It can be hard to come back after a failure. Failure has a way of sticking right to your self-esteem. Psychologist Nicole Martinez discusses, “Often we view failure as caused by internal sources, rather than external ones. This means we blame ourselves for things that are actually external, and out of our control. Taking on that kind of responsibility and view of ourselves can have a very negative impact on our self-esteem, our belief in ourselves, and the way we think others perceives us” (Steber, 2016).
Of course, this can become even worse if you already have lower self-esteem to begin with. Martinez continues, “To have something negative piled on top of that is only going to make [you] feel even lower” (Steber, 2016). So keep this in mind, no matter how big or small the failure is: it happens to everyone. We all fail. If we can keep that in mind that it is part of the human experience, we can choose to learn from it and pick ourselves up from it. Steber (2016) outlines some ways to do just that:
- Don’t label yourself a “failure”
Your mistakes don’t define you as a person. They happen and they are worth learning from, but don’t let them become your identity. The failure is something that happened to you, but it isn’t you.
- Accept some (helpful) feedback
Whether you didn’t get the job, had a relationship failure, or got fired, be prepared for feedback and critiques from others. It’s natural for friends and family to want to help, but be selective when it comes to actually internalizing their feedback. According to Martinez, “Take feedback for what it is worth. If the feedback that you are given is valid, and given to you in a good spirit, take it in and make those changes. These little tweaks can make all the difference between success and failure” (Steber, 2016).
- Have yourself an outburst
Failure can suck. It’s sometimes embarrassing, upsetting, and frustrating. So get all those emotions out of your system! Don’t trap them inside of you to be shaken like a can of soda. Cry in bed, go to the gym, have yourself a good scream, and then move on.
- Talk it out with friends & family
Once the initial shock is done, it might be worth having a conversation with your friends and family. Most likely these people will try to help make you feel better, and even if they don’t it can be helpful just to say how you feel out loud. This puts this information somewhere other than inside your head.
- Get yourself a support system ASAP
Support systems are extremely important to help build resilience. A 2007 study found that social support can actually boost resilience to stress.
- Google someone else’s failures
Google someone you admire. Whether it’s a blogger, author, or CEO, they have most likely also encountered failures on their journey to where they are. Successful people talk about failure just as much as they talk about success, and this is because they respect how important it is to embrace it.
- Laugh it off
Try keeping the situation positive, and maybe even a bit funny. Did you bomb that interview in a hilarious way? Was that date comically bad? Laugh about it! If it’s a small failure, look for the positives and the humor. As talked about earlier, there’s no use dragging yourself down further.
- Make a new plan
If a previous attempt at something failed, the positive thing is that now is your chance to tackle it again with fresh eyes. It could also be a chance to go about it in an entirely different direction.
- Start on your next project
Although it’s okay to let yourself wallow for a brief period, it can be important to start on your next project once you have the ability. The faster you can take a positive step forward, the quicker you can leave those negative thoughts behind.
- Get back out there
Practice makes perfect. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time and then give it another shot! The old “get back on the horse” mentality really does work.
- Remember it’s all about the learning process
Every mistake is a learning opportunity. Look at what went wrong, but also look what you did that was right, and what you can do better next time. Failure is hardly ever so black and white.
If you would like to meet with a counselor in Chicago, please reach out to Symmetry Counseling for help. We offer a range of mental health services, including individual counseling and online counseling to support you.
Steber, C. (2016, June 1). How To Fail & Start Over Again. Retrieved from