We have all failed at some point or other in our lives. Actually, we have all failed several if not many times in our lives! But this doesn’t have to lead us to hopelessness, depression or feelings of low self-esteem. We can choose to interpt failure differently. We can instead use failure to empower.
8 Methods to Try
Here I have listed 8 different ways for you to try to cope with failure a little bit differently.
1. Focus on your feelings. It’s normal to have different feelings when you fail at something. You might be feeling sad, angry, frustrated, embarrassed, shame, guilty, or anxious. These feelings can be uncomfortable to experience, but they are not necessarily bad for you. Studies have actually shown that by focusing on your feelings, you will cope with the failure much better. A good way to do this is to name your feelings and to journal.
2. Avoid common ways of avoiding your feelings. This would include things such as numbing your feelings with food, alcohol, or drugs. It also includes blaming others for your actions and mistakes or taking on too much blame for what happened. None of these approaches are healthy and will only serve to keep you stuck.
3. Try your own healthy coping skills. You know the ones! Things like taking a walk, spending time outdoors in nature, playing with your pet, meditation, talking with a friend, or playing music.
4. Examine your self-talk for irrational beliefs. These would be thoughts like, “I’m always messing up!”, “If I fail, no one will like me”, “I will never be able to get this right!”, or “If I fail, I am completely worthless or unlovable”. This type of thinking is not only untrue but will only serve to make you anxious or depressed.
5. Reframe those negative thoughts and irrational beliefs. This is simpler than you think and only takes repeated practice to make the new thoughts automatic. So change those thoughts above to ones like, “I am no always doing anything- sometimes I fail, but other times I succeed”, “I’m having trouble doing this, but maybe if I try it differently, I can figure it out”, or “I don’t love people based on whether they make mistakes or not, so why would anyone judge me like that?”.
6. Don’t worry about what others think about you. I know this is easier said than done, but it will help you enormously! People might have thoughts and opinions about you, but seriously, they just aren’t thinking about you as much as you fear they are. Chances are they’ve already forgotten about your mistake. And if they haven’t? If they’re judging, you for it? Are these really the type of people whose opinions you care about?
7. Be kind to yourself! We are all so hard on ourselves! We mistakenly believe that if we put ourselves down, it will motivate us to do better or to be better people. What it actually does is cut down our self-esteem and make us less motivated to try difficult things. Try to speak to yourself the way you would talk to a good friend or your mother.
8. Try not to take the failure personally. A recent study showed that focusing on what you got wrong in a task rather than what you got right, made you less likely to try that task or other difficult tasks again. Another study showed that praising results (ie “You did great! You got an A on that test!”), rather than process (ie “You did great! I can tell you tried so hard!”) made people focus on results. So if you failed and were focused on the results, you were less likely to risk failing again and would stop trying new and challenging problems. But if you were praised for effort, then you were more likely to attempt something difficult and you were more motivated to learn new material! That tells me you need to change the way you talk to yourself. Not only is it important to praise yourself, but notice what you did that was good, and notice what sort of effort or process you put into the task.
We all make mistakes, and we all fail from time to time. I believe it is how we think about that failure that determines whether we ultimately succeed or not. I love to illustrate this point using a story about Thomas Edison, who is known as a great inventor with over 1000 patents in his name. It is said that it took him over 10,000 attempts to perfect the lightbulb. When asked about it, he said,” I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. That great attitude is what allowed him to ultimately succeed and is why we all know his name today.
If you are struggling with difficulty coping with your mistakes or with depression, please use this link for more information on depression treatment. I would love to hear from you!