Only the successful ones talk about their failures. There is a feeling of insecurity that comes with failing, and so it is fairly understandable that we often cannot talk about our failures while we are not yet successful. Much more than the insecurities, there is also a feeling of shame that makes us want to, or actually personalize our failures. What this does, is take one event, and amplify it into many other possibly nonexistent or imagined problems.
Personalizing failure makes it harder for us to recover from it and move on. So why do we personalize failure when it happens? In my experience, it is really difficult to sit in silence with the sometimes overwhelming feeling of sadness that comes with failing. As humans, we immediately try to fill the lonely vacuum with any thought that we can come up with. Our internal chatter starts to wreak havoc, especially if we are unaware of how sneaky and thoughtless that voice can be.
Sometimes, we try to find a unique way to deal with our failure, and end up in an endless spiral. This is dangerous, because this is the point where most people decide not to try again. At this point, the trauma sticks and the individual may never try to resolve this trauma in a health way.
To keep things simple, failure is just failure. It does not mean any other thing apart from that! Every one of us have failed at something at least once in our lifetimes, and if it has not happened yet to you, then we have a global genius in our midst! To be candid, failure can serve as a pointer to something that we may have failed to do or did too much of. It may be what we need to break us open and allow our greater self to emerge. In essence, failure points to deed, not being. So personalizing failure is a form of mental and emotional laziness.
This is where the concept of a growth mindset really functions to help us look at things objectively. With a growth mindset, we are better able to see failure as something that comes to make us evaluate more of what we are doing instead of who we are. A person with a growth mindset acknowledges failure as a verb, e.g. “I failed”. A person who has personalized failure acknowledges it as a noun, e.g. “I am a failure”. How we acknowledge failure greatly impacts our thought sequences towards finding and solving the problems that led to the failure.
If we acknowledge failure as a verb, then we are more poised to take actions towards making changes, and we may start by asking questions like, “what do I have to do next?”. However, if we see failure as a noun and name ourselves with it, then we are more likely to think, “there is nothing I can do about this”, and resign to our self-invented fate! Failure is a difficult thing to deal with, and if you are surrounded by over achievers, it can be a very lonely process because they may not be able to relate.
While we have not found something that is harder to deal with than failure in this post, we have to stay courageous when faced with it. Most success stories are contained in series of failures that were met with greater forces of determination. We only win to the extent that we believe we can. So, when failure breaks into your space, sit with it for a while, wrestle it if you will, cry it out, but never take it personal!