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Jenny Gould Therapy

CBT, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Coaching




Handling Failure


By jenny Gould


We all fail.  That’s because we’re all fallible human beings.  And isn’t it ironic - perfectionists fail more often than the rest of us!  In fact they fail all the time, you see perfection is simply impossible.


I love this quote Ann Lamott’s  “Bird by Bird, Some instructions on Writing and Life”


Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life and is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.  I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die.  The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it”


What an affliction it is!


Actually the idea of ‘failure’ fascinates me.  As I write this  ‘Deal or No Deal’ is on the TV and the contestant, who started with such high hopes has just won himself the princely sum  of 1p.  Difficult to see that as anything else but failure!  Oh, we might say, it all depends how he views it. We could say.. he may not have won the money, but he’s managed to get himself on national TV…..  he handled himself well…  perhaps made some friends for life…. made some useful contacts.  But, be honest it might take him a while to see any of that!


It’s partly a question of control.  Success in that game is very much down to chance and so you have very little control over the outcome.  This prayer says it all  - ‘God grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’


The worst thing that can happen if you beat yourself up when things go wrong is that you develop a fear of failure.  You’ll feel paralysed at the prospect of being outside of your comfort zone and so you avoid trying new things.  


If you don’t fail sometimes then you aren’t really living your life!! Progress almost always includes setbacks.  So here are my top tips for surviving failure:


1.Ask yourself what you can learn from what happened - and then take some action – that helps to quickly rebuild your self confidence.


2.Remind yourself that all the most successful people have failed (often many times).  There are thousand of examples – just look around you.  Successful people don’t give up.  You could say failure is the foundation of success.


3.Think of it as a learning experience – something that will help you grow.


4.Was it really all your fault?  I often find when I work with people that they are so ready to blame themselves 100% when things go wrong, but invariably there are other contributing factors.  If however it really was your fault then face up to it.  Be gracious, embrace it and take responsibility.


5.Watch what you’re thinking – ‘I’m rubbish’,  ‘I’ll never make it’, ‘This always happens to me’ – negative thoughts will make you feel worse!


6.And watch what you’re saying – never say anything about yourself you don’t want to be true!


7.Remind yourself of your successes – write them down and take time to celebrate them. This is one of the ways to develop emotional resiliency.


8.We accept that our friends fail – are we so special then that we can’t allow ourselves to do the same?  Why not us?


9.Don’t allow a failure to affect your sense of yourself.  Some people let it seep in like a poison.  Learn from it and MOVE ON!!


10.And lastly let’s stop thinking in terms of success or failure!  It’s too black and white…too final!



"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."  Nelson Mandela


"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing  enthusiasm"  Winston Churchill.




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