What I’ve Learned From the Failures in My Life

What I've Learned From the Failures in My Life | Not Dressed As Lamb

After a brief conversation with an old friend this week, I knew I had to write about not only what to remember when life generally just sh*ts all over you, but also about how understanding that the failures in your life can be hard but necessary lessons to learn.

And how they can often make you stronger… You’ve just got to get through the damn things in the first place which is never, ever easy.

[Trigger warning: This post, or pages it links to, contains information about mental health which may be triggering to some.]

The brief conversation I had with Sam (not their real name, and who shall remain genderless) is something I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about all week – it really, really upset me when I heard what they’d been going through. Although we haven’t seen other for years, we have known each other for over 25 years and keep in touch sporadically.

Basically I messaged Sam this week for a particular reason (not relevant to the topic in hand). As you do, I asked the How are you, hope life’s treating you well question, only to find out that Sam has basically been having the sh*ttiest time of late. It seems that everything that could be going wrong in someone’s life has been going wrong for Sam: Job, money, health, relationship, you name it. And they sounded incredibly unhappy, something I’ve never, ever known them to be.

Finding that out from someone you’ve known for so long makes you feel so helpless. It makes you think you’ve not been a good friend and wonder why you didn’t know this already. But as I’m sure many of you find, it’s hard to keep up with all your friends all of the time. Life just gets in the way of that text or that Facebook message which takes just 10 seconds to write (or even better, that phone call)… A lame excuse, but one I’m sure you’re all familiar with.

Anyway – the only consolation I could give in our brief conversation (as so often happens you can never catch them at a time when they’ve nothing to do except sit around and reply to messages – who has that sort of time anyway?) was that things do, and CAN change. I doubt that there isn’t one person reading this who hasn’t gone through a severely sh*tty time in their life, and some more than others – to the extent that we wonder how they ever got through it.


The failures in my life

I know people like that in life: Those who’ve gone through the absolute worst that life could throw at them, but that came out the other side happy, successful, even just smiling. Unfortunately I’ve also known those that couldn’t – and very sadly didn’t – get through it. Whilst I personally haven’t ever experienced anything truly, truly awful (to the point where life just doesn’t seem worth living), I wanted to share with you some of the things that have happened in my life that are considered failures. Things like…

  1. A failed first marriage. The wedding preparations pretty much lasted longer than the marriage itself.
  2. Getting into debt in my 20s. Not as much as some, but enough to have to go back home to live with my parents for a couple of years after the marriage ended in order to be able to pay the debt off.
  3. Taking the wrong job. I did this a few times – took a job only to find out it was worse than the one I was leaving it for.
  4. Not getting my dream job. My absolute dream job came along when I was about 28 and I didn’t get it. I think I was down to the last two and I was absolutely devastated when it went to the other candidate.
  5. Setting up a small business that went nowhere. Lesson learned – do your homework, have a business plan, make sure it’s something that people will continue to want, etc. etc. I didn’t do any of those things.
  6. Getting bad management. Some of you may have read about my financial crisis last summer – mostly due to management that failed to pay me the money I earned from blog campaigns, then disappeared off the face of the planet.
  7. Working for a company that went bust, owing me thousands. I continued to work (freelance) for a company that said they’d pay me next month. Next month came, and they said they’d pay me the next month again. Which went on and on until they just went into liquidation – I could have stopped working for them right at the start until they paid me, but instead I just blindly carried on.
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The point of talking about all these “failures” is that now, with hindsight, I can look back and see that without all these things happening to me I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Whilst there are lots of things I want to change and “would if I could”, I know that these things have, for the most part, made me a better person.


How all those things made me a better person

Want to know how I learned from all those failures in my life?

