Failure is earth shattering. It can halt all of your momentum, crumble your foundation of faith, and cripple you emotionally. At times failure can be so paralyzing that you feel there is no way out. You might find yourself thinking that the idea of success will always be out of reach.
I know how you feel. You’re not alone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heartbreak, a firing, or a friend bails on your highly anticipated lunch – rejection and failure deflates your self worth. But, I assure you, every one has experienced this gut-wrenching numbness before. Some worse than others. Before we dive into healthy ways to remove negativity from your mind when failure happens, because it will, I want to encourage you to stir away from two very volatile, very unhealthy tendencies people have:
- The “it could be worse” plague: Gratitude for what you have should be a daily trait. In fact, many highly successful people do it. However, there is a major fault in this mentality because it encourages you to suppress your pain and ignore your problems. If you suppress your pain, you will not face it. If you do not face it, you will not grow. Face your pain instead of getting lost in fantasies about how bad it could really get. I’m giving you permission to feel sad, but only for a little while.
- Don’t find comfort in external variables: Again, these act as bandages over a gaping wound gushing uncontrollably. While some external activities are healthy (working out, hanging with friends, laughing), many of us, especially those in our early 20′s to mid-30′s try to hide them in unhealthy habits like excess drinking, non-recreational drug use, and overeating, among others.
Now that we’ve narrowed down the two most extreme ways not to deal with rejection, let’s dive into what can make it better. But, first, please take a deep breath (be honest about it) and remind yourself that it will all work out. Be true when asking yourself, “Doesn’t it always?”
1. Talk about it
Like I said, we often want to run as far away as possible from our discomforts and shortcomings, but it always helps to talk it out. If you can’t find words to say to someone, write a letter and send it to them. Or, write yourself a letter to reflect on later.
2. Understand that you are not your failure
You have to forgive yourself or, as my mom says, be kind to yourself. You are not the emotions in your head, nor the voices saying you suck, nor your perceived failures. Externalizing these feelings is something that’s very crucial in overcoming them and building a better life.
3. Look at the failures of your heroes
I find it extremely healthy to examine the shortcomings of people you idolize. Don’t do this with scrutinization. Instead, try to understand that everyone goes through uncomfortable struggles in life. If possible, try to reach out to your hero personally and ask them to expand on what you already know about their story.
4. Examine your definition of failure
Failure and success are both subjective. Sure, there may be a baseline criteria for both that we’ve been told. But feelings of triumph and ones of letdown are often contrived based on what you feel and what you perceive. Again, be kind to yourself.
5. Start a project or revisit a hobby
Keeping your mind busy is often a great way to overcome past failures. Feelings of success, euphoria, and positive momentum often come from small steps towards a much larger goal or ideal. Hobbies and projects, just like life goals, are all about the process, not the final product. It’s beyond rewarding.
6. Volunteer or perform a random act of kindness for a stranger
This is an easy one, I think. There are always people who are less fortunate than us. Again, I’m not inviting these “it could be worse” thoughts, but there’s significant valor in helping others. It will absolutely make you feel good.
7. Consume media that makes you feel good
Books, music, movies, whatever. There’s no denying that there’s negativity everywhere we turn. The blues on the news, Law & Order type shows that make us think our neighbor is a serial killer, and constant threats from foreign terrorists that we read about in the newspaper will not invite feelings of motivation. Ever. Carefully craft the media you surround yourself with. I mean, don’t you visit this website to feel good?
8. Reconnect with a relative or close friend
Perhaps this is the person you talk it out with. Even if it’s not, reconnecting with someone you care about is another pretty easy way to remind yourself that there are people in this world who love you. More than you probably realize.
9. Take out a piece of paper and give gratitude (the opposite of the “it could be worse” plague)
The first thing I do every morning (after turning on the light so I can see) is write down one thing I’m thankful for. Some days it’s really deep and geared towards me personally. Other days it’s simple, like giving thanks for how intricate and cool ice cubes are. (Pun intended)
10. Try to silence your mind for 15 minutes a day
Meditation is misconceived as a Buddhist practice, but everyone can do it and they should. Be forewarned: It’s extremely difficult at first. But just try to think about one word or object and completely focus your mind on that and only that for 5 – 10 minutes a day. What will that accomplish? The strength and ability to let go of the negative mental thoughts that weigh you down. In essence, it’s mental conditioning. It also allows you to realign your heart and intuition.
11. Redecorate the place you spend a lot of time in (office, home, ect.)
Where you live and how you decorate plays a surprisingly large roll in your happiness. Are your walls tattered in things that inspire you? If you’re not into decorating, are your walls a color that you like? Something that evokes happiness, prosperity, and hope? Sometimes redecorating the place you spend a lot of time in can give you a fresh perspective.
Life is meant to enjoy. Peaks and valleys come a dime a dozen, and there’s no controlling either of them. I had a wise old friend once tell me that, “We have to remind ourselves that it’s all just a ride.” We have the conscious choice on how to feel. No matter our level of failure or heartbreak or rejection, no one can dictate how you think and feel but you.
Don’t forfeit that power to anyone, yourself included.