My Relationship With Failure

Failure is no stranger to me.  And I’m still very rigid about it.  I did well in school growing up and began to internalize that my worth came from my grades or accomplishments.  By the time outside forces no longer pressured this success from me, I was pressuring myself, and I still do.  Failure is exceptionally hard for me because of this fact.  I take it very personal and see it as an extension of myself or value.

It often stops me in my tracks.  I do of course, eventually overcome that wall of feelings.  But sometimes that can take a day, or two, or a week, depending on the particular situation.  Failure has impacted how I learn.  I learn for grades instead of understanding which causes even more stress within my education.  I do find that failure in personal projects affects me less because essentially, I’m grading myself.  If I mess up in a personal project I’m really the only one that knows and I don’t attribute that to affecting my future, like I do my education.  There’s less opportunity for catastrophic thinking.

I’ve worked over the years to improve it but I’m still not where I want to be.  There is however improvement and I plan to continue of this path.

Failure Triggers

Everyone considers failure differently.  Most of what I consider failure is not perceived that way by others.  But for many in their early 20s, it can include some of the following.

  • Poor academic performance
  • Downs in friendships or relationships
  • Comparing oneself to others
  • Not getting a job
  • Getting fired from a job
  • Missing an opportunity
  • Making small mistakes repeatedly
  • Investing time in something that fails
  • Criticism from others
  • Poor financial situations

To get through these, we have to re-frame our mindset around failure.  It is by no means easy or an overnight process.  I’ve been working 6 years to undo the origin of how I handle these feelings.

What Is Failure?

Failure is just something that didn’t work.  Maybe it was in your control and maybe it wasn’t.  Nonetheless you have learned and grown from this experience.  Obviously there are varying degrees of failure and some are more serious than others, but I try to work with the small ones the most so I can handle the larger failures along the way.

Failure is needed.  Slow growth (or none at all) comes from not failing.  And if the fear of failure is too not strong you do not try at all.  That prolonged my Etsy store for 7 months.  Not everything was perfect and I didn’t know if it would work.  But eventually I said enough and tried anyway.  And I still messed up but that’s okay!  I created better processes because of that and the organization of the business is much better as a whole because of it.

You can’t anticipate everything and it’s rare everything will go completely right.  In life or entrepreneurship.  Use those experiences to better yourself and / or your business.

Encourage yourself to fail.  Find what works, find what doesn’t.  The more you fail the less you’ll care and the more equipped you’ll be to handle it.

Post Failure

Failing is easy, dealing with it is not.  Be gentle to yourself afterwards and document what you have learned.

Know it’s okay to be sad.  A lot of people say get right back up, don’t have a pity party.  But if you need a three hour pity party, have one!  It’s okay to complain to your friends or family.  It’s okay to feel negative emotions for a while before you can try again.  The important part is trying again.  You do not have to be positive with every setback you run into.  You just need to overcome.

Apply the new knowledge you found.  Failing is pointless if nothing is done with the knowledge you gained.

We all know it’s not easy.  But it’s a commitment and you’ll be better off embracing it than running away.

Get out!  Do things!  Mess up!  Do more things!


If you ever want to reach out about this topic or share a success story, please contact me at nicole@ngrinsell.com

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