  1. Without that first marriage I wouldn’t have met my second husband Keith (for various reasons, but see point 4).
  2. Without getting into so much debt I wouldn’t be the finance-savvy, expert money-saving person I am today – I can sniff a discount code a mile away and juggle money like there’s no tomorrow.
  3. Without all those wrong jobs I wouldn’t have ended up blogging for a living, especially the one that bored me so much I started writing the blog in the first place.
  4. If I’d got that dream job I wouldn’t have met Keith, as the next job I went to instead was where he worked and we met. See point 1.
  5. Without setting up that small business I wouldn’t have had a reasonable understanding of doing a tax return or been afraid to keep proper records now that I’m a professional blogger. I can do my tax return in 45 minutes flat, I’m that organised.
  6. Without getting bad management I wouldn’t have been put in touch with the person who acts as my agent now – and who does an incredible job of negotiating on my behalf, as well as someone I now consider a good friend. I also know how to take someone to court and wouldn’t be afraid to do it again.
  7. Without working for that company that went bust I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be fobbed off about payment and wouldn’t recognise the signs of a company getting into trouble. I take companies owing me money very, very seriously now and take no prisoners – I’ve been burned too many times.

So there you have it – all the failures in my life have ultimately resulted in good things happening. Therefore (and this is the key thing to remember) THEY ARE NOT ACTUALLY FAILURES AT ALL. Sure, if I could wave a magic wand I wouldn’t want to go through them again, but some (like the first failed marriage ultimately leading to my second) are no-brainers… I’d go through them a hundred times if I knew what they’d lead to eventually.

So my friend Sam won’t be reading this I’m sure, but rest assured they are in my thoughts and I hope to god that my words (albeit a quick message about knowing a little about what they’d gone through and how I’m always available to talk to) had some impact. I really hope they hang on in there and that good things come their way.

Silver linings? Yeah, I believe in those. They just don’t come along without said cloud coming along and dumping their sh*t all over you first.

Do you have any similar “clouds with silver linings” stories? Do share in the comments…


Final note…

Whilst I’m no expert on depression, if you’re having the sh*ttiest time in life then please, please, please reach out to someone. Whether it be a close friend, a relative or a professional, please just reach out and ask for help. Things can – and will – get better, I promise you… Just please don’t try and get through it alone. There will always be someone who can help you.

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If you or someone you know is affected by any of these issues, please seek help, or just talk to someone. If you are in the UK, call the Samaritans on 116123 or go to their website https://www.samaritans.org. As their website says, Talk to us any time you like, in your own way, and off the record – about whatever’s getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal.

If you’re in the US call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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What I've learned from the failures in my life | Not Dressed As Lamb



  1. 16 March 2017 / 9:02 pm

    What a good post, Catherine. Thank you for being vulnerable and allowing us to see that, yeah, you are human too! Sometimes we forget, when other people seem to be doing well, that they have probably had their own list of struggles and disasters! In the words of a theologian of the early 1900's, "All of life is tragic!" How true it is. But it is within our control to respond in a good way or a bad way to what comes along. I think sharing our struggles with others is so important, because they might be able to learn from us. I also find, that when I am sad, hurting or struggling that focusing on all I can be thankful for helps lift me out of the dumps. Thanks for being a real woman and a dang pretty one at that! – Amy

  2. 11 March 2017 / 7:13 am

    Fab post! Your dog is a BEAUTY! So gorgeous
    I think my list of mistakes and major cock ups is vast, but Im a massive believer in out of bad comes good, so Iv always straightened my crown and got back on with it lol. Its all lessons eh. Big, fat, harsh, sometimes painful, lessons!

  3. 8 March 2017 / 5:54 pm

    Wonderful post Catherine!
    In order to shape a lump of marble into a work of art the hammer and chisel have to strike their blows. Knowing that the blow from the chisel and the smooth beauty of the marble are all part of the same creative process makes it easier to be at peace with life’s ups and downs and our own 'failures'.
    Michelle xxx

  4. 8 March 2017 / 10:53 am

    I can definitely relate to this. I've had my fair share of disasters – some of my own making and some not. My first marriage failed even before we made it down the aisle but we stupidly stuck together for seven years! I've had so many job disappointments, debt, miscarriage, depression…but I'm now happily married with a delightful little girl. Life hasn't always worked out how I wanted but I hope it's made me wiser and stronger, and that I can pass some of that on to my daughter. What I do know is that however bad things are there is always hope, and the darkest times don't last.

