Even the most successful people fail at some things in their lives. Unfortunately, the cultural messaging that we receive about success and failure doesn’t prepare us for the inevitable times when we will fail.
Artist and entrepreneur Tamara Levitt took it upon herself to rewrite the story about failure. In her first children’s book, Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands, she uses a yoga-based narrative to show that there is more to life than succeeding. It’s a lesson that many adults can learn, as well.
In addition to writing and illustrating her children’s books, Levit is the founder of Begin Within, a production company that creates media content to help people find the calm within the chaos. She answered some questions about her book and gave us a sneak peek into her future projects.
What is the story at the heart of Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands?
Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands (HDCFH) is a picture book about a girl named Leela who dreams of doing headstands. However, no matter how hard she tries, she’s unable to achieve her goal. She’s devastated by this defeat, but through the story, Leela discovers that happiness can be found in the face of defeat and that just because she has a failure, it doesn’t mean that she “is” a failure. At the heart, it’s a story in which the protagonist learns that the journey is more important than the goal itself.
The story offers an alternative to the “little engine that could” message that practice makes perfect and that if we just keep trying, we eventually reach a goal. The reality is, no matter how hard we try, we’re sometimes still unable to succeed in life. This book encourages cultivating self-acceptance, compassion and resilience in order to accept, learn and grow from defeat.
What inspired you to write it?
The inspiration for this story came after a succession of failures in my own life. Some of which I share in my recent short film Ode to Failure that showcases how a significant defeat derailed me, leaving me to believe that I was a failure because I had experienced failure. With some time and clarity, I began to question that belief, and out of a desire to help others in a similar position, HDCFH was born.
This story was also in part inspired by my own struggle with perfectionism, which I’ve had since childhood and lead to a lack of self-acceptance or self-compassion. These were qualities I’ve had to learn as an adult and continue to practice as best as I can.
The work I create is often written for myself as a reminder in times of challenge. We all need reminders, including those who regard themselves as subject authorities or teachers, and that’s okay. No one is perfect. Our goal should be to find acceptance and compassion for ourselves within our imperfections.
Why do you think kids need to hear this message about failure? How else can we prepare children for life’s inevitable setbacks?
We’re living in a time where children are becoming stressed, anxious and have more pressures on them than ever before. Children are learning to equate their self-worth with achievement, developing a deep fear of failure (and even trying) and the pressure to succeed is often overwhelming.
Parents and educators need to be offering kids permission to fail and the skills to learn how to accept, learn, and grow from it. We need to be encouraging children to try, simply for the sake of trying, knowing that if a goal isn’t reached, that’s okay. While inspiring our children to reach for the stars, it’s equally important they learn how to soften their landing if they fall. To empower children by deepening self-acceptance, self-compassion and resilience is more important than ever before.
The beliefs we learn as children become our core beliefs as adults, so the earlier we can support kids to develop a healthy framework in which to view the world, the more equipped they will be to achieve happiness in life.
HDCFH is the first of three books in the Lyle and Leela series – can you give us a hint about the themes you’ll explore in the upcoming two books? When will they be ready for the world?
The two followups in the Lyle and Leela series are about excessive worrying and dealing with fear. Before those launch however, I’ll be releasing a project entitled The Secret to Clara’s Calm which is a fantastical tale of a girl who learns to deal with her anger by trading butter tarts for wisdom – it’s a quirky meditation themed tale that I’m very excited about. People can sign up for The Begin Within Blog and find out about the release of all upcoming projects for both adults and children.