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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

Feeling Like a Failure? 10 Simple Things to Help You Rise Again

Feeling Like a Failure? 10 Simple Things to Help You Rise Again

The idea of feeling like a failure grips us at our most vulnerable internal place—our inner sense of self-esteem and self-love. Although intuitively we know that in reaching high, we are guaranteed some degree of failure, when we fall short, that knowledge offers little or no consolation.

When we fail at something, all too often we think globally rather than in temporary terms. We think that we not only failed, but that we are failures. Feelings of unworthiness drag us down, leading to missteps and setbacks, defining us rather than merely offering feedback and educating us with useful information moving forward.

The good news is that we can build on our failures on the road to success.

Even if we know that failure is surmountable, it does not change the way we feel about ourselves when we experience it. Failure can take a toll on our self-esteem and feelings of self-love, diminishing our sense of optimism about our future.

So how can we feel better about ourselves? Below are 10 acts of self-love to try when you are feeling like a failure.

1. Forgive Yourself

The ability to forgive is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to ourselves to help us recover from our regrets and missteps.

Instead of beating yourself up for not knowing what is so obvious now, see yourself as a work in progress and give yourself the gift of forgiveness. You can’t see into the future, so you can’t plan every step to perfection. Give yourself a break and allow room for mistakes.

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Try a loving-kindness meditation to prepare yourself for forgiveness. This will open your heart up to the possibility of accepting your mistakes.

2. Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion[1] is perhaps the most important element of self-esteem and resilience. It used to be thought that achievement and success—rising above the norm—was the road to high self-esteem.

However, that road to self-esteem is far too conditional and assures that anyone at or below the norm is not as worthy or special. Self-compassion gives all people—high achievers as well as lower achievers—the assurance that they are worthy of love anyway, with no conditions.

3. Stop Judging Yourself

Suspending the labels you put on yourself is an act of self-love. Instead of calling yourself “a failure,” be more specific and less global[2].

Feeling like a failure? Talk yourself up!

    Feeling like a failure does not have to define you and your worth. Change your self-talk from “I’m a failure” to “I could not get things to work out this time” or “I made some mistakes and will use this experience as stepping stones going forward.” Label the experience for what it is instead of labeling yourself based on one mistake.

    4. Turn Your Failures Into Goals

    Instead of saying “I failed at my marriage,” you can say “I had trouble communicating in my marriage and am learning to communicate better now.”

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    The first statement is anchored in the past that cannot be changed, while the second has an eye to the future and is more empowering of what you can do now. If you can identify what caused your past failures, you can work to develop goals based on those shortcomings.

    5. Give Yourself a Hug

    Instead of letting your inner critic have full reign, how about just giving yourself a hug?

    Science has suggested that hugging increases production of oxytocin, one of the feel-good hormones, which may also help reduce stress and depression[3].

    We all need hugs sometimes—especially from ourselves! If this feels like too much, give yourself a mental hug by writing down five things you like or love about yourself. This will give you the same sense of warmth and acceptance.

    6. Imagine Yourself as a Young Child

    Keep in mind that no one thinks of children as worthless or unworthy of love or happiness. And the truth is that we possess the same worth that we had when we were born.

    Sometimes we need to look behind the scars and wounds to see that preciousness and innate worth is still inside of us.

    Thinking of yourself as a child may also shift your mind and allow you to offer more forgiveness. Try to realize that you are still like that child, growing as you move through life.

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    7. Switch Your Mindset From Victim to Victor

    When you’re feeling like a failure, you see yourself as a victim of the past instead of focusing on your resilience and ability to spring back.

    After all, it’s not how many times we are beaten down and fail that matters. What really matters is how many times we get back up and try again, each time a bit wiser. Try to leave the victim mindset behind[4] and view yourself as a victor after overcoming failures to move on to something bigger and better.

    8. Become More Mindful

    Mindfulness is not just about meditating or breathing deeply and quietly in isolation. Rather, it is staying fully in the present in our daily lives with non-judgmental awareness in whatever you do.

    When you are mindful, you stay rooted in the present instead of looking back at your past missteps or feeling anxious about the future. As the saying goes, “Today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.”