    Emma xxx

  5. 6 March 2017 / 5:31 pm

    I totally get this post as it's exactly how I think all the time. Life will always throw s**t at us but it's how we deal with it that counts. Every cloud has a silver lining and like most of this post states, everything happens for a reason. It's crazy how these negatives guide us onto the right path. : ) xxxx

    ♥ Carly Susanne ~ A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

  6. 6 March 2017 / 3:47 pm

    What a wonderful post, Catherine. It's one of those that really gets us thinking. I'm sorry to hear your friend is having such a shitty time at present. I sincerely hope that life gets better for them soon. I've had some ups and downs, the biggest (which I did consider myself a failure because of it for a while) was not being able to have children. It was super hard to deal with, especially in my late 20s and early 30s when all my friends were producing lots of children (not to mention my sister who had five kids!) but I came to accept my life wasn't meant to include my own offspring. I think it changed me a little bit, made me love – and appreciate – the life I have now even more.
    Suzy xxx

  7. 6 March 2017 / 5:22 am

    Thanks for hosting. We all tend to fail at times but if we learn from it and move on, then we re better for it. The only true failures are the ones who have never tried.

  8. 6 March 2017 / 1:01 am

    If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times…I would not be the bad a$$ person that I am without the hot mess that my life has been in the past. And don't even get me started on lessons learned from marriage failure; my husband and I have been married to each other TWICE…lol!

  9. 5 March 2017 / 8:16 pm

    Great post Catherine, really thought provoking but with such a positive slant. So much good can come of a lot of bad, that is something to never lose sight of, and it sounds like you have that perspective. Myself, like many of your readers, could write a book about it, but where I am now, I'm blissfully happy and so thankful to still be alive. 'Failures' are just speed bumps in the journey, aren't they? X

  10. 4 March 2017 / 8:53 pm

    I had my share of failures but I don't consider myself a failure because it does shape who I am as a person. You are only a failure when you give up and I refuse to give up!

  11. 4 March 2017 / 8:48 pm

    What an honest post, Catherine. We've ALL failed at things and not got dream jobs or had exactly the life we wanted for ourselves. How boring would that be though, to get everything we wanted when we wanted it, like pressing a button? In way, I'd hate to have had everything land perfectly in my lap. I'm a fighter, a SERIOUS fighter, and I only got that way because I had so many people (starting with my father) let me down and now I never fully rely on anyone for anything. It IS lovely and cathartic to commiserate with understanding friends who get our circumstances. There are a few friends who always see the bigger picture and help us through, and THANK GOD for them!

    I love the phrase, Experience always teaches us what we don't want to learn. It is so true, as your post highlights. All of those testing times lead us to higher ground. xxx

  12. 4 March 2017 / 2:27 pm

    Beautifully said. What you wrote about learning from bad experiences is so true.

  13. 4 March 2017 / 11:42 am

    Very honest of you dear Catherine. I, like most of us, could write a book about it all, but looking back I realise I had to walk that path to become the person I am today, as you so very well put it.
    Much love

    • 4 March 2017 / 12:40 pm

      Yes to being to write a book about it, Sacramento…!! Thank you x

  14. 4 March 2017 / 10:39 am

    Oh blimey you asked the wrong person this time! Hahahaha How much time have you got? I won't bore everyone with my endless list of mistakes & bad decisions but I will say that although I haven't stopped making them I have stopped worrying so much about them. At 50 I finally get the phrase – Life's too short to worry about things you can't change. Nobody said it better than Oprah "When you know better, do better" That's what making mistakes is all about right? Now can someone tell the US Prez? 😉
    Fab post C, you're perfect in my eyes xxx

    • 4 March 2017 / 11:03 am

      Very good point about not worrying so much MT… we HAVE to stop doing that the older we get otherwise it'd eat us up!! It's incredible how there probably isn't anyone who gets to our age without making a hell of a lot of mistakes, but it's how we cope with them and turn them around that's our strength. Thank you for those lovely words, you're a right bonza girl yourself!! x

