It’s Okay to Fail…

A week ago today, I was supposed to be relaxing on staycation, but instead was having some serious anxiety.  My Certified Personal Trainer exam was scheduled for the next morning and I was freaking out.  I wasn’t prepared.  I didn’t devote enough time and energy to this goal.  There was no way I was going to pass.  All the dramatic things you normally hear from a Type A, good student who is nervous about an exam.  But in this case, I truly was expecting failure.  


Back in January, I signed up for the NASM CPT course, feeling excited about adding some credibility to my sports nutrition background.  I knew from the get-go that I didn’t want to be a trainer in a globo-gym, but I did want to learn more about exercise physiology, designing training programs and coaching.  From the time you sign up, you have 6 months to take the exam and I took full advantage of that, scheduling my exam for the end of July.  I was pumped and started studying as soon as I got the materials.  Then, life happened.

In March, boyfriend and I unexpectedly ramped up our house search and bought our first home, closing in early June.  In April, I became pretty overwhelmed with some personal things and stopped taking good care of myself.  I spent most of May trying to get back into a routine, making fitness a priority and diving into meditation.  I basically stopped studying for the CPT exam.  I had no plan (despite the awesome study guide NASM gives you) and no real desire to do it.  I would pick up the book here and there, take notes and do practice questions maybe once a week during my lunch breaks at work.  But my heart wasn’t in it.  

The problem is, quitting isn’t in my nature.  I hate to give up on anything, especially myself.  Not to mention, the blow of $600+ I had spent on the course, exam and CPR/AED training.  So I remained hopeful that in the month or so before the exam, I would buckle down.  Except I didn’t.  Instead, we moved into our home and spent the first 6 weeks settling in, exploring our town and enjoying life.  I had scheduled my exam during my week of vacation thinking I would use the days off to cram in last-minute studying.  Not smart, Kim.  Instead, I soaked up every second of staycation and it was truly one of the best vacations of my life.  

So last week at this time, I was mentally drafting a blog post all about my “failure” in this endeavor.  In the time I should have (shoulda, coulda, woulda!) spent studying, I expended a lot of energy these past 6 months beating myself up.  On that night before the exam, I began crying and beating myself up even more.  How did I let myself fail?  Why didn’t I dedicate more time and energy to this?  I had put myself out there with this goal…with family, friends, work, social media, this blog…and now I would have to share that I failed.  I was upset, disappointed and embarassed.  But after some reassurance from boyfriend, I decided I wouldn’t just give up 100%.  I was going to sit for the exam anyway and give it my best shot.  I was going to take the test, get my results, come to terms with the situation and move on.  I decided I would finish that blog post I began drafting in my head, to share my experience and ultimately what I had learned from it.  I wanted to share my sadness and disappointment, but get the point across that IT’S OKAY TO FAIL sometimes.  To “keep it real” and remind anyone reading this that shit happens.  Sometimes our goals and plans change and sometimes we try our best and fail anyway.  


So long story short:  I showed up to the testing center last Thursday morning, took the exam and passed.  I am officially a Certified Personal Trainer through NASM.  The mix of emotions I felt when I looked down at the results were insane:  shock, confusion, disbelief, happiness, relief.  I also felt (and still feel) undeserving and embarassed.  I feel like I didn’t earn it somehow.  I didn’t put in the work.  Am I just a great guesser?  Did I get lucky?  Was the test wrong?  I was feeling like I somehow cheated the system, that I got away with something, especially after knowing how long and hard other people have studied for this certification.  In the end, I didn’t really fail but I can’t feel 100% proud of my success.  When people began congratulating me, I didn’t feel like I deserved it.

Now that I’ve had some time to process it and speak to friends and colleagues about the situation, I’m changing my mind about not “deserving” to pass. I’m still a little embarrassed and feel like I failed.  I acknowledge my failure in not dedicating time to a goal I had set for myself.  But I also realize that it’s okay to fail and there is something to be learned from failure…a way to grow.  I have learned from this experience and will continue to do so.  I learned that even though I really I wanted to, I didn’t give up.  I had the courage to try.  When it came down to it, I gave it my all, no matter what the end result might be and that’s something I can be proud of!  Looking back on it, I would have been more embarrassed if I didn’t even show up for the exam.  That would have been failure for sure.

Some of my feelings of failure come from a habit of negative-self talk.  Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit.  Yes, I slacked majorly when it came to hitting the books, taking notes and making flash cards…but I LIVE this stuff and have been for a few years now.  I took intense Anatomy & Physiology courses in my undergrad work.  I already knew the nutrition stuff like the back of my hand (hello, RD here!).  I have a lot of experience with behavior change theories and coaching methods and since starting CrossFit I have learned a ridiculous amount about exercise technique, mobility, muscle movement/engagement and more.  I honestly think my “walking the walk” in fitness and nutrition is what helped me pass this exam.  That, and the courage to look failure in the face.

Your turn…Have you ever “failed” at a goal you set?  How do you come to terms with failure and learn from it?


1 comment on “It’s Okay to Fail…

  1. I know I said it already but I’m so proud of you for passing!! I didn’t know the behind the scenes stuff so I’m sorry to hear you were stressing and frustrated leading up to it.

    I would have told you the same thing your boyfriend did; just believe in yourself and try anyway.

    Congratulations again!

    I’ve failed. My Half, in May, that I was supposed to PR turned into one of my slowest races ever b/c of my back injury. I dealt with a lot of emotions before, during and after that run. I lost a lot of confidence. But, like you, I know failing is not the end of the world. It’s what you do after that really matters.

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