Andrea McLean’s brave new book tells us why it’s good to fail

Read some exclusive, enlightening extracts from Andrea's new book.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Loose Women’s Andrea McLean has become a firm voice for older women with her brave and candid books.

Confessions of a Menopausal Woman was a breakthrough in 2018, and herlatest This Girl is on Fire is a fantastic return to the literary world and will resonate with many of us as sheopens up about her toxic relationships and divorce, but concludes that they led her to empowerment and happiness.

The book is broken down into a number of chapters tackling: 'Are you just existing', 'why we’re scared of trying', 'we’re all a mixture of shit and brilliant', and much more.

Due to go live on TV in front of millions of viewers, Andrea found herself sat in the makeup chair crying her eyes out as her friend Donna told her she was heading straight for a brick wall. 'I couldn’t deny it or try to hide it any longer – I was coming apart at the seams and I desperately needed to do something about it,' Andrea writes.

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Getting up at 5:30 am, to head to the gym before work and listening to motivational podcasts telling her that quitting was for losers. Andrea was feeling herself like a failure but trying to pretend to everyone around her that it was all okay. 'I could handle it all, and that I felt 100 per cent comfortable with the goals I’d set. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t believe I could do any of them.) Who the hell did I think I was, saying I could stand on a stage in front of an audience and tell them how to be awesome when I felt so far from that myself?' Andrea says.

But Andrea found hope, sought help and came out the other side. Exclusively for woman&home, Andrea shares her thoughts on why failure is a positive thing and how we can learn to turn it on its head.

I didn’t set out for my life to be like this

I’m annoyed with myself that I’m like this. This book is all about making yourself feel amazing, but yup, my go‑to place when I think about or describe myself is downwards, not up. I have to wrench myself out of this habit. Sometimes I hear myself talking and I think: How the hell did you end up like this? I know how: I used to be optimistic most of the time, but that was before life had battered me down quite so much.

The great thing about life, however, is that despite those times, I still have the power to stop myself in my tracks and choose to think again. And I use it. Failure also has everything to do with perspective and position. I’ve been married three times, which is enough to have some of you tittering behind your hands that I clearly like the taste of wedding cake. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before, so go ahead, get it out of your system! I’m accustomed to being the butt of jokes in the media and at my parents’ dinner parties. I used to laugh it off on the outside but die inside at the snide remarks about not taking marriage seriously enough – made by people who knew nothing about the intricacies of my story.

But I don’t now. This is just how my life has worked out. I didn’t set out for it to be this way. I thought that, just like my parents, I’d marry my teenage sweetheart and stay with them forever; we’d have children, live a comfortable life and retire happy. But that wasn’t to be my story, and I’m okay with it.

I carried on running, not really hearing the rest of that conversation because my head was too busy filling up with negative thoughts and chatter. My chimp brain went into overdrive. I was useless. And then I remembered why I’d been married more than once, and why those relationships had ended. I remembered how strong I’d been, and how I’d raised my children to be good, kind people. I remembered that I’d never let bitterness enter my heart and despite it, all, believed in goodness and love and that was what had brought me, Nick [her current husband].

Look for success and lessons in failure

Learning is acquired through experience, and if your experience is only that of smoothness, joy and light, you’ll never understand the strength of character it takes to overcome roughness, sadness and darkness. And if that’s the case, what advice do you have to offer? It’s up to us to look for the success in the things we do, especially those that don’t turn out the way we’d like them to. I’m not saying that you’ll have to get married lots of times before you find happiness. God, no – I hope you don’t! But if you do, don’t let the opinions of those who don’t know you or understand your circumstances make you feel bad about it. Failure always happens for a reason. You just can’t see it at the time.

There’s really only one definition of failure, and that’s when we stop trying. Things not working out as you’d planned or wanted, things going wrong, things falling apart, making a mistake, messing up… These are all the same thing, and they’re simply a part of life’s experience. Some failings will be huge – they’ll be mortifying, embarrassing on the scale of a YouTube clip gone viral. It doesn’t matter. Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and start all over again. That’s it. That’s all you can do.

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Doing this has been a game-changer for me. I can’t stress this enough. A. Game. Changer. When things go wrong, once I’ve got my raging and venting out of the way – yes, I’m a rager and a venter: I need to get all the frustration, anger, hurt and upset out of my system before I can focus on a solution – I look for the lesson. What am I meant to learn from this? There’s always a point to failure, even if it’s to teach you never to do something again.

Grateful for failures

I see how important it is that you know to what degree I failed and messed up. And how I worked through it. And how weirdly – I almost want to whisper this because it seems so strange to say it – I’m grateful that it happened. When I was in the eye of the storm, it was inconceivable that I’d ever feel gratitude for my situation. But I’m grateful for everything I learned during that time. I learned never to be so stupid again. That’s a given. But I also learned how to go back to basics. I’d become comfortable.

The big takeaways

Failure is simply part of life’s experience – everyone makes mistakes.

Every failure happens for a reason – and each one offers us a powerful life lesson.

It’s worth reflecting on the things in life that haven’t worked out in the way we’d hoped: to ask why they went wrong and what we learned from that experience.

Rachel is a freelance contributor to woman&home, covering news as well as books, lifestyle and travel. Her byline has also appeared in The Independent, The Financial Times, ELLE Magazine, VICE, Glamour Magazine and others. She loves nothing more than talking with people to share their stories. When she is not writing you will definitely find her nose in a book or magazine, or perhaps training for the next half marathon, practicing yoga or eating in London's best restaurants.