    9. Calm Yourself with a Calming Box

    Sometimes we need something tangible to sooth us when we are feeling like a failure. As a therapist, I would sometimes have my clients create a self-soothing box to help them cope in stressful times.

    Using actual objects that serve to distract and self-soothe can provide soothing touchstones.

    A journal, a stress ball, or a polished stone to remind you of your self worth are all examples of things that can be placed inside a calming box and used to soothe you when you’re feeling down.

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    10. Connect With Others

    When people feel like a failure, all too often they isolate themselves, closing themselves up instead of opening up to others, but this is a fast way to damage your mental health.

    Seeking social support is one of the best choices you can make when you feel like a failure. Getting another person’s perspective will help you stop the tunnel vision that distorts your self-view.

    Asking for help and having the courage to open yourself up instead of closing yourself down will pave the way not only for avoiding loneliness, but it will also deepen your connections with others.

    This short TED Talk with Robert Reffkin offers some tips on how to create stronger connections to enhance your life:

    Final Thoughts

    These 10 tips to stop feeling like a failure will serve as a springboard for a resilient and full life. Instead of focusing on the failure that comes with falling short, be proud that you dared to pursue your dreams with courage and enthusiasm.

    We must stop thinking in all-or-nothing, global ways, so that our mistakes and failures become stepping stones for success rather than millstones around our neck.

    Use failures to help you move closer and closer to success.

    More Tips for When You’re Feeling Like a Failure

    Featured photo credit: Ethan Sykes via unsplash.com

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    More by this author

    Judith Belmont

    Mental Health and Self-Help Author, Speaker and Skype/phone Mental Health Coach/Consultant

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    Published on February 17, 2021

    How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated

    How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated

    How do we achieve our biggest goals in life? Hard work, learning new skills, and staying focused are definitely important things, but one of the most important things we need is motivation. Losing motivation can stop us in our tracks. It can make us procrastinate, doubt our skills and abilities, and take us off the path to success. In the worst cases, a lack of motivation can destroy our goals and kill our dreams.

    Where does motivation come from?

    It starts with thoughts and chemicals in the reward systems in our brains. It continues to develop in our brains and is further shaped by our behaviors. This is why neuroscience, which is the study of the function of the brain, is so important.

    When we understand the basics of neuroscience, we can hack the reward system in our brains so we can stay motivated to achieve our biggest goals.

    The Neuroscience of Motivation

    At the most basic level, humans want to avoid pain and experience pleasure. Our pleasure-seeking behavior is based on a mental reward system that’s controlled by our brains. This reward system is what keeps us motivated and helps us achieve our biggest goals and dreams.

    Neurotransmitters are chemicals in our brains that help shape our thoughts and behaviors. One of the main neurotransmitters in our reward system is the “pleasure” chemical dopamine. Dopamine is produced mainly in the mid-brain and then moves to other areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, which plays a big role in our emotional development. It also moves to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for thinking, feeling, planning, and taking action.[1]

    When you do something pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine to make you feel good mentally and physically. This commonly happens when we eat our favorite foods, have sex, have a great conversation with someone, or do something else we really enjoy. Each time we feel pleasure from doing something, our brains remember what made us feel good. It actually assigns a reward value for everything we do.

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    For example, eating a slice of our favorite pizza may have a higher reward value than drinking a smoothie. Being on that tropical vacation will have a higher reward value than watching that water fountain downtown.

    Our brains even release dopamine before we engage in those things that make us happy. It’s the expectation of the reward rather than the reward itself that has the strongest influence on our emotional reactions and memories of what’s pleasurable.[2] Just planning that tropical vacation by checking out different locations on a travel site or looking at things we want to buy on Amazon stimulates our reward system by releasing dopamine.

    Thinking about starting a project at work that we’re really passionate about also activates our reward system. This act of feeling the pleasure generated by our mental reward systems is what creates reward-seeking behavior and is a big part of motivation.

    Vanderbilt University researchers discovered that “go-getters” who are more willing to work hard have greater dopamine activity in the striatum and prefrontal cortex, two areas of the brain that influence motivation and reward.[3]

    Hacking Our Brain’s Reward System

    Here are four ways to hack the reward system in your brain to stay motivated.

