There’s no doubt that failing, losing, and being rejected feels terrible. People are generally aiming to meet their goals, to win, to perfect their craft and to feel good. For most of us, failing is an undervalued experience. Failures are opportunities to learn, reflect, improve and grow. The way in which someone handles these moments can drastically change their trajectory.
Some of the most famously successful people have had hundreds of ideas fall flat before finally hitting it big (e.g. Bill Gates, Oprah, Einstein). Beyond our professional lives, we also learn how to be better partners from failed relationships and how to be better friends from fights and fallouts. The more you experience what does not work for you, the closer you’ll be to knowing what does.
As babies, we learn how to walk by falling over and over and continuing to try until we are steady on our feet. We sometimes lose this spirit as adults and despite our natural perseverance, some people find that they feel paralyzed from defeat, unable to move forward, and afraid to face the risk of trying again. There are many different reasons this can happen, but what’s most important is becoming aware of it and working toward a resolution.
Here are some tips for making the best out of your failures:
1. Feel what you feel – with acceptance. It’s okay to be sad or angry. Take some time to process these emotions and wait until you calm down before reacting.
2. Don’t personalize the situation. This can be especially difficult with rejection, but just because you weren’t a good fit for one person or for one company, does not mean that you don’t have value and potential to offer to others. Furthermore recognize that your performance and product are not reflections of your worth as a person. Lovable people get dumped, intelligent people make mistakes, and talented people get rejected. Do not let other people influence your self-image and self-confidence.
3. Take time to reflect objectively. What went wrong? What went well? What could have been done differently? What can you try next time to get a different result? We do this all the time in video games. If you’re playing Super Mario and get killed by Bowser, you just attempt the level again with a different strategy. This same technique should be used when you fail in real life!
4. Be confident! Be Brave! Admit to and own your mistakes. Know that trying again requires courage but is the only way to move forward. Don’t refrain from taking action because it MIGHT lead to failure. Taking risks is a great way to fail and the only way to succeed.
Kaitlin Thompson is a psychotherapist at Freestone Psychotherapy. You can learn more about Kaitlin and how to contact her here.
photo used through creative commons.