the art of failing elegantly:
why you should celebrate your downfalls
We’re constantly flooded with “you can do it” content. “You can become rich. You can achieve happiness. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
It’s a real skill to have a positive mindset, but good intentions can oftentimes backfire. If you’re in a rut or going through a tough time in your personal or professional lives, then hearing others proclaim their success stories is discouraging. It’s actually counter-intuitive.
We can agree that social media is disillusioning. From celebrities to regular people like you and me, we mainly share and view highlights and accomplishments. Hardly anyone actually shares what happens behind the scenes when life kicks your ass.
Social media has its benefits, but it can also create and pile on the fear of failure when scrolling through timelines. However, the fear of failure didn’t stem from social media alone. It was actually introduced to you at a young age.
Through schooling and extracurricular activities, you were externally and/or subconsciously pressured to outperform your peers. Because you’re the best. Because everyone is watching what you do and you don’t want to look like you don’t have your shit together. Because losing is for chumps.
But what about all the times you failed? When you didn’t get the job or grades you wanted, had a bad game or performance, or got denied by that school or program you worked so hard to get into?
Were you hard on yourself or others? Did you hold yourself accountable for your actions or did you point fingers and blame someone else instead?
Failing is not the end of the world, but it can sure feel like it. The influx of information sharing today has only increased the pressure to succeed.
So how do you fail successfully? How do you achieve your goals without letting a setback get the best of you?
Here are 7 tips for overcoming the fear of failure at work or in your personal life.
1. we are all human
First and foremost, you have to recognize and accept that no one – absolutely no one, no matter how wealthy or decorated they may be – achieved their goals easily.
We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all learn and experience life differently. We all have trials and tribulations.
Despite how strongly you strive to be perfect, we’re all flawed. Life will never go the way you want them to go. There will always be things outside of our control.
Even if you were so-called “perfect,” would you be happier? Would you get to where you want to go? If you didn’t make any mistakes, would you be any wiser? Would you know the things that you know now?
Life is too short to be holding grudges and setting unrealistic expectations. Be honest with yourself and others. Be compassionate and understanding when others make mistakes, too.
2. be a lover, not a bully
When did we become so self-sabotaging that we’ve forgotten how to love ourselves?
Many of us immediately start having self-deprecating thoughts after doing something “wrong” or embarrassing. “It’s always my fault. I’m such an idiot. I’m never going to get good at it. Why can’t I do anything right?”
We’re all guilty of being self-critical at times, but becoming your own worst enemy is both unhealthy and exhausting.
Instead of being hard on yourself, practice self-love. I know it sounds weird but trust me, it’s 100 times better for you than to continue having negative internal dialogue.
Start by writing a love letter to yourself about all the things that make you beautiful, happy, or appreciative of yourself. “I have a great sense of humor. I’m happy that I’m healthy. I’m so proud that I’m able to do what I love for a living.”
Take it a step further – if you dare – by saying all of those great things about yourself in front of a mirror. Relax the shoulders, give strong eye contact, and say it with your chest. Don’t be afraid to feel nervous at first. I would, too. I mean, would you just look at that dreamy reflection?
3. ventilate in a safe space
Instead of taking the unhealthy approach of bottling your emotions and taking on the world in a passive-aggressive manner, make it a habit to ventilate in a safe environment.
Notice how I said ventilate and not vent. Ventilation by definition is “the process of examining, discussing, or investigating freely and openly.” Venting is “the release or expression of strong emotion or energy.”
Venting is mostly gossiping or shit talking. Part of my personal mission statement is to not talk ill about people behind their back. If someone is doing something that bothers me, I will bring it up to that person in private. Otherwise, it’s not my place to ramble about it.
Ventilating is different. It’s introspective. I personally do this by having conversations with myself while I’m driving or taking a shower. Like a sports announcer, I give a play-by-play of what happened, why I feel so strongly about it, and what I should do to resolve the issue or move on.
