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Published on January 12, 2021

10 Critical Lessons To Learn When You Feel Like a Failure

10 Critical Lessons To Learn When You Feel Like a Failure

They write songs, books, inspirational quotes, and movies about it, but they always talk about failure in the past tense, like it’s somehow okay to discuss once we have transcended, made meaning, and are back on the come up. News flash—failure sucks. When you feel like you have failed in life, it can be difficult to identify the romantic, poetic, or meaningful messages we are intended to learn, mostly because we are too angry or broken-hearted to look for them.

Feeling like a failure in life is energy-consuming and takes many forms. The only guarantee in life is that we will, in fact, fail. We will do so repeatedly, and when failures compound, it can feel like the earth is crumbling beneath our feet.

Here are some ways how failure can look and feel like.

Failure can look like:

  • Getting fired
  • Going bankrupt or experiencing financial hardship
  • Missing a promotion
  • Getting ghosted
  • Breaking a diet
  • Going through a divorce, sometimes more than once
  • Standing by when you wanted to stand up
  • Failing to complete a major goal or just your daily task list
  • Doing everything right and still losing where it seems to count.
  • Something you poured time into coming out all wrong (IKEA fail, anyone?)
  • Your twenties (just kidding—well, kind of)

Failure can feel like:

  • Disappointment
  • Disillusionment
  • Deflation (lots of “d” words, I know)
  • Emptiness

On the other hand, failure can also feel like:

So, what exactly are the lessons that happen in between that help us transcend from the depths of despair to emboldened by wisdom? Turns out, they are there if we are willing to see them.

Here are 10 critical lessons to learn when you feel like you’ve failed in life.

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1. There Is Merit in Trying

If you have failed, the underlying truth is that you must have tried to be in this position. The fear of failure runs so deep that many people choose not to try just to avoid the possibility of failing.

In a survey by Linkagoal, fear of failure plagued 31% of 1,083 adult respondents—a larger percentage than those who feared spiders (30%), being home alone (9%), or even the paranormal (15%).[1]

If you have found yourself feeling like a failure, then it means you summoned the courage to do something hard. Remember that same courage hasn’t disappeared just because it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. Celebrate your willingness to try and note that this is the same spirit that will fuel you as you move forward and try again or try something new.

2. Failure Humbles Us if We Don’t Give It Too Much Power

If we give our failures too much credit, we memorialize them as predictors of future inevitable failures. It’s as if by failing at something in life, you can never succeed in that area again. We catastrophize our failure, widen its scope, and turn a single moment in time into a self-fulfilling prophesy we are destined to replay.

But we don’t have to. When we acknowledge our failure for exactly what it is—no more, no less—we allow it to humble us. We take it in and name what has happened, narrate its impact, and keep it just like that. We see it as data and acknowledge that it has little to do with whether or not we will fail or succeed in the future.

3. The Mental Gymnastics of “What if” Are Useless—Repurpose the Time

What’s done is done. Reliving our failure moment serves nobody. “Would’ve’s”, “could’ve’s”, and “should’ve’s” rush through our minds as we consider all of the ways things could have turned out differently, if only. But the truth is that the time we spend in this place of unnecessary replay could be better spent working to take 100% ownership of the parts we had control over that led to the failure.

This is our chance to spend time in reflection and identify the key factors with utmost honesty. Many of us seek the opportunity to let ourselves off the hook when failure hurts too much. Rather than admit to the thing that we could have changed, we look for external sources to blame or distort the memory with excuses.

Not every failure is within our full control, but there are often pieces we can be accountable to, learn from, and show up better for in the future. It is better that you “focus solely on those aspects that are in your control. Feeling in control is a literal antidote to feelings of helplessness and demoralization that will motivate you to try again, minimize your chances of another failure, and increase your likelihood of success.”[2]

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4. Accountability Cannot Be Shared

Martyrdom is not the goal, and we want to avoid blame. Accountability, however, is important. We want to own up to the pieces of error we recognize through self-reflection and express 100% accountability in conversation with external parties who were impacted by our failures.

