Today I feel like a failure. I may feel differently tomorrow, or even an hour from now, but right now I feel like a failure. A bad public speaking experience is triggering this for me right now. But this is what happens. This is what we do–human beings tend to ruminate about all of the things that went wrong, replaying scenarios in our minds, wishing we could turn back time and do things differently. We are SO self-critical and judgmental.
It’s natural to crave approval and validation… and to feel like a failure when it’s not received, regardless of the reason why. Have you ever wished for a pat on the back, or some verbal acknowledgment for a job well-done? Do you ever feel unappreciated or unconfident because you haven’t been praised? Of course you have–you’re human. In my case, I put time, money and energy into that failed workshop. But in the end, none of that was as obvious as my lack of confidence. Instead of acknowledgment, I got embarrassment, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.
To make matters worse, we live in a society that places enormous value on image and material wealth. We are conditioned to believe that success is measured by accolades, money, and stuff; that it is indicated by other people’s envy or approval. So when we don’t meet those standards–when we’re not acknowledged for our efforts, or when we are not paid well, we begin to feel poorly about ourselves.
If you’re beating yourself up because you failed at something or struggle to make ends meet, try the following:
- Give yourself props for TRYING. Maybe you haven’t achieved the results you hoped for but if you made any kind of effort, you deserve some praise. Other people may not know what it took to make that effort, but you do. Give yourself some credit.
- Remember that failure is a great teacher. Learn from your mistakes and adjust your approach accordingly. No successful person has ever achieved anything worthwhile without failing at something. Look at failure as a nudge in the right direction. It may not feel good, but it’s pushing you where you need to go.
- List your achievements. Write out all of the things you’ve achieved personally and professionally, no matter how small. Acknowledge all that you have done.
- Count your blessings. We tend to focus too much on what we lack. Instead, consider what you have. Be grateful.
- Stop comparing! There’s always going to be someone who has more, does more, gets more done than you. But that doesn’t mean you’re less capable! Everyone has different strengths. Our experiences and circumstances are different. Don’t expect yourself to be like anyone else. Take inspiration from the success of others, but go at your own pace. Do your best with what you’ve got, starting exactly where you are.
- Hang tough and be patient. Success doesn’t come over night. Take one day at a time, continue to work hard, and trust that it will pay off someday. Maybe not in the way you expect, but your effort will not be wasted. If you simply keep on keeping on, you’re a success! Too many people give up on themselves too soon.
- Offer what you crave. Praise others for their efforts, express to people that you value their contributions, remind them of their worth. Everyone needs to hear it sometimes. Operate with compassion, not competition. You are also likely to find that you hear it more, when you offer it more–you get what you give.
- Don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t do what I did. Don’t play small because you lack confidence or fear other people’s negative judgment. Don’t be hard on yourself based on other people’s opinions. Being successful is all about making an effort and doing your best–no matter the result! Know this. You can do it! (make that your mantra)
Have you ever failed at something? What did you learn? Have you ever had to pick yourself up and dust yourself off? How did it go? Failure is something everyone experiences but few people discuss. It is no reason to feel ashamed! So talk about it. Build each other up. Move on and keep going… that’s what I’m going to do.
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.