  15. 4 March 2017 / 9:41 am

    And that blog post is a shining example of why your blog is so popular. Everything you've said is so true and resonates with me and I'm sure everyone else. A great Saturday morning lift, inspiration and also hope. Thank you Catherine. Jacqui

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:59 am

      Oh Jacqui thank you!! That's made my morning, yours and all the other comments (and a lovely personal email I received about the post) have really been a huge inspiration and made me proud of women in general this weekend. Your kind words mean a lot, thank you xx

  16. 4 March 2017 / 9:10 am

    I love this post so much Catherine – it is so true we wouldn't be who we are today without the failures and sh** happening. I always wanted to start my own thing and in the past I started several projects but then a nice paying job came up so I gave in and the projects never fully eventuated. Then I went through a really tough time with my Father passing away, a best friend taking his life, an operation and my job ( a project role at the time) coming to an end with no other offers in sight…
    This gave me time to saunter round town a lot simply talking to shop keepers. Which led to an invitation to my first shop opening party where I met a lovely American blogger – Dale from Savvy Spice. I told her about my idea to start my own blog for women over 40 and she gave me such a confidence boost FunkyForty was created!
    Had life gone smoothly I would never have had the wonderful opportunity to start my own blog business – it soooo feels like it was meant to be.

    Have a wonderful weekend- I am also so happy to have met you!
    xoxo Yvonne

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:57 am

      Yvonne what a great success story – it's amazing how many people started blogs to counteract something negative…!! I'm so happy that you found something you love after all you went through, that's a lot of sh*t you had to cope with. Thanks for sharing your story my lovely, you're an inspiration! x

  17. 4 March 2017 / 8:18 am

    A brilliant and thought-provoking post Catherine. It's so important to be able to recognise that many of the difficult times send up shaping our futures and making us the people we are. As you know, finding out about my former husband's infidelity and the horrific divorce process that followed was withoutbquestion the hardest thing that my children and I had to face. Now, three years on, it's THE best thing that could have happened. It was the (huge) event I needed to make me leave a marriage during which I suffered abuse of every kind. And…as you also know, I have now met the man of my dreams. A man who is simply perfect and I can't believe it. I hope Chris gets through this xxx Liz http://www.whatlizzyloves xxx

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:54 am

      Oh my goodness you were one of the people I had in mind when I wrote this post, Liz – a shining example of someone who went through the worst to get to the best. I'm so happy at how things have turned around for you, the best "revenge" is finding true happiness… that's the coldest dish you could ever possibly hope to serve!! Much love to you and thank you for sharing x

  18. 4 March 2017 / 7:04 am

    Today there seems to be a fear of making mistakes, but there are two things to remember, that without making mistakes, we don't learn anything. The second thing is that if we're so afraid of making mistakes we risk doing nothing, and that is far worse.
    I too have a failed long term relationship, luckily we didn't marry and there are no kids to bind us together, I did end up losing my savings, as we had to sell the house we bought together, and I'd put up the deposit, but we hadn't documented that. On the up side we sold it within four days of it going on the market.
    I was talking to a colleague a while back, and we spoke about being at the stage in life we are, neither of us wanted to go back to our twenties, we may have had our youth, but we were also a lot more uncertain, naive, and insecure in so many different ways. Today we are more grounded, have a sense of our own worth, we appreciate where we are in life. At the same time we know that things can happen in the blink of an eye, that can throw everything up in the air. So it is important to live life, don’t be afraid to do things, the alternative is not living.

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:52 am

      Oh gosh I know what you mean about a fear of making mistakes, Danish – my first marriage didn't produce children either thank goodness, nor did we have a mortgage (we weren't together long enough to sort out buying a home!) so we went our separate ways very quietly and amicably. But it doesn't stop you feeling like a failure, especially when I was still in my 20s with a failed marriage behind me.

