Photo source: skeeze (Pixabay)
The first time I went through a series of failures, I was 31. Two years later, I am still failing A LOT. I have failed more in 2 years than I have in my 30+ years of existence.
When you are not used to successive losses, every failure is like a kick in the gut, or a wound to your ego. It takes so much time just to pick yourself up.
But after a while, things become easier. The pain is still there, the rejections still hurt. But you become more resilient.
You look at failures not as proof of your lack of worth. You cry, wallow in the misery for a while (or for as long as necessary for you to move through your emotions), perhaps skip a bath for a day or two.
Then you get back up. You’re ready to look at what happened and do better next time. You identify the lessons. You know better what you want, what you don’t want, what works, what doesn’t.
When I was at rock bottom’s third level (yes, just when you think things could not get worse, they actually do), I scoured the Internet for articles and videos on failure and success. Here’s my personal take on the topic and a few materials that helped me pull through.
1. Feel those feelings. Fully.
While setting aside your emotions might seem practical or easy, it’s actually harder in the long run. Sitting with your emotions, on the other hand, allows you to gradually clear a space within–a process that helps you unload your emotional baggage, regrets, and pain, and fully face your situation. This brings you clarity, and allows you to move forward at peace with your past.
2. Know that you can grow
I used to think that my back-to-back failures and rejections were reflections of my capacity. I was not fully aware that I was carrying around this limited belief until I heard Carol Dweck’s TED talk, The Power of Believing That You Can Improve. Carol, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, discussed the concept of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset, and how this propels or hinders our success.
I was one of those consistent honor students who worked really hard and, almost always, I saw my efforts rewarded and recognized. So I moved through life thinking when I work hard and give it all, success was guaranteed. I was afraid to make mistakes. To me, mistakes = a failure = not good enough as a person.
Shifting your mindset won’t happen overnight. But it’s definitely worth the effort. Plus the process of exploring and developing new skills is super fun.
3. All paths to success are filled with failures
I kept hearing people say, “Failures are the stepping stones to success.” But it just wouldn’t sink in. I could not grasp it. To me, failure is failure. Why are people sugarcoating it? It pulls you away from success, not closer to it.
But after several months (or more like a year) of failures and rejections, I finally got it. My journal was now filled with pages and pages of lessons, of what I did wrong, of what was no longer in my control, of the changes I will make to avoid the same mistakes.
Cathy Collaut’s work has helped me a lot on this. When I was binge-watching failure videos, I came across Marie Forleo’s interview with her about overcoming devastating setbacks. I loved that she broke it down into four steps. And I downloaded her free e-book, Failure and Confidence: How to Overcome One and Retain–or Regain!–the Other, where she further discussed these steps.
To close this post, I want to share with you a quote from Pema Chodron, which has been on my wall since my life began falling apart. It’s a gentle reminder that while challenges will keep coming and things will continue to hurt, we’re gonna be okay.
“It isn’t that the waves stop coming; it’s that because you train in holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart, the waves just appear to be getting smaller and smaller, and they don’t knock you over anymore.”
~ Pema Chodron, Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better