How To Fail And Still Feel Good About It
Failure – one of the most despised and feared words in the English language.
When we think of failure, we think of losing out. We think of letting people down, and of not reaching our goals or desires in life. It’s the sensation, the ‘emotion’ of misery and of coming up short even if we tried our best. Failure always seems to imply something bad and unwanted for us.
But although failure means that you haven’t reached your goals or that you think you have let someone down, it is not something to be feared. The ‘sensation of failure’ is an emotion like any other – it originates in you and is generated and regulated by you.
As such, it follows the same rule that other emotions follow – if you want to create it, or replace it with another emotion, you can.
Why People Fear Failure
Although the ‘sensation of failure’ is an emotion like ‘joy’ or ‘excitement’, we don’t fear joy or excitement. Even the other negative emotions such as ‘frustration’ and ‘anger’ don’t carry the same weight that the sensation of failure does. But why do we possess this sense of impending doom whenever we fail? Why do we fear failure?
A large part of the reason is due to what other people have passed down to us. In the world today, or at least in ‘western society’, there is a great focus placed on ‘winning’. In order to have a happy, meaningful life, you need to win. You need to win at whatever game you choose, beating all competition in the process. Winning is the name of the game.
This attitude has permeated across most of western society, causing people to sacrifice a healthy lifestyle, time with their loved ones and friends, and even their own time to relax, all for the sake of success.
The underlying message is that “if you don’t succeed, you get left behind”. People will look down on you and view you as a ‘loser of life’. When I mentioned at the beginning of the article that we think of ‘losing out’ and ‘letting people down’ when we think of ‘failure’, this is where it stems from – the fear that others won’t love us.
We all want to be loved, respected and valued as human beings – it’s in our basic nature. So when we are denied these feelings, or we imagine the possibility of being denied, we get scared. We tell ourselves that we couldn’t live with such a possibility, and so we do what we can to avoid it.
We work extra hours, we attend more classes, and we mingle with the ‘right’ people, all to avoid losing those feelings we desire. And losing those feelings is classed as ‘failure’, making failure bad.
How To Feel Good About Failure
I believe failure isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. Failure itself is not undesirable – it’s our fear of failure that we try to avoid.
Failure is inevitable if we want to pursue a passion – otherwise known as ‘road blocks’ and ‘obstacles’, it must be dealt with in order to reach our goals. But we can manage our reactions to failure when it happens and learn to feel good about it. Here’s how:
- The experience still counts
Whenever we attempt something and we put serious effort in, we have already succeeded.
By putting effort in and trying to reach our goals, we gain experience regardless of whether we fail or succeed. When we enroll onto a course, we gain the knowledge of the course material, even if we fail the final test. When we try and negotiate a pay-rise at work, we gain experience of negotiating, even if we fail to gain the pay-rise.
No matter what happens in the end, we have still put the effort and work in. We have gained useful experience, even if we ultimately fail.
There’s a saying that goes “Better to try and fail than not try at all” – if you don’t try, then you will never gain the experience, knowledge, and wisdom.
- Where you end up may be better for you
A common misconception about failure is that if we don’t arrive at our pre-determined destination, then we have failed. But that only works if the pre-determined destination is the only beneficial place to end up at – in most instances, this isn’t true.
Let’s say you take a work-related course with the desire to gain a qualification, in order to boost your career. You do the work and sit the examination, but you fail to meet the criteria to pass, and you don’t receive the qualification. Understandably, you’ll be disheartened as you won’t be able to advance in the way you wanted, but this isn’t the end.
Let’s also say that not long after the results, you get contacted by one of your superiors who wants to offer you a role in another department. You agree, and it turns out this role is more enjoyable and suited to you than the previous role was.
Now, if you had passed the exam, then you would still be in the same line of work, and you wouldn’t have been able to take the role in the other department. Failure could lead to something better.
Even if you fail, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. You may be offered something better. Here’s another saying, “When one door closes, another opens”, and that’s true for everyone.
- The fear never actually materializes
That fear of letting someone down never usually materializes.
If we think we’ve let someone down, that we’ve ‘failed’ them, then we feel that we are unworthy of their love and respect. We could think they would shout at us, or scorn us, or just ignore us altogether. In a similar way, even if we fail at something that doesn’t directly involve anyone, we can still think we’ve failed them by ‘failing to live up to their expectations’.
Thankfully, a lot of our ‘worst fears’ prove untrue – it’s very rare that someone reacts in the exact same way that we think they will. They normally react with less intensity than we imagined, or react in a different way altogether. Our fears of what other people will do or say to us never really materialize.
No matter how badly you fail, those that truly love you will do their best to support you.
- Nobody ever achieves perfection
There’s an illusion going around that glorifies the ‘state of perfection’. This illusion tells us that we can have more money, better toys, and whatever else we desire in life. We can have all this, and more, if we keep seeking perfection.
This, like any other illusion, is just that – an illusion. There is no such thing as ‘perfection’, no such thing as a the perfect existence where everything goes right for us. It’s false – there will always be imperfections and problems.
If you wish to do something, do it without seeking to be perfect. Do it to the best of your ability at the time, and then leave it. There will usually be little issues, but there always is. Deal with them as they arise, but abandon the feeling that it has to be perfect. It never is.
- You don’t look any different
Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, you are still the same person.
Regardless of whether you get that promotion or you don’t, you will still look at the same person in the mirror. All that changes is your perception of yourself, your own opinions of how good you are and whether you’re a worthy human being. To the outside world, you will still be the same individual who goes to work, loves his/her family, pays the bills, and gets on with the game of life.
Don’t get caught up worrying whether you’ll be able to handle failure – you will handle it. Nothing can take away or add to ‘you’, and who you are as an individual, except you. Whether you succeed or fail at something only has an impression on you if you let it.
You can feel good or bad about failure, but only if you want to.