How I'm Choosing to Reframe My Failures

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December 14, 2015

In the past, I never would have called myself a perfectionist. Especially in high school, I was pretty successful, quite honestly, in most of the things I did. As a result, I never had to worry or stress out about messing something up. I'm not sure when exactly that changed, when I stopped forgiving myself for getting a B or taking a lazy day. But I did, and it's changed the way I treat myself.

Sometimes, we need to be real with ourselves about our failures. We can't ignore our mistakes. But at the same time, if we dwell on our mistakes so long that we don't let ourselves fix them...we're only hurting ourselves more. That's what I've been doing lately. I've been beating myself up for anything less than perfection so much that I don't have the energy left to pick myself back up and keep going.

I know some of you probably understand this feeling--especially in finals week, when emotions run high and the threat of failure is sitting in the back of our brain just reminding us that it's a possibility. With all that fear of failure, it's easy to feel like any mistake or flaw is the one that will end it all and make it impossible for us to get back on our path of success. You feel me on this? Like if I spend an hour watching TV when I should be studying, then all of a sudden, I'm telling myself that I'm not a discliplined person, that I'm not going to do well, that I don't have what it takes to have success in life.

That's just not true, none of it.

There are a few things that I've been telling myself instead.

I heard an analogy on Gretchen Ruben's podcast "Happier". On it, she (or someone else, I can't remember) compared our own failures to a chef trying out a new recipe. If a chef, even the most skilled chef in the world, wants to try a new dish, chances are, he or she will try it many times. Cooking it different ways. Trying new ingredients. Plating it differently each time. Every time the chef starts again, they are nixing the last dish they made. But...we wouldn't call that a failure, would we? Because it's a necessary and natural step of the path to making a delicious, new dish.

And it's really the same for us. If we reframe the way we look at our mistakes and failures, we can keep them from stopping us. This is my goal now. Instead of my own mental mistreatment, I try to turn things around and even if I don't believe them at first, repeating these things until I do take them as truth.

Failing means I challenged myself.

Failing means I attempted something above mediocre.

Failure gives me a chance to pick myself up and try again, doing a little better each time.

Failure doesn't not mean I won't succeed in the future.

Failure is teaching me humility and perseverance.

Failure is building a more resilient spirit inside me.

Failure makes the victories all the more triumphant.

Every time I go through this list, a different phrase will resonate with me, and it's probably the same for you. I've been writing them down on a physical piece of paper and posting them right above my desk, because those failures will inevitable continue to come.

How do you deal with feeling like you've failed yourself?

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