The Right Way to Cope With Failure
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The Right Way to Cope With Failure

So, you f*cked up at work. Like, really bad. Maybe you tanked an important job interview, or accidentally sent a NSFW email that was meant for your work BFF to the whole company. Maybe your business failed, or you got fired. Whatever the failure is, our first instinct is to crawl into a hole of self pity and only return to the real world after we’ve beaten ourselves up enough times. Not only does this method make you feel even shittier, it doesn’t prevent you from making the same failure again in the future. There has to be a better way to cope, right?

This week on, we’re looking failure in the eye and making a vow to Fail Fearlessly this year—and beyond. Because always succeeding is like… really boring.

Failure exists on a spectrum. Some failures are generally understood by society as inappropriate or unacceptable. Things like sleeping with your friend’s partner. Or cheating on a test. But most failures are more nuanced and less catastrophic—it’s our own perception of said failure that often gets blown out of proportion. Perfectionists will know this one all too well. When we frame failure as everything except perfection, that’s when things get extra tricky. Then, no matter what, your actions will never be good enough. And that’s exhausting.

If you had a recent f*ck up in your work life, and don’t know whether it’s a full-blown crisis, nbd or somewhere in between, we asked Dr. Jenny Wang, a licensed psychologist, speaker and author of Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans, to help us craft some questions to ask yourself before you go into panic mode. Think of this as your official failure coping guide to come back to when life kicks you in the ass… again.

Time and space

You’re still reeling from a recent failure. Emotions are high, you’re filled with regret and all you want to do is go back in time and change what happened. These questions will help you start to understand why you failed.

Will this failure matter in a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now?

Will this failure hinder my long-term goals?

Was this failure in my control? Was it all my responsibility?

People and skills

Now, it’s time to look outside of yourself and see who—and what—played a factor in this failure. These questions will help you shift your perspective.

Was the reason I failed because I didn’t know how to do something? Was I lacking skills?

Did this failure affect anyone else? If so, who? How does it affect them?

Who was there for me when I failed? Who was not? Was the lack of support the reason I failed?

If it was my friend who failed and not me, would I see the failure in the same way

Looking ahead

You’ve spent your time reflecting and replaying your failure over and over again—and now it’s time to forgive yourself. These questions will help you move on.

What did I learn from this failure?

Did anything good come out of this failure?

Is there anything I can do to fix this failure?

What do I need to get through this failure?

When the time comes, what can I do to move on from this failure?

How can I widen my understanding of “a failure” and “a success,” so it isn’t just one or the other?

We hope these prompts helped to shift your perspective on your failure. Let us guess: It probably wasn’t as big of a deal as you initially thought, right? If you want to continue to improve your relationship with failure (and hey, maybe learn to not be afraid of it), check out the rest of our Fail Fearlessly package here.

Celebrating Your Failures Feels Weird—But it Works
Why Do We Always Have to Learn Something From Failure?
The Best Books, Podcasts and Affirmation Tracks About Failure
From Our DMs: Your Worst Work F*ckups