- can I salvage this failure?
- can I turn this failure into something else that’s just as good?
- how bad is this failure really?
- is there a lesson that I can learn from this experience?
Being disappointed in ourselves is an utter waste of time. We get discouraged when things don’t go quite right, while the very act of doing so only reduces the chances of us being successful past that point! It’s a vicious circle that only feeds into our own negativity and worsens who we are.
The next time you’re about to mercilessly beat yourself up over a failure, here’re some questions you need to ask yourself first:
Unfortunate as it is, the lesson many of us take from society is that if we’re not #1, then we’ve lost entirely. You’re either a winner or a loser — nothing else is acceptable save being on top.
Can anyone else see how ridiculous that is? You can’t possibly be the best at everything! I’m not about to stop you from trying, but we are not all created equally. For the most part, we share the same DNA — but for all other sakes and purposes, we are highly individual.
So how then do we expect the best expression of this individuality to be the attempt to be the best possible replica of someone else? How is being the next Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Björk, Penelope Cruz or Gandhi going to help you be a better you?
We need to do better at celebrating the things we can do and move from this belief that we should feel lesser because someone else is better at embracing their God-given gifts. If we can do that, then we’ll all be just fine.
But the world is far bigger than one person alone.
Why do we feel shame? Is it because we’re well aware that we’re doing something that society frowns on? Probably not, since society is an intangible concept and impersonal; when we do something, we never worry about how we’ll have to answer to society! Perhaps it’s because we worry about the repercussions of continuing our actions that’re seen as shameful? Again, I don’t think that’s quite it — it wouldn’t explain why smokers can feel bad about puffing away, but still do so despite the hazards attached to it, or why people feel remorse if they relapse after going through a rehab program.
It’s because while disappointing ourselves is one thing, disappointing the people we care about is a whole other matter. What do we do when we disappoint others? Unfortunately, it’s not an answer that’s nearly so simplistic. Too often do we make commitments to others that we’re not actually capable of completing. Whether it’s bad timing, poor planning or the simple problem of saying “yes” one time too often, all of us have done it at one time or another.
How do we avoid disappointing others? And if we can’t avoid it, what can we do about it when it happens?
Disappointment is such a powerful thing — it’s one of the feelings that can dissolve trust, and it can linger indefinitely if it’s left unaddressed. So if you’ve disappointed someone, avoiding speaking to them about it is definitely not the way to go! It’s something you need to reconcile as quickly as you can — sometimes it’ll take a grand gesture to show that you’re sorry. Sometimes it’ll be a long haul, redeveloping their trust so that they’ll feel comfortable asking things of you again. Everyone reacts differently to disappointment, but the most important thing is being genuinely sorry for having messed up, and having the willingness to fix things.
We can’t be perfect all of the time. But we can stop a bad situation from getting worse by recognizing when we’ve done something wrong, getting past ourselves, and making the effort to make it all right again.
If only the world could learn this lesson….
–Casey E. Palmer