The goal of this exercise isn’t to talk smack family, friends, co-workers, or clients. Nor is it to create hypothetical conversations where you would have “won” if you said this or that. The purpose is to get whatever it is that’s bothering you out of your system without demeaning yourself or others.
4. download a meditation app
If you’re not comfortable with talking to yourself out loud, another approach is to meditate. Many of the most successful people in the world attribute their discipline and success to meditation.
The benefits of meditation are endless: it reduces cortisol levels (stress hormones), lowers levels of anxiety and depression, lowers blood pressure, decreases inflammation, improves concentration, increases the production of serotonin, provides emotional stability, helps cultivate healthy habits, and so much more.
I recommend downloading the app, Simple Habit. It’s a freemium application for meditating on-the-go. Unfortunately, I’m not getting compensated for referring this out, but it’s an amazing tool for improving your mental health and helping you conquer the day. Available in the Google Play and App Store.
If you’re away from your phone, just take deep breaths. Start by taking a deep breath through the nose, count to 5 in your head, then slowly exhale through the mouth. Repeat as many times as necessary before returning to the task at hand.
5. get back up again, but with a smile
Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumbing” wisely proclaims, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” This is both a fun karaoke song and powerful mantra for how you should live your life.
If you fail and then choose to dwell in self-pity rather than go at it again, you are giving into the fear of failure. There is no darker place than allowing yourself to sit and stew in your downfalls.
Now imagine if you didn’t exert all of your energy punishing and condemning yourself. Imagine if you didn’t contemplate about the countless “what if” scenarios. Imagine if you put all expectations to the side and just tried again.
Best thing to do when getting up after life knocks you down: smile. Or laugh, if you want to take it up a notch. Smiling and laughing are therapeutic. They both cultivate humility, make situations less serious than they need to be, and enable you to accept yourself unconditionally.
6. befriend failure
That’s right, make failure your best friend.
If you’re going to have dreams, desires, or goals of making new friends, starting a family, earning a degree or certification, buying a house, getting a promotion, building a company, writing a blog or book, discovering new technology or medicine, running a marathon, or traveling the world, let me be the first to tell you that you’re going to fail.
Now if you gave your best effort and learned a lesson, did you really fail? It’s only true failure if you choose to move on without reflecting. Instead of leaving with a bad experience, you gain knowledge that can help you improve and get closer to achieving success.
Failure is an annoying friend, for sure. It pokes our buttons and tests our character when we least expect it. But accept failure for all that it has to offer and you’ll discover that it’s not all that bad, especially when reaping the rewards from all of your hard work and perseverance.
7. celebrate failure
Now that you’re BFFs with failure, throw those failures of yours a little party.
When I started my first career job outside of college, I didn’t know a lick of code or how a website was even built. There were times when my boss and teammates trusted me to perform simple tasks, and I would crash the website. I did that at least 4 times in the 2 years I worked there.
It became an ongoing joke for me to not touch a website. I always laughed, but I acknowledged that I had a knowledge gap that was preventing me from effectively working on websites.
Fortunately, I was given more chances to learn from my mistakes and complete the not-so simple tasks without any hiccups. This gave me confidence to explore more uncharted territory and develop my website development skills.
Fast forward a couple years, I now own and operate a company that offers website design and maintenance services. That’s something worth celebrating.
Next time you mess up on something, decide how you’re going to react. Then use that as fuel to better yourself and keep going strong.
You’re going to fall, get hurt, face rejection, feel embarrassed, and be let down. But if you want to be successful in any aspect in life – love, work, family, health, finance, spiritual, community, recreation – you will need to learn that failing really isn’t failure at all if it prepares you for the incredible journey ahead.
Remember, failure is inevitable. Failure is important. Failure is good for you.
Carlos Monteblanco founded the Portland-based digital marketing company, Good Aura, with the belief that positive energy brings positive results. Outside of helping businesses radiate excellence in their industries and local communities, Carlos has a strong love for photography, world travel, karaoke, fitness, and hilarious memes.