Accepting failure is one of the hardest things we will ever experience. We can feel a sense of failure from a relationship that ends, to not getting a dream job at a dream company or not being accepted into a school we really want to attend. We are often faced with many challenges throughout our lifetime, and experiencing disappointments is inevitable. It can seem as though failure is a reflection of our worth as a person. We may think that we are not good enough, not lovable, not attractive enough or even that we are not smart enough. It is during this times that our self-esteem can take a huge tumble. What we can forget is that failure is a part of life. Sometimes situations that cause us to feel as though we failed, can also prevent us from seeing the many other possibilities that we have available to us. You may be thinking “but I really wanted or deserved that person, job, or position. Why are you mentioning other possibilities when I don’t want something else???” I mention other possibilities because if we’re fortunate enough to live long enough and to experience disappointments, we learn that sometimes the thing that we wanted the most, was in fact, not the best thing for us.
I’ll use one of my most painful life experiences as an example. I was in love with someone and thought that he and I would live happily ever-after. In my love-filled haze, I missed more than a few red-flags/warning signs including his unchecked substance use. He was not able to make a long-term commitment and after some time I eventually decided that it was best to leave. I remember feeling unlovable and not wanting to live because I was in so much pain and because life was “so unfair”. It wasn’t until some time had passed that I was able to look back on our relationship and see how dysfunctional our relationship was, and to realize how unhappy I had been with him. At the time I was unable to see the possibility of my life being happier without him, and even that there were healthier relationships available to me. I’m now able to recognize that not getting what I thought was going to be a happily ever-after relationship with him, was a good thing because our relationship was an unhappy and unhealthy one.
I know how hard it can be to not get something you really wanted. When you are struggling with not getting what you want, if can feel as though the world has or is going to end. If you’re struggling with not getting something you really wanted, I challenge you to think back on a time when you experienced something that felt like a failure that you didn’t know how you would bounce back from. How did you get through that painful experience? I think we can grow stronger with each failure if we take the time to reflect on how not getting what we wanted worked out for us in the long run. If we take the time to reflect and learn from the past, and be open to other possibilities, our present or future experiences of failure will not obliterate our self-esteem because our life experiences have made us wiser, stronger and more resilient.
Photo by Annie Spratt
Christina is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Oakland California.