“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
There’s nothing like good old-fashioned failure to send your self-confidence into a nose dive.
I’m not talking about the little flubs and foibles of life.
I’m talking big, fat, fall-on-your-face failure.
Failure like . . .
getting fired from your job;
loosing a major account;
flunking the final exam;
forgetting your big speech;
your business going belly-up;
your marriage ending;
not following through on a major goal;
making poor life choices that hurt yourself or others.
If you’ve experienced a major life failure, as most of us have, the memory of the experience likely still stings. And perhaps your self-confidence has never fully recovered from the blow.
When you fail to live up to expectations, your own or others, it’s like stepping into an open manhole and landing in the pit of despair. At first, you simply want to huddle at the bottom and pray someone will cover the manhole and leave you with your misery.
But eventually, you must face the light of day and find a way to resume your life and regain your dignity. After a big life failure, it’s natural to feel shell-shocked and insecure. Your weakness, inability to perform, or bad decisions have been spotlighted for the entire world to see. It seems nothing will boost your self-confidence ever again.
For some people, the wounds of these fiascoes are so profound they never recover their confidence. Their self-esteem is compromised, and they sink into malaise or depression which further undermines their feelings of worthiness and competency. This becomes a vicious cycle driving them further and further away from success and happiness.
Fortunately, most people eventually recover from life failures and can move past them. But the scars are ever-present and flare up again when one is faced with the prospect of taking risk or attempting any endeavor similar to the previous failure. They live a compromised life, never fully reaching their potential or experiencing the richness of life for fear of failing again.
However, low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence, even after a colossal bungle. It is possible to boost your self-confidence and recover more quickly from failure when you are determined to do so — if you know how.
Here are some great tips on how to boost confidence and self-esteem after the initial shock of failure passes.
Pick over the ashes Once you are back on your feet, revisit the failure to find nuggets of information and areas of personal growth. What did you learn from this failure to help you become a stronger and better person in the future? What would you do differently? How do you need to make amends, right a wrong, or correct a mistake? It’s not pleasant to look at the evidence of your failure, but this analysis and reflection show emotional maturity and resolve. Facing your failure forthrightly and learning from it will boost self-confidence immediately.
Put it in context A big failure does not define your entire life. It may feel that way at first, but try to perceive it within the context of everything else in your life. You’ve had plenty of successes. You’ve accomplished many things and done well in many areas of your life. The pain of failure taints your perceptions and paints your life with the broad brushstroke of negativity. But consciously regain control of your perceptions, and remind yourself of these positive things. Remind yourself that failure doesn’t define your essential character, your intelligence, or your future.
You likely will need to practice this positive thinking repeatedly until you begin to believe it and feel confident again. But eventually, your feelings will catch up to your thoughts.
Build your skills One of the best cures for low confidence is gaining mastery or proficiency in areas where you failed. If your failure was caused by lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or lack of skill — then figure out what you need to do to gain the preparation, knowledge or skill — and go do it. With practice and time, you will feel more confident in your abilities.
As you study other people who are successful at the endeavor you are polishing, you’ll set a standard for yourself which will make you feel more secure about the likelihood of success the next time.
Cut your losses Sometimes failure is a painful clue we’re doing the wrong thing, with the wrong person, or working against our authentic selves. This is a great time to examine whether or not you need to move in a different direction entirely. Ask yourself the deeper questions that will lead you to the best decisions and choices. Is this the career I really want? Are these the people who feel like my “tribe?” Am I really suited for a management position? Is my former spouse (or business partner) really the right type of person for me?
Taking the time to know yourself, your inner desires, your aptitudes and preferences, will help you avoid future failures. In general, it is best to play to your strengths, live according to your own values, and follow your inner wisdom — rather trying to be something or someone you’re not.
Face your fears Once your self-confidence has a small foothold, begin taking small and manageable steps to stretch yourself, to try again. Act in spite of your fear of failure, which will not truly dissipate until you challenge it. Use what you learned from your failure to help you recalibrate, and then get back in the saddle again and take a few steps forward. Push yourself slightly past your comfort zone every time you try.
This is a great time to have an accountability partner or coach who can help you continue to move forward by challenging and supporting you. Lean into your fear and accept it as a natural response to the aftermath of failure. But don’t allow it to control you. If you allow fear to have the upper hand, your self-confidence will remain harnessed to it. View your fear as a small child that needs comfort, but one that also needs a firm hand and mature direction. Let your higher self, the self who knows you to be strong and capable, be in charge.
If a failure has sabotaged your self-confidence, please know you do have the power to turn it around. You can boost your confidence as you practice these skills and regain your trust and belief in yourself. Do you have an experience rebuilding your confidence after failure? Please share it with us in the comments below.