After Failure

Consider how you treat yourself after you experience failure. Do you engage in self-criticism, shaming thoughts, or take inventory of your shortcomings or bad luck? Now ask yourself how you would treat a good friend who experienced a similar failure. I’ve noticed, we will say things to ourselves that we would never say to our worst enemy. The reason is most people are compassionate by nature. Most wouldn’t dream of intentionally hurting a fellow human being, yet they will do so to themselves.

The result of this self-deprecating behavior is lowered self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and depressive thoughts affecting your desire to ever attempt anything again.

Recovering from a setback is hard enough without the weight of additional negative thoughts. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Christopher Germer, Ph.D. suggests that the best way to recover emotionally is to approach ourselves with self-compassion. He notes the benefits of doing so can include the ability to self-soothe, identify mistakes and learn from them, and increase motivation toward future attempts.

Germer identifies three components necessary to receive maximum benefits from self-compassion:

  • Mindfulness. Awareness of what’s going on in the present moment. Name the emotions you’re feeling when distressed and ground yourself by noticing sensations, sounds, and sights around you.
  • Common humanity. Knowing you’re not alone and understanding that struggles are a part of life. Recognize that others would also feel the same if faced with a similar failure.
  • Self-kindness. A warm-hearted response to yourselves offering encouragement and validating how you feel. Sometimes it includes simple acts such as a phone call to a friend, listening to soothing music, or a walk outside.
Self-compassion is a skill that must be practiced to be effective. It is not a normal response when faced with a failure.

Get in the habit of being self-compassionate each day. The next time you face distress you will experience success in supporting yourself through it.

Written By: Ann Sheerin, LPC

Article Updated: July 2, 2024