Responsibility can be shared and the other party may have some part to play, but to make meaning of our failures, we should use this opportunity to state our impact regardless of our intent. The point is to eliminate excuses, name what occurred, and state what comes next, even if there is nobody else involved.

For example, when you feel like you failed in life for being passed over for a promotion in your career, it may not call for a conversation with your boss, but you can reflect if there is accountability to be taken for the times you could have been more intentional toward your work and set a goal for how you might focus harder next quarter and make a point to self-advocate more publicly.

Conversely, if the failure is a break-up and self-reflection surfaces ways you could have been more communicative or transparent during the relationship, you can make a point to admit that to the affected party and note that this is something you plan to work on before pursuing your next relationship.

5. The Process of Elimination Applies

Think about the last time you tackled a multiple choice question on an exam. You had to use logic to rule the choices down to the most likely possibilities, and in the absence of certainty, you probably took an educated guess.

Life offers us similar opportunities all the time, and we can see failure as helping us to widdle down closer and closer to the “right answer.” All the ways that something shouldn’t go get us closer to knowing the way how it should. Failure in life serves us in this way. When we can process our failures productively, extract the information they provide, and proceed with insight, we get closer to the outcomes we hope to find.

6. Subpar Stats Still Belong to Winners

Baseball players who have a batting average of 300 or more are usually considered all-stars or potential hall of farmers. What this means though is that if you have a batting average of 300, you are essentially failing 70% of the time.[3]

Now, that doesn’t sound as impressive does it? But the reality is that we fail more times than we succeed over the course of our lives. It’s time to put things in perspective and reflect on your failures.

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7. You Find Out What You Are Made Of

Failure isn’t for the faint of heart. When you fail, I mean really fail in life, it hurts—a lot. It is no easy feat to overcome the hardship that comes with failing in life big time. Still, there is something we prove to ourselves when we choose to get back out there and give it another go.

Trusting after having your heart broken, applying for a promotion after being passed over before, asking the next person out on a date after being ghosted—the metaphorical step we take to “get back on the horse” proves to us that we are more resilient than we realized. We have tried and failed before, so we can try and fail again.

When we learn to rebound, we learn just what we are capable of.+

“The experience of going out of your comfort zone is not a pleasant one, But the confidence, the feeling of relief—we call it ‘excitation transfer’—are very intense. That sense of mastery, ‘Wow, look what I just did,’ is a learning experience. The fear itself is not pleasant, but people never remember it. What they remember is that positive high.”[4]

When we muscle through failure in the direction of trying again, we can master the art of failing forward.

Little kids learning to walk fall to the ground hundreds of times, but they don’t just decide to crawl for life. They keep on standing. When we tap into that same child-like comfort with failure, we can approach life more light-heartedly and push back on all of the negative self-talk we learn as we grow. “If I fail people will judge me,” If I try and everyone sees me fail I will lose their respect.” Who cares? Living life is hard.

8. It’s All in the Framing

You have to decide how you want to think and talk about your failures moving forward. What you choose to mention says a lot about what the failure meant for you. If you are dwelling on and talking about all of the painful residuals of the failure, you perpetuate life’s greatest problems.

Like Yoda said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.” When you talk about the learning, you perpetuate the growth the world aches to see.

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9. Sharing Is Caring

Repurpose your learning and save someone else the trouble, I have always questioned the saying that every generation must learn for themselves that the iron is hot—I call bull! Some folks may heed the warning.

Granted, failure finds us all, and there are some lessons we have to learn ourselves, but it never hurts to share your story. Be open, transparent, and bold in the way that you offer your insights to the world. Whether it is in the context of a mentorship relationship, publicly sharing in your blog, or snippets you share when you sit on a panel one day, never underestimate the impact you can have by sharing the “aha!”s that came from your failures. People will appreciate your humility and feel like they, too, have permission to fail.

