Oftentimes we feel like complete and utter failures. With the start of the new calender year, the exuberant nature of time shifting into a new paradigm can make us all set unrealistic expectations for ourselves resulting in a sense of failure when those expectations aren’t met and we fall back into comfortable and less than stellar habits– the very things that make us feel like failures perhaps.
For all the positivity and inspiration that is out there, it’s also important to acknowledge what led you into this less than desirable place: negativity. There’s nothing wrong with being negative sometimes– it’s when this negativity becomes habitual that problems arise. Many people have been conditioned to believe negative things about themselves or have observed influential people in their lives practicing negative self-speak and therefore learned that it is appropriate to behave negatively to themselves.
Sometimes this negative self speak is so ingrained that you don’t even recognize that it’s present in your vocabulary and way of being.
All the tips in the world on being positive, on affirming your life, on making positive change are totally lost on someone who still thinks about themselves negatively. If you don’t think you’re worthy, if you don’t think that you can make a change because you’re too stupid, too disorganized, too lame, or whatever then it won’t happen. Even though a popular joke has been made out of “failing,” this is not something that is compatible with success. You have to think positively enough about yourself to succeed or at least dispense with one bad habit at a time to make it to a place where you can embrace success.
So, when you fail— or rather when you feel you fail– then it is important to do a few things:
1. Hear the negative things running through your head.
When you feel that you’ve majorly botched something and you’re incapable of making things better at the moment, you might just let yourself sink into a deep and dark hole of sad, negative, self-bashing. The key to being successful is picking yourself back up and returning to try again. The more that you allow yourself to bash yourself, the harder it is to get back up. If you can see that every negative thought and word you speak to yourself is like a kick or a punch to your emotional body, then it makes sense that the more you beat yourself up the harder it is to get up.
When you’ve injured yourself by messing up, the thing that everyone needs is love and caring. This is the time more than any other to speak kindly to yourself and help to tend to the injuries. This is also the time that most succumb to all the most negative self beatings. It’s really too bad that we aren’t taught to be kinder to ourselves in the face of perceived frustration and failure. So, instead of lamenting on all that we could have learned to spare ourselves the battle of re-education, start anew now.
2.Reframe the negative things.
Take whatever you’re saying that’s negative and do your best to flip it into a positive. It may take some practice so it’s a good thing to write it down and keep practicing until you get it super positive.
For example: I’m so worthless.
The tendency might be to say: I am not worthless. This is a good start! Not can be negative. Finding a way to say you’re worth something without using negative words is the most positive that you can imagine! The best way to contradict the message you are worthless is by saying: I am worthy. There is no question about what your intended message is.
Your mind may automatically attempt to contradict this message by adding in another negative caveat. No, you’re not– you did this stupid thing. Of course it’s really easy to say, “yeah you’re right. I am worthless.” Maybe this is where you begin: flipping one negative thought. That’s some place and that’s a huge leap forward! If you’re ready to tackle another negative thought, you would flip that one as well. I am worthy. I messed up and I recognize that [I messed up]. I tried my best (or I could have tried harder (or at all)) [I acted this way] and next time I will know better [I am smart now]. You can address all the pieces of this statement one by one:
- You’re not worthy — I am worthy.
- You did this — I tried my best (or I could have tried harder, or I could have tried).
- It was stupid — I know better now for next time.
Your mind will either continue this cycle of judgment and criticism until you get tired and think “this is ridiculous! I’m done with this flipping thoughts deal!” and move on or until you feel better or your mind will say “Well there won’t be a next time– you screwed up so bad!”
Now if your mind decides to say that (There won’t be a next time you screwed up so bad!) then you’re really lucky! You get to reply: Great! I hope you’re right! I never want to deal with this situation again! Touche! Just like an argument between two differing parties, there isn’t really anything good for the mind today except repeat its onslaught of judgment or retreat and allow you some peace. Either and any way, this is the process.
3. Evaluate your “failure.”
It’s really easy to be harsh and judgmental on yourself for messing up– but did you really mess up? Was it something like you forgot to take out the trash and now you have to wait a week for the trash to be picked up? Sure that’s a bummer but in the grand scheme of things, you just forgot! It happens! Maybe there’s a deeper reason for your forgetfulness like too much stress, not enough sleep, or too many distractions. If you can step back from the horror of your “fail” then you can look and see the situation a bit more clearly. Say you got into a car accident:
- Why did you get into an accident? Not because you’re stupid or careless. Perhaps the light changed and you didn’t have enough time to stop. Well this is a lot less emotionally charged than saying you’re an idiot and you can’t see the red light. This question pertains to just the straight facts– no comments or criticisms.
