Coping With Failure
3 Steps to Move On
We are all acutely familiar with the painful pangs of failure. We may have failed at marriage, a business venture, an academic pursuit, a financial investment, a friendship, or any number of other undertakings attempted. Our pride is hurt, our ego is deflated, and lingering feelings of self-doubt can team up with a crisis in confidence to seriously hobble us, at least for a while.
The truth is, we are faced with the opportunity to fail countless times in our lives. If we are so devoted to avoiding the humiliation of failure that we never push ourselves out of our tidy little comfort zones, we will deny our inherent ability to self-actualize, to become the best version of ourselves possible. Imagine the regrets we would have when nearing the end of our lives if we never took the chance to grow and evolve by staring potential failure down and going for it.
True, failing at something meaningful stings. Deeply. We may have given whatever pursuit it was 110% and our whole heart, only to see the dream evaporate into dust. But there are some helpful steps to take when faced with failure that can actually lead to renewed focus and enthusiasm to carry you toward your next personal goal—a new marriage, a new business venture, a more targeted academic pursuit, a smarter financial investment, or a more fulfilling, nurturing friendship—in short, personal growth. The next time you are tempted to throw up your hands and give up, put these tips into action.
1. Allow some time for misery and self-flagellation, and then assess what went wrong.
OF COURSE you feel bad after failing at something! You wouldn’t have a heart if you didn’t suffer the emotional indignities related to a personal failure. So, spend a couple of days marinating in it. Binge on Netflix rom-coms; grab that pint of Haagen Dazs and eat the whole thing; soak (while sobbing) in a tub of Epsom salts until you turn into a prune. It’s healthy to allow yourself to feel the sense of loss, guilt, or shame related to the failure…as long as this process isn’t protracted, that is.
After a good cry and some ruminating about who you were wronged, sabotaged, or conspired against, it’s time to get real. While some failures may be totally outside your control, many can be attributed to a misstep or miscalculation that may have contributed to the outcome. Assess what may have gone awry. Make a list of things you learned from the experience to help you when approaching your next venture or relationship. Failure can absolutely result in a more focused, determined effort the next go round.
2. Change your attitude from loser to learner.
Now that you’ve purged your system from the shock and sorrow of failing at something, thanks to some healthy wallowing, it is time to examine your attitude. Maybe you have experienced a series of failures, leaving you with diminished self-esteem and an Eeyore-like attitude about life. It is understandable that your sense of self-worth has been knocked around a bit by the setbacks. This can leave you in a state of fear about whether you can even bounce back this time, as well as in a state of perpetual negativity.
This is the perfect opportunity to shift your point of view towards seeing the failure(s) as an opportunity to change, learn, and improve. Do some rummaging through the self-help section at the bookstore or on Amazon for some relevant tomes that can advise you to improve in a particular area. There are YouTube inspirational videos and motivational podcasts that might give you the boost in confidence and spirit that can challenge you to truly learn from the setback and then try again—this time armed with more pertinent information for achieving success.
3. See the failure as a challenge to blow them away.
Yes, this sounds a tad prideful. But sometimes our human pride, when pricked, can set up some pretty astounding rebound moves. Instead of seeing the failure as a personal affront, something to be ashamed of, turn it around on its ear. Refuse to allow the failure to define who you are. This means, do not take it personally, mistakenly assuming your personal “worthlessness” was, of course, bound to sink the deal. Instead, shake off that negative self-talk and get busy.
For example, if an English professor covers your latest essay in blazing red critiques, like telling you your vocabulary is extremely limited and your reasoning shallow, allow that moment of shame as you read the comments to fuel a determination to blow that professor away with a renewed effort to impress on your next essay. If you were fired from your job for a specific work-related failing, bone up on that aspect of your profession. Take an online class or register for one or two at the local college. Work toward certification or some other industry-specific recognition. Then go get yourself a way better job.
Life can be complicated, messy, and rarely progresses in a straight line. PeoplePsych is a Chicago-based psychotherapy group that treats adults seeking profound change in their lives. We provide services that affirm the dignity, worth, and value of all individuals. We strive to create a safe non-judgemental space for clients to explore the issues that bring them. To connect with one of our therapists, please contact our Clinical Coordinator at (312) 252-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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