the result, the better for us overall. Very few of us start out with a wide range of skills that we are proficient at. Practice or doing the skill is the way that all of us learn. Some of us have deficits. Some of us have some skills. Some of us struggle with most skills. We start each day with the skills that we have and the skills that we don’t have, the ones that we will never need or want, and the ones that we desperately need to learn.

Look at it this way, the batting average in baseball is based on the number of hits divided by the number of at bats, or opportunities to achieve hits. According to wiki this means, “In modern times, a season batting average higher than .300 is considered to be excellent, and an average higher than .400 a nearly unachievable goal.” So some professional baseball players have a 30% success rate when batting and that is considered excellent. And that is after years of practice, doing, and honing and developing their skills. If only we could start thinking on that basis with our efforts at learning skills, healing, and life.

6 thoughts on “Failure an Inherent Part of Learning

  1. this is a beautiful post to me too. sometimes in spite of all the work i’ve done in this area, i still find myself thinking the way my bio mother taught me “if you can’t do it perfect from the start, dont even bother at all” and so i think i have to be completely 100% sure of myself before i even try something…so o fcourse, that way i never try anything at all.

    but that isn’t true. in fact, as you say, even the best need to fail a lot through practice before they can achieve some successes. it’s part of the process. i want to keep trying and stop beating myself up for failure and start embracing it.

    as you say the abuse, the shame and negative beliefs about ourselves make it even harder…i hope we can all keep trying


    • Hi,

      I can relate to being programmed to believe something very negative from a young age about perfection. Well, as we all know, perfection isn’t achievable, but survivors struggle against it daily. I’m starting to believe that making an effort, doing something, is perfection.

      I am exceedingly happy to say that over time and with healing, this issue gets much better and is much easy to cope with.

      As one of my brother’s has been telling me for over twenty years; it’s not failure if you learn something from it! Hmm, I think that’s another healing quote. 🙂

      “i hope we can all keep trying.”

      Yes! That’s exactly what I was trying to say. And that in the effort of doing, we are succeeding at life and at healing.

      Good and healing thoughts to you.



  2. Well said, my dear! Imagining Bambi standing up for the first time. What a funny image … Where did THAT come from. Maybe cuz you broke things down so well! 🙂 Thinking your getting an full-audience approval on this one!

    Our best,


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