    1. Keep Growing

    When you do the same things over and over, that dopamine rush tends to get smaller and smaller. A great way to stay motivated is to keep growing by doing bigger and bigger things.

    Take on bigger, more challenging projects at work. Once you’ve reached a running or fitness milestone, start working toward a bigger one. If you’re fluent in a foreign language, learn how to have more complex, philosophical conversations. If you have your own business, find ways to acquire more clients so you can generate more profit. Keep learning new skills that will push you to the edge of your comfort zone.

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    Taking on greater challenges helps our brain’s reward system continue to assign high reward values to things we do. Start by accomplishing small goals. As you accumulate more and more small wins, work your way up to more challenging goals.

    2. Use Visualization

    “Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.”—Bo Bennett

    A great way to stay motivated is to visualize accomplishing a goal—even though you haven’t completed it yet. Visualization actually causes the brain to release dopamine. This makes us see our future rewards more clearly and go after them more fervently.

    When our brains release dopamine and we feel that rush of euphoria, our hippocampus, which is part of our brain’s limbic system, records those pleasurable moments in our long-term memory. The more we visualize success, the more our brains associate this visualized success with pleasurable feelings.

    When we can imagine a better future, we’re motivated to keep pushing forward and overcoming obstacles in our path. This is why people work hard to get raises and promotions, invest their money, put their kids thru college, and do other things that help them or others prosper later in life.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, and other famous and influential people have used visualization to achieve sky-high success.[4] It’s a great way to use the power of your imagination to keep you motivated to succeed.

    3. Avoid Excessive Stress

    High levels of stress are associated with chronic inflammation, which can cause our motivation to decrease. Researchers at Emory University have theorized that chronic inflammation from stress may cause a chemical reaction in the body that decreases dopamine supplies in the brain.[5]

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    Low levels of stress can actually help us perform better by making us more alert. That adrenaline rush we get from stress can give us the energy and the edge to do our best. But when stress levels are high, stress can be damaging to our bodies, minds, and motivation.[6]

    High-stress can lead to burnout. In the worse cases, it can cause people to quit projects or quit their jobs. It can cause mental problems such as anxiety or depression. It can lead to health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses. Reduce stress by doing deep breathing exercises, meditating, running, or exercising regularly.

    4. Reframe Challenges

    If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.—Wayne Dyer

    Another great way to hack your brain’s reward system is to change how you look at challenges in your life. A common problem is that many people see difficult work as an obstacle or simply something they don’t like doing.

    A good strategy is to look at difficult situations and obstacles as opportunities that will help you and those around you grow. This will help us look at difficult things in a positive light and actually look forward to doing them instead of dreading them.

    For example, if three employees on your team aren’t getting along with each other and two of them are thinking about quitting, don’t look at this as a very stressful, terrible problem. Instead, look at the situation as an opportunity to use your interpersonal skills to gather the angry employees together, let them voice their concerns, and then resolve the problem.

    It will help them improve personally and professionally. It will also help you and your company prosper as well. You can also apply this same way of thinking to your personal life. If your friends or family members aren’t getting along, use the disagreement as a growth opportunity that will benefit them and you.

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    When we can see difficult things as great opportunities, we’ll start to look forward to them. When we look forward to doing things, it makes the reward system in our brains reward us with more dopamine, and it increases the chances that we’ll look at future problems as opportunities to grow.

    Conclusion

    Motivation is a challenging part of personal and professional development. This is why motivational videos and motivational speeches are so popular. A central part of staying motivated, even during the most challenging times, is to understand how our brains work. Science has given us a good understanding of our brain’s reward system and the chemicals and pathways that allow it to shape our behavior.

    Hack that reward system in your brain by taking on bigger challenges, visualizing success, avoiding excessive stress, and looking at difficult situations as opportunities to help others and help yourself grow.

    When we begin to master our brains, we’ll be better able to master our lives and achieve those big goals.

    More Tips on How to Stay Motivated

    Featured photo credit: Giorgio Trovato via unsplash.com

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