Most online articles and blog posts on the subject tell me that the way to get over failure is thus: recognise that you can only achieve success after x-number of wrong starts and just keep trying.
They make it sound so easy.
When you fail it hurts. You feel a variety of emotions that range from sadness to anger, via frustration and fear. Your self-esteem and pride is often dented. It’s rare that after one screw-up you won’t experience any more. It suddenly becomes harder to take an easy-to-utter phrase like “Keep trying, it’ll work out” and genuinely in believe it. Putting it into practice seems facile in theory…but not in application.
So, what are you supposed to do when you come up against a brick wall? How do you actually go about getting over the sting of defeat and working up the mental fortitude to push on? That’s something I’ve been trying to sort out for myself recently: a slow, imperfect yet broadly successful crawl back up onto my feet.
1. Take time to do an activity you’re successful at. In my current situation it would almost certainly be running. But I can also mop a kitchen floor like nobody’s business. Or else post some pretty pictures that I took myself. If faced with a professional defeat it can be easy to morph it into a personal failure (“I’m a terrible human being, I’m useless at everything, I can’t do anything right…”). Through the act of doing what I’m good at on a regular basis it helps me to put the failure into perspective and strength a damaged ego.
2. Look after yourself. Wear your nice clothes and jewellery. Set aside enough time for a hot bath/shower at night and use up those luxurious toiletries. My favourite comfort food has to be pasta with pesto, some cheese and a LOT of veg (I’ve not been eating a lot of chocolate for a while, so now it’s too sweet & sugary for my body to cope with). Getting angry at yourself doesn’t solve or undo mistakes you might have made, may as well practice kindness. It’s amazing how little things can have a big impact on mood and perspective.
3. Talk to the right person/people. Some people are great at empathising. Others can offer sympathy and hugs. Others give useful practical advice to help tackle your problems. Others specialise at gruffly telling you to get back on your feet (…which is sometimes what you really, really need to be told). I reckon that a combination of all 4 works best, depending on the circumstances. The talking part is the most important. If you feel bad about something going wrong then you need outsider input to try and help you get it right next time.
4. Pause and re-gather. You’ll feel more motivated to try again if you’ve got some fresh ideas, a modified strategy and a clear(er) idea of alternatives. So put aside a bit of time to think about your next move(s). Rushing straight back in to attempt n+1 will likely result in a similar outcome to the nth attempt.
My good news is that though things haven’t gone quite according to plan, there’s still hope and opportunities. And I seem to be back on my feet again. However, that’s the story for another blog post…