      You're so right about us being more grounded and having more appreciation for life at this age: Really LOVING life is so important, and we shouldn't let it pass us by…! Thank you sweetie xx

  19. 3 March 2017 / 10:36 pm

    Thanks so much for your sharing your story, Catherine! I have so many failures in my life as well and they have all led me to the most fabulous life and more than I ever could have hoped for! I speak a lot on my blog about my battle with Bipolar Disorder and I how I have come out on the other side of it. Believe me when I say there were many years that I didn't think I would come out of it alive. But I did and I learned so much and I wouldn't change a thing…because it all brought me here. A failed marriage at a very young age seemed to get the ball rolling in the wrong direction for me…which somehow all led me to the exact right place! And your message is the same one I try to convey to people who are struggling…that somehow, some way, at some time (in your own time), it does get better. And you appreciate it so much more because of the hard times. Silver linings are a truly beautiful thing!


    • 4 March 2017 / 10:48 am

      You're right about it getting better, Shelbee – you're proof! I'm so sorry to hear you went through a terrible marriage as well as so many other women who've commented here (it's crazy how often it happens), but you seem like a strong and feisty woman who's a shining example to those who are going through similar things. Thank you for sharing YOUR story…! x

  20. 3 March 2017 / 10:07 pm

    Ahhhh, Catherine!
    How can someone be over 40 (or 50 in my case) and not have some "failures" in their back pocket.
    I truly think that's what makes us a better person and so interesting. I read a blog post not so long ago, that we do our children a disservice thinking that life should only be celebrated for the "successes". No wonder we consider these events "bad".
    But as you've pointed out, the lessons learned, or people we meet can be the silver lining.
    I always say that I would never have appreciated my husband without having been in an abusive marriage first. I would have thought him "too nice". Now isn't that the silliest thing ever?

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:45 am

      Gosh another person who had a terrible time in a marriage Jodie… it's incredible how many women (and men!) go through this. I'm so glad you eventually found your knight in shining armour as I did. And yes it's silly but it does make sense! Thank you for sharing xx

  21. 3 March 2017 / 9:44 pm

    I think all trials are sent to us for a reason. Believe me Iv'e had plenty! You just have to work at getting through to the other side. Have a great weekend x

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:44 am

      Ughhhh it came be so very, very tough Laurie you're right, but the other side is always waiting around the corner. Thank you my lovely x

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:43 am

      Yes absolutely Dawn Lucy they do…! Thanks hon x

  22. 3 March 2017 / 9:13 pm

    I have quite an extensive list of major cock-ups too Catherine!
    Ditto the marriage thing…. although I have never been a big wedding person so the planning didn't take too long at all…. but the divorce was a killer.
    No home, no money….wondering how I was going to feed my baby.
    Hard times.
    But, I wouldn't have my handsome 18 year old son who is doing me proud living away from home and having LOTS of fun at uni.
    Bad jobs? Ditto!
    But then I would not have met Mr Blair and had my two gorgeous girls.
    Allowing myself to be bullied and abused…
    But now I am strong and take no sh*t from anyone, teaching my son to be a good man and my girls that they can do anything they want and should never be told otherwise.
    I could go on, but that would be a long conversation best had over a bottle of wine!

    The bottom line is Sh*t happens, we cope with it, we learn from it, we move on.
    As we get older more crap stuff seems to rear it's head BUT we are tough old birds by now and we can handle anything life throws our way.
    Yes, it's hard sometimes but (as you rightly say) a chat with a friend can work wonders!
    I wish your friend some relief from their current circumstances and that things start to improve for them very soon.

    I saw this on a card recently "Time is a great healer…..but a rotten beautician!"…and it made me smile.
    I know it was supposed to be a bit of silliness, but I felt it summed life up perfectly!

    A great post Catherine!
    Fake Fabulous | Fashion & Style, over 40

    • 4 March 2017 / 10:42 am

      Wow Samantha thank you for such a great comment… more of a mini post within itself!! It's amazing how many people have had failed first marriages, and I'm so glad to hear that you came out the other side happy and successful and all the better for it.

      That quote was fantastic, not heard that before but it's so true!!!! x

    • 5 March 2017 / 2:05 pm

      Hahahaha…yes, it was a little on the "lengthy" side :oP…. and that was me reigning things in a little!
      It just touched me to hear your thoughts on failure and flipping things over into a positive.
      Being happy with the little things and finding a silver lining is VERY important.
      Have a great week!

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