Dealing With Failure

dealing with failure

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Dealing with failure is a part of life, for everyone, all over the planet. It’s how we learn from our mistakes; not to do things that hurt us, endanger us or make us feel bad. But for those of us who deal with anxiety and depression, it can become bigger than it should.

When I first went to the doctor about how I was feeling, the only way I could describe my emotions to him was overwhelmed and a failure. I felt like I was failing at everything. Friendships, family relationships, being a good girlfriend and mother, work, life. You name it, as far as I was concerned, everyone would be so much better off if I wasn’t around.

Don’t mistake this for a suicide wish. I have never wanted to hurt myself, or kill myself thankfully. Regardless of how low I feel, a part of me is always aware of how much I would hurt people by taking my own life.

But I so desperately wanted to run away. To go somewhere where no one knew me, start again and pretend I was someone else.

The problem with that; is that the feeling was inside me, not outside; and so wherever I go, the feelings go too.

Here’s how I have tackled my feeling of failure over the years.


dealing with failure

Accept that you have an illness which isn’t your fault

First of all, at the suggestion of my doctor, I referred myself to the Mind charity to get some CBT help. I had to visit a therapist to determine which course of CBT would be right for me. After some initial questions and conversation, we decided a group session course would be best.

I was nervous and worried about sharing my feeling with a brunch of strangers, but at this point, I figured how can it get any worse?

Attending these sessions did me the world of good. Not only was I able to see that I was most definitely not alone in my problems, but the therapists also helped us to understand why our bodies react the way they do. That it is a basic survival instinct that makes our bodies do these things. The problem is the reasons our bodies are acting out.

For example, in centuries past, if you were confronted with a tiger, it would be a natural response for your body to act with an anxious response to make you run, fight or freeze.

However, in today’s hectic lives, our bodies react the same way in regards to a heavy workload, being around too many people or even gong to the supermarket. We worry about the situation, and our body interprets this as a survival situation.

Understanding this helped me so much. To realise that I wasn’t broken, just a little bent out of shape, made me feel like less of a failure.

It was explained to us that everyone has a ‘glass’ and our stresses, anxieties, worries, trauma, and so on are like drops of water dripping into that glass. But here’s the thing; Some peoples’ glasses are bigger than others, and you don’t get a choice on how big your glass is.

So for those of us with slightly smaller glasses, ours get filled up pretty quickly and then the water spills over and that’s when we feel overwhelmed, severe anxiety, depression and a myriad of other things. While we feel that we are silly or a failure for breaking down when others seem so strong in the face of worse, it’s not our fault. We were given a smaller glass. Dealing with failure looks different for everyone.

Write down your worries and spend time with them

We were encouraged to keep a worry diary. Every time we felt worried about something, writing it in our diary, but setting a time every day when we will allow ourself 30 minutes to worry about the things we have mentioned. I can’t tell you how many times I got to my ‘worry time’ and found at least a quarter of my worries had already been solved. Either because they never came to pass or because I made them bigger than they were.

As you go through your worries, sort them into two categories, those things you have control over, and the things you cant control. Everything you cant control you need to let go of. I know that it’s hard, but if you can’t do anything about it, why worry about it? Worrying won’t solve the problem, it just hurts you.

For everything you can control, make a plan to fix it and do it.

You will feel so much satisfaction and release as you cross your worries off your list as you fix them.

Adopt a plan-do-review mindset

In any goal-setting strategy, business or life ambition, you should have a plan. If you think about the things you feel a failure at, try to get really specific.


“I feel like I’m failing at work.”


“Because I’m underperforming on my targets.”


“Because I can’t seem to get the staff to perform better.”

This is when the why stops. Why is it my job to make sure the staff perform better? Because I’m a manager, but if they aren’t doing well enough that’s on them, not me.

So I make a plan:

  • Talk to staff that are underperforming to get them to take accountability for their actions
  • Coach and encourage for improvement
  • Review and revise as necessary
  • Praise good results, discipline bad results
  • Review and revise

and so on. If we feel like we are dealing with failure, we should address it, not worry about it. Worrying does not get anyone anywhere. So we need to figure out how to fix the problem. It is not always easy to find the reasons behind our feelings so it can help to do ‘the why’ approach to get to the root of the problem. If necessary enlist a friend to help you get there.

Try to accept your responsibility in the failure

If you feel like a failure, try to determine if it’s because you have actually failed, or if you are misinterpreting the signs. For example, if you have a social event and you don’t attend, you haven’t failed anyone except yourself. But did you cancel because you needed some you time? Then that’s a win for your self-care. If you cancelled because you couldn’t face the thought of lots of people, that’s avoidance. A blip in your recovery, not a failure.

It’s better to look for an explanation for the so-called failure, rather than an excuse for why it happened. This way you can learn from it and work on how to do things differently should the incident arise again.

Recognise the opportunity to learn from any failures

Dealing with failure only occurs because something went wrong. Whether it is out of your control of not, you can always learn from it. What went wrong? How can you make sure that it doesn’t happen again? Make a plan so that it won’t happen again.

Face your fear of failure

It’s important to understand if you are afraid of failing. Facing your fears makes them less frightening. It’s how we tackle phobias. By exposing ourselves to the things we are afraid of until it no longer seems frightening, we can start to look it more objectively.


To finish up

Failure is subjective. You may feel like you’ve failed at something, failed someone, failed yourself. But it doesn’t mean its true. In most cases, dealing with failure is simply a learning curve. We all make mistakes, and we should all learn from them to grow and become who we are becoming.

Dealing with failure doesn’t mean anyone will see you as less than you are, or stop loving you.

You are absolutely not the only person in the world to fail!

Have you ever felt like a failure? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!


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Related reading:

Acceptance – why it’s hard and how to practice it

Cognitive behavioural therapy – does it work?

How to accept yourself as you are