Whether you were denied a promotion at the office or you didn’t qualify for a marathon, failing feels bad. Many people will go to great lengths to avoid failing so they don’t have to feel painful emotions.
If you find yourself thinking, “I am a failure,” it’s important to know that there are things you can do to feel better. Knowing how to deal with failure in a healthy way takes some of the fear out of it—and it might reduce the pain so you can bounce back better than before.
First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that everybody fails at one time or another, but that doesn’t make us failures—it just means we are human, and that things didn’t work out this time.
- Embrace Your Emotions
Failure is accompanied by a variety of emotions: embarrassment, anxiety, anger, sadness, and shame, to name a few. Those feelings are uncomfortable, and many people will do anything they can to escape feeling emotional discomfort.
- Recognize Unhealthy Attempts to Reduce Pain
You might be tempted to say, “I didn’t actually want that job anyway,” but minimizing your pain won’t make it go away. Distracting yourself or filling the void you feel with food, drugs, or alcohol won’t heal your pain either. Those things will only provide you with some temporary relief.
Recognize the unhealthy ways you try to avoid or minimize pain in your life. Turning to coping mechanisms that do more harm than good will only make your situation worse.
- Practice Healthy Coping Skills
Calling a friend, practicing deep breathing, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk, or playing with your pet are just a few examples of healthy ways to deal with your pain. Not every coping skill works for everyone, however, so it’s important to find what does for you.
- Acknowledge Irrational Beliefs About Failure
You may have developed some irrational beliefs about failure at some point in your life. Perhaps you think failure means you’re bad or that you’ll never succeed. Or maybe you think no one will like you if you fail.
Those types of beliefs are inaccurate, and they can prevent you from doing things where you might not succeed. Make a point to identify the irrational beliefs that might be impacting your feelings and behavior.
- Accept an Appropriate Level of Responsibility
It’s important to accept an accurate level of responsibility for your failure. Taking on too much may cause you to unnecessarily blame yourself. On the other hand, blaming other people or unfortunate circumstances on your failure will prevent you from learning from it.
- Ask Yourself What You Can Learn
Failure can be a great teacher if you’re open to learning. Did you make a mistake? Did you make a whole series of mistakes?
Think about what you could do differently next time. Then, you will ensure your failure has become a life lesson that helped you learn something.
Instead of seeing a failure as a burden weighing you down, look at it as a stepping stone toward your goals.
- Face Your Fears of Failure
If you’ve spent most of your life avoiding failure, it can feel really scary when it finally happens. Facing your fears, however, can be the key to reducing the discomfort.
Practice stepping outside your comfort zone. Do things that might get you rejected or try new things where you could fail. Over time, you’ll learn that failure isn’t as bad as you might imagine. It will help you learn to face your fear of failure in a way that can be productive and help you reach your goals.