According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, ruminating on past defeats or rejections can lead to more prolonged emotional distress and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. If you are prone to regretting or fearing failure, you could wind up needing depression treatment. To protect your mental health, follow these seven tips to deal with life’s failures:
1. Recognize Your Feelings
Initially, you may feel embarrassed, angry, ashamed, or sad. Depending on the situation, you may feel anxious about telling others about it. All of this makes you uncomfortable, and we naturally try to avoid these feelings if we can.
However, emotional discomfort is motivating, and you should spend time thinking about how you are feeling. These thoughts are the most helpful part of failure, according to research. While wallowing and ruminating aren’t beneficial, you should take time to embrace your emotions and feel what you feel. Instead of drowning your sorrows at the bar or distracting yourself with a weekend getaway, label your feelings as you experience them and let them motivate you to improve next time.
2. Acknowledge Your Unhealthy Habits To Reduce Discomfort
In the past, you may have handled failure in an unhealthy way. Food, substances, and experiences are common choices to distract yourself and fill the void of defeat. In addition to distraction, you may diminish your feelings surrounding your failure.
You might minimize your feelings, saying things like “I didn’t want the responsibility of a promotion” or “I didn’t want to attend all the rehearsals for the lead part anyway.” Avoidance tactics like these will only provide temporary relief and are strongly associated with depression, leading to a need for clinical depression treatment. Try to acknowledge and change these habits before it becomes a more significant issue.
3. Investigate Your Preconceived Notions About Failure
If you handle failure poorly, spiral into negative self-talk, and fear failure, you likely have some irrational beliefs about failing. These can be caused by:
- Having extremely successful or critical family members
- Internalized cultural or societal norms
- Unrealistic expectations from your parents or caregivers while growing up
- Low self-esteem or perfectionism, which often go hand in hand
Understanding the root cause can help you identify the irrational beliefs stemming from those formative experiences. Once you can recognize what’s impacting your feelings and behavior surrounding failure, you can work to change them.
4. Reinvent Your Thoughts About Failure
Research finds that the more you attribute failure to specific external factors, the more resilient you will be in handling failures. For example, you are more likely to handle rejection well if you say, “I failed because that task was hard” instead of “I failed because I wasn’t good enough.”
Reframe your thoughts by reminding yourself that you are challenging yourself to do something difficult. You can handle and learn from your failures. You will try again and be better for it. Find a phrase or affirmation that helps you stay strong and bounce back.
5. Practice Healthy Coping Skills
Make a list of things that always make you feel better; these should be the things that are long-lasting and not a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Yes, it’ll make you feel better initially, but the subsequent stomach ache brings you right back down to earth. Examples are taking a restorative shower, running an extra comforting bath with a special bath bomb, taking your dog on a hike, calling a parent, visiting friends, or attending a dance class.
Not every coping skill works for every person, and not every one of yours will work 100% of the time for you. If you struggle with unhealthy coping habits, hang a list of your better options in a prominent place to remind yourself of what will actually help when you’re feeling low.
6. Face Your Fears
If you’re like most humans and spend most of your life avoiding failures, it can be life-shattering when you first encounter a setback. However, reducing your discomfort and embracing failure is crucial. Become like Jim Carrey in Yes Man and start saying yes to things that force you outside your comfort zone. Once you encounter a few more rejections or failures, you realize it’s not so hard to face your fears to reach your goals.
7. Use Failure To Your Advantage
Stop comparing yourself to others, as this can lower your self-esteem and worsen your negative feelings of failure. Instead, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Did you make one or a series of mistakes? Create a plan for next time, including what you will do differently to avoid those same mistakes.
If you keep dwelling on your problems, research famous setbacks: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Sir James Dyson, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and Steven Spielberg. You would not associate these names with failure because they learned from it and tried again. And so can you. The quote attributed to Winston Churchill says it best, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”