10. It’s Okay to Let It Go (You Know, Like What Elsa Said?)

If you are notoriously hard on yourself, you may feel compelled to hold onto failure, but once the reflection, accountability, and learning have occurred, the failure has served its purpose. Let it go, and free up space to take your next steps. Besides, you have plenty more failures left in you!

Final Thoughts

Life is really just one great big chance to get really good at failing. There are so many opportunities to muck it up when you feel like you failed in life, but there are far more than 10 big lessons to learn.

See each day as a new shot at courage—a new day to practice learning from mistakes and applying that learning to the next big risk. It is okay to fail in life because that does not mean that you fail for life. Nobody has ever succeeded without first failing in some way.

Whether you have been failing full throttle or tentative to avoid missteps, let today be the first of many days you fail with full confidence that there is purpose in everything you do.

Read These If You Feel Like a Failure

Featured photo credit: Eric Brehm via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Staci Taustine

Founder & CEO, Stubborn Heart Consulting LLC.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

8 Time-Tested Confidence Buildinng Habits You Can Start Now

8 Time-Tested Confidence Buildinng Habits You Can Start Now

Confidence is one of the greatest things you can learn and practice. But it can be confusing, overwhelming and hard. It is a skill and it does take practice but by making some things into habits, you can help your confidence blossom. 

Confidence is “a belief in one’s own self and one’s ability to succeed.” It is made by a simple process:

First, you have to want to achieve a goal or improve, then you are afraid of the change. But you do it anyway, fail and do it over again over until one day, you aren’t afraid of it anymore. You are confident in your ability to succeed at a task.

Just like learning to ride a bike or any skill really, you took a deep breathe and you tried, you fell off your bike and cried, but eventually, you got back on.

Until one day, you cycle without even thinking that you are going to fall off. It is same for any area of your life, if you want to be more self confident, do more things that scare you and incorporate these 8 essential habits into your daily life.

1. Reminding Yourself of Your Victories

Stop reminding yourself of your failures that you habitually do it — putting yourself down, criticizing yourself and over-exaggerating your failures. It is time to draw a line in the sand and start letting that old mindset go, it is undermining your confidence.

It’s scary and new and you may feel afraid, but it is the best choice you will make. Instead of reminding yourself of your failures and how you aren’t good enough, remind yourself of your wins, all you have overcome. Remind yourself of all the good you have done and all the good you can do.

Focus solely on the positive and what you can do and when the hating thoughts come up, just let them pass by or argue with them.

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If it says “you aren’t good enough.” You say “actually I am.”

“You aren’t perfect.” You say “No I am not perfect but that is more than good enough, I am enough just as I am, I don’t have to be perfect.”

Your confidence depends on it so get into the habit of reminding yourself that actually, you are pretty great and have a lot of reasons to be confident.

2. Ask Yourself: What Did You Learn?

Moving forward with changing your inner narrative, you have to start to ask the question: What did I learn?

With practicing confidence, you come across a lot of failure. Instead of beating yourself up and going “why me?” Ask yourself:

“What did I learn? How did that not work? What can I do better?”

Nothing undermines your confidence more than you beating yourself up all the time. Instead of focusing on how you have failed and not achieved the result you wanted, make it a habit to ask yourself questions so the next time around, you can try again from a new angle. Ask yourself how you fell off the bike so next time, you can avoid potholes.

By getting in the habit of questioning your failures instead of bullying yourself, your confidence will become unbreakable because failure won’t shatter your confidence. Just keep learning and keep moving forward.

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3. Don’t Judge Others

This is such a key habit when it comes to building confidence. When we judge others, especially negatively, we create a negative cycle in our head that encourages insecurity. When you judge someone negatively, it makes you think that someone else is negatively judging you. Breeding this type of insecurity will only ever undermine your self esteem and confidence.

