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Coping With Failure Constructively

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Even if our body image is in a good place, for some of us, the insecurities still linger. They simply morph.

So it’s no longer fears over a bigger belly but concerns over the perfect prose. It’s no longer wanting smaller thighs but worrying if you’ve said the wrong thing.

Either way, you end up in the same place: growing self-doubt, diminished self-confidence.

You make one mistake, and suddenly you’re a failure. You forget to do something, and you’re a fraud. You don’t understand something, and you’re a wannabe.

It’s amazing how the smallest things can suddenly erase years of work (the work of improving your confidence, self-esteem). This has happened to me countless times.

Some days I desperately wish there was a magic secret to unwavering self-confidence. (If I find it, I’ll let you know.) That there was no more struggle or pain. That self-doubt would slither away. For good.

But, unfortunately and fortunately, there’s always more growing to be done. And in order to learn these powerful lessons, it’s important to cope with “failure” constructively. To move from hating ourselves for making a mistake to seeing “failure” for what it is: a stepping stone to success, a lesson in self-care, an eye-opener for our relationship with ourselves or others. A hundred lessons to be learned.

Jen Louden shares several helpful ways for coping with “failure” constructively in her empowering book The Woman’s Comfort Book.

  • Write yourself a love letter. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I want to do when I make a mistake or “fail” in some way is flog myself. The last thing I want to do is be kind. But self-compassion is so important. According to Jen, “Pour all the love you can muster into this note of self-acceptance. Mail and read it when it arrives.”
  • Focus on what you’ve learned. Jen also suggests making a list of 50 things you learned from whatever you think you failed. Let’s say you turned to food for comfort, again, which you consider a “failure.” Maybe you learned that you turn to food when you’re sleep-deprived or when you forget to tune into your body. Maybe you learned that it’s OK to overeat emotionally sometimes. Maybe you learned that you need to have a better support system, or to set better boundaries. Our so-called failures can actually be great teachers — and lead to greater self-awareness and more satisