The Freedom Experiment

The Freedom Experiment

Everything is possible

The Secret life of a Successful Failure


Do you want to know a secret? It's one of those truths I hide deep down in the depths of my soul. It's the kind of secret that demands never to be told – ever.

Which is exactly why it needs to be released and shared and talked about.

[Insert deep breaths here]

Here we go.

[More breathing]

I – Marthe, writer of the Freedom Experiment – am a failure.

Writing that makes my cheeks burn with shame. I cringe.

I am a big, fat, phony ass failure.

Do you want proof? Let me describe a regular morning:

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and really tried, to no avail. Failure #1. In my head: Even babies can sleep. You're a failure of a human.

This morning, I woke up at 6 am. Normally, this would erase some of my failure-ness, but not today. Getting only four hours of sleep – failure #2. In my head: You suck at taking care of yourself.

Next, I manage to waste time and only ended up doing 7 minutes of yoga. Failure #3. In my head: Yoga is good for you, at least 20 minutes a day. You're a lazy bastard.

Even though I only did 7 minutes of yoga, I ended up being late. No time to put make-up on. Failure #4. In my head: You look like shit.

On top of it all, I didn't eat breakfast – only had half an Ensure, which is by no means adequate. Failure #5. In my head: You obviously can't even feed yourself. And you think you're an adult!?

I got out of the house a few minutes late – even though I had been up for almost three hours without doing anything productive. Failure #6. In my head: Not only are you wasting time, lazy and unfocused – you are also unreliable, chronically late and untrustworthy.

On the subway, I walked straight into the queue without letting others exit before me. Failure #7. In my head: You are selfish, insensitive, rude.

Finally, I got into the meeting, completely blanked out, didn't handle it very well, ended up crying – at first during the meeting – and then for two hours after it. Failure #8. In my head: You are an overemotional, sappy, weak cowar… wait a minute.

You've got enough proof by now, don't you think?

The point is – I am not as great, inspiring, generous, grateful, happy, adventurous, smiling, positive … blah, blah, blah … as you think I am.

Who I really am is a failure.

And that's the secret. That's the truth. That's what I'm constantly trying to cover up, make up for, pay dues for, repent.

But not anymore.

Because it's not only the truth that sets you free, it is also the lies you tell yourself. The Your un-truths. Your secrets.

One of the most important tools I have learned by training with Martha Beck is how to do the Work by Byron Katie. It has helped me tremendously when it comes to how I deal with my thoughts. And now I find myself doing the Work in my mind almost every day. And I want to share this gift with you by walking you through the Work, the way I do it in my mind.

Let's start by examining the "truth" that I tell myself – the painful thought that I am believing:


"I am a failure"

Is it true?

Well... yeah, I think it is... I make a lot of mistakes, I don't always succeed. I feel like a failure.

But can you be absolutely certain that this is true?

Uhm, no. I can't be absolutely certain that everything I do is a failure, objectively. And I can't be sure that making failures makes me a failure. I can't be sure that there is a certain way to do things either. So the answer is "no".

How does believing the thought "I am a failure" make you feel?

It makes me feel sad, shameful, lonely, desperate, overwhelmed and hopeless.

And if you didn't believe the thought "I am a failure", how would you feel?

I would feel peaceful, free, hopeful, calm, centered.


[By now, I am already starting to detach from the painful thought. I realize that the thought "I am a failure" is the only difference between feeling good – and feeling bad. The situation is the same – I still do what I do. ]


The next step is to turn the painful thought around. With statements like "I am a failure, you can turn it around by replacing the word "I" with "my thinking".


I am a failure → My thinking is a failure

Is this true, or truer than the first statement?

Yes, I think it is true that it is my thinking that is the problem, not my being. I do think a lot of negative, self-punishing, harsh and hurtful thoughts. "My thinking is a failure" is definitely more true than "I am a failure".


I am a failure → I am not a failure

Is this true, or truer than the first statement?

Yes, I think that this could be true. In the example above, I can see several things I did right. I tried my best, I got out of bed, I did do yoga. I also did other things right, including taking my medication, brushing my teeth and remembering my keys. "I am not a failure" is probably truer than "I am a failure".


I am a failure → I am a success

Is this true, or truer than the first statement?

Well, I know deep, deep down that I do a lot of things right. And I guess the definition of success and the definition of failure are not absolute standards in any direction. So basically, it is just as true that I am a success. I do successful things, I also fail sometimes. "I am a success" is just as true as "I am a failure". Also, I  think that going through this work and detaching from the painful thought "I am a failure" is kind of successful, because I feel better already...

After going through this process of examining the thought, I am left with the conclusion that "I am a failure" is not only a lie, but the exact opposite "I am a success" is just as true. After finishing this thought-work I feel less "sad, shameful, lonely, desperate, overwhelmed and hopeless" and much more "peaceful, free, hopeful, calm, centered". It works!

If you are curious to learn more about the Work, I truly recommend watching some of the free videos on Byron Katie's website. I really recommend these: I'm too fat – on body image, I hate my body – on living with physical illness, I need to know why people love me – on self-love and worthiness, and I need your approval – on fear and approval.

To be better able to find the thought that is troubling you, Byron Katie has a very useful worksheet called the Judge your Neighbour worksheet. It also comes as a handy iPhone and iPad app. If this work is intriguing to you, I also recommend the book Loving what is by Byron Katie.

I hope this work can help you as much as it has helped me! I frequently use the Work when I'm coaching, and I'm very soon going to announce another two pay-what-you-can coaching spots. Get on the newsletter list if you are interested!


What is your most painful and untrue thought?


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