People are wonderful but they aren’t perfect. It isn’t their job to perfectly adhere to the way you want the world to be. So to put it simply, don’t judge and let people be as they are. Don’t get caught in that negative mental cycle.

On the flip side of this, you have to understand that people are going to judge you and that their opinion of you, is none of your business. You can’t control how other people choose to see you, you can only control how you judge others. Don’t play a game you can’t win by trying to control other people’s thoughts. It’s like trying to play chess underwater at night. If you tried really hard, it could possibly be done but what is the point.

4. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

If you want to get into a habit that will help you become more confident, this is it. Everything you want is on the other side of your comfort zone; this applies to confidence.

You gain confidence by challenging yourself and overcoming obstacles. Don’t shy away from challenges and things that make you uncomfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Get into the habit of saying “Oh this makes me uncomfortable, better tackle it head on then” and get in the habit of saying Yes and No: Saying Yes to things you would like to do even if it scares you and No to things you would not like to do.

By saying Yes to things you enjoy and challenge you, you grow in confidence as you overcome them. By saying No to things you don’t want to do, things that bring your down or make you feel low, confidence can also bloom. By standing up for yourself, you assert yourself and your self confidence can blossom.

5. Have the “I Can Handle It” Mindset

This is a beautiful habit to get into in general and it will help your confidence bloom and your anxiety go down.

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Get into the habit of having a I Can Handle It Mindset. You have overcome so many things in your life but we still have the overwhelming fear that we can’t handle bad things coming your way.

But you can, you can handle it because you have handled it time and time again. Stop telling yourself that you can’t and start telling yourself that you can. Whatever comes your way, whatever adversity. You Can Handle It. With this habit, confidence can blossom and grow because you are unstoppable.

6. Find Validation From Within

If you rely on other people for constant validation and praise to give you a confidence boost, you will struggle. As soon as they don’t validate you, you will feel less confident than before. This is whyThe Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected.

Get in the habit of validating yourself, whatever you want to hear from someone else, say it to yourself. When you accomplish something, pat yourself on the back, don’t go looking for outward validation. This simple change of supporting yourself and search within for the support you need will help your confidence bloom!

There is one very simple logic to this, your happiness and your confidence are your responsibility. Why would you put your life in the hands of someone else? It isn’t their job to make you happy or validated, it is yours. You also can’t control them at all, which means your confidence and self worth are completely out of your control.

Change that. Find support and validation from within – Don’t Wait for People to Praise You. Do It Yourself Every Single Day.

7. Get Fit

Fitness is the perfect habit to get into if you want to grow confidence because everytime you go, you get better. You grow, you learn new things, you fail and then you amaze yourself with what your body can do, over and over again.

Nothing has helped my confidence bloom as much as taking up a sport. There are so many options for you. Running is the perfect example, the first one is awkward, hard and exhausting. But the next run is a little easier, a week later, you start looking forward to it and then finally, you are running 5K without stopping.

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If you want to get into a habit that reminds you that you are capable, find a sport that interests you and start.

8. Practice Gratitude

Now this isn’t groundbreaking I know, but gratitude is such an important habit to get into if you want to be more confident.

When you practice gratitude, you put yourself in a much better headspace which will in turn, help you feel more confident. Most importantly, when your confidence gets knocked by something or someone, you can always come back to gratitude and be happy for all that you have. It helps keep you aligned and focused on all the good and positive in your life, stopped all the negativity from creeping in and keeping you down.

If you practice gratitude once a day, your life will change because it reminds you of the reality that you are good enough as you are — that is never up for debate.

Try these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

Final Thoughts

These habits might be small but they can create an intense boost to your confidence and your rebound when you have had your confidence knocked. You are exceptional and you should be confident in your ability to do things and in who you are.

If you are still struggling with that, spend some time working out what you’re afraid of and go and do it right now, overcome it and remember that you are unstoppable.

More Confidence Boosting Tips

Featured photo credit: Olivier Rule via unsplash.com

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