Sad Person

How to deal with a failure

An essential aspect of life that most of us find challenging to deal with is a failure. It seems as though humanity has taken coping with setbacks as an innate quality in most human beings. With the competitive landscape getting intense in the contemporary age, individuals often sway away from achieving their goals and face hurdles in reaching their desired results. 


A plethora of negativity mainly accompanies failure. Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, embarrassment, and fear of failing again fill an individual’s brain. With little or no support from the external environment, a person might slowly feel that they aren’t good enough to accomplish their goals. The approach towards life and behavior towards near and dear ones might become passively aggressive.  Such a state needs to be dealt with by every individual with utmost care towards one’s mental wellbeing.

Failure can occur in various dimensions, and these parameters also vary from person to person. While somebody might treat failing a class test as a grave concern, others might think that losing the inter-school basketball match was a more significant failure. Whatever be the magnitude of the loss, it’s essential to deal with it to the best of an individual’s capacity. While “small” failures heal with time by engaging oneself in other constructive activities, major setbacks might take more out of an individual and, in extreme cases, might require medical attention. I am going to discuss some of the ways that might help to deal with such setbacks.


The first step to accepting a defeat is to normalize it. It is perfectly okay to fail, and there won’t be a person on this planet who hasn’t experienced a failure ever in their life. Remind yourself that it is a typical process that every individual goes through- this might convince you that failures are just a part of life. If you couldn’t ace your exam or nail your interview, understand that every master was once a novice. There’s always a lot more to learn from your failures than your successes will ever teach you.  Try to take it as a stepping stone to win rather than a setback or non-validation of your abilities. Try analyzing where you went wrong, what better you could have done, and what’s the way forward to apply your learnings from this experience. I have failed in my initial days in the stock markets. My trades didn’t go as I had predicted them to, but that didn’t make me apprehensive; instead, I took the learnings out of it as an invaluable experience that helped me crack finance interviews later. 


Flower of Failure and Success

Avoid planting the irrational beliefs that are associated with failures in your mind. You might start thinking people do not respect individuals who fail or people who often fail never succeed. Convince yourself that these are irrational beliefs emerging out of social stereotypes. Reality tells us that people who learn from their losses are more likely to become successful. Researching the internet for famous failure to success stories might help motivate and convince you in this regard.

Failing to make it big for an event you have been preparing for months or years can sometimes be devastating. This burden might ease by not keeping such experiences personal. Sharing your emotions with people you trust and who care about you can immensely help you cope with it. Sometimes words of comfort and validation from your near and dear ones can work wonders in boosting your confidence. 

Setting up new goals might prove effective in forgetting a recent setback. Try reframing achievable goals to gain them and increase self-confidence before moving onto more complex goals. For instance, if you’ve failed to win the gold medal in the annual karate event, try aiming for a podium finish next year before setting your aim at the gold medal again. This way, the fulfillment of the target through intermediate goal completion gives you a sense of better self-esteem and confidence.

Above all, time is the best healer. Remind yourself of past successes or how you’ve dealt with failures in the past to reinstall your belief. Remind yourself how you might have aced a challenging course in college or high school, how you’ve come back from behind to win a difficult match. Past positive memories are equally crucial as acknowledging your faults in failures. Try understanding your shortcomings and how you’ve overcome those in the past.

In the end, understand that life gives plenty of chances. It’s only a matter of time before your hard work gets rewarded. Be patient because success comes only at the right time, which varies for individuals. Everyone shares a unique journey and goes about their own pace. Eventually, it all comes to a fulfilling ending in life. As the famous dialogue goes, ultimately, everything has a happy ending, and if it is not pleasant, it’s not the end.


Having tried the above methods might help to come out of setbacks with a rejuvenated perspective. However, In extreme cases, when you feel like you’ve lost interest in your daily activities and you are obsessed with negative thoughts of failure, consider consulting a psychiatrist. 


Bio: “Swarnadeep Ghosh is a first-year MBA student of IIM Calcutta. He is a part of the Unilever Changemakers program and believes in sustainability in business. He is a member of the student-run investment fund team of IIM Calcutta. Being an animal lover at heart, he runs feeding and adoption campaigns for strays.”


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