- Why did you miss the light? Sometimes the lights change too rapidly or maybe you were distracted. This asks you to make some sort of a personal inquiry still using a more fact-based approached. Being distracted doesn’t mean you’re an idiot. It just means you were looking at your iPod for just long enough to miss the lights changing.
- Why were you distracted? You were looking at your iPod? Maybe you were day-dreaming about what you had to do for the rest of the day. Whatever the reason this is like tier 3 fact statement. As you investigate further, you see how the facts have become more self-reflective without being judgmental (or with the judgments easily being ignored: e.g. I was distracted because I’m an idiot. The distraction part is all you need to continue forward).
- What can you learn from this? You don’t need to ask yourself more whys unless the situation hasn’t been explained very well. You only need to ask yourself to explain the facts: Why? You got into an accident. Why? You were distracted with your iPod. What can you learn? You can ask yourself why you were distracted though the answer will become increasingly less useful (…because you wanted to put on different music, because you like music, because you wanted to hear music, because you didn’t want to drive in silence…) Instead, asking yourself what you can learn is much more helpful: I learned I should take time to set up a play list or put my music on random. I learned that I need to pay better attention to the road. I learned that I drive too often and I need to scale back what I’m doing in a day. There are many lessons that are available to learn but only a few that are applicable to you. Take some time to figure out what the lesson is.
Even if at any point there is negative self-speak attached to these thoughts, you can ignore it or flip it easily. For example: I learned that I drive too often (because I’m too fat and lazy to bike). Either you can say I’m very busy and rely on efficient transportation so I choose not to bike though I could use a break from the care or you can just ignore the judgment and figure out the neutral sentence reads: I realise I drive too often. Whatever works better for you.
4. Give yourself permission to mess up.
Now all the positive PR and flipping you do is only as good as you are receptive. In the end, you might really feel discouraged by your actions or choices. Just know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Even if you were chastised or have suffered greatly for your mistake, it happens. If we all knew what the best choice was in every moment and were gifted with hindsight and foresight for every choice, then we would likely choose in our best interests most (if not all) of the time. This is not the case so we have to go easy on ourselves. Even if you got yourself into a difficult and frustrating situation by not trying in the least to avoid it, you must have had a reason. Ask yourself why you didn’t try and you will be surprised what the answer is. Then you can give yourself permission to mess up! It’s okay that I messed up, I tried my best. Even if your mind wants to say “You didn’t try hard enough” or “you didn’t try at all!” the thing to keep in mind is that you always try your best in every moment. What is your best in one moment is not necessarily your best in the next. You must have compassion for yourself and the varying degrees to which your abilities shine. In one moment you can be a pro-skater and in the next an idiot boyfriend. In one moment you’re a calm and meditating yogi and the next you’re losing your cool for a silly reason. We really do give it our best in every moment despite what it looks like. Go easy on yourself for messing up.
4. Take Action.
Just flipping everything around in your mind is good to a point. After that point there needs to be action! So once you figure out what your problem is, it is up to you to take action to improve this problem! If you yelled at your child for sneaking candy behind your back for example, then you need to figure out what actions you can take to avoid this situation all together. Maybe you talk to your partner about the availability of candy in the house. Maybe you realize that you need to educate your child about healthier eating habits all around. Whatever the case may be, you must design a plan of action. No matter what the problem is, there is always a course of action that can be put into place. Find this course of action that is appropriate for the lesson you take away and for what you’re capable of doing and do your best to put this in place to avoid these frustrations in the future.
5. Apply it all.
The best way to keep on the up and up is to apply everything that you learn and everything that you say to yourself. As you make these transformations, it can be helpful to document them in a journal or on a piece of paper. If you use the paper, you can easily outline the entire process:
- I’m so stupid I ate a hamburger even though my fat ass needs to lose weight and I’m supposed to be on a diet.
- I ate a hamburger. I wanted to follow this diet perfectly. I want to be healthier and make better food choices.
- I think I waited too long to eat and made a poor choice because of my hunger.
- Now I know better and can make a better choice.
- I tried my best– it’s okay that I messed up. Now I know better and can make a better choice.
- Now I will prepare some snacks for myself so I’m prepared!
You can do it in your mind if that helps too. 🙂 However you decide to give yourself some slack, just do it! We have friends, family, and many people around us that are cheerleaders or not– we may not really have anyone. Looking to someone else to tell you what you need to do to be happy only works sometimes. Finding the voice within to help uplift yourself is the best way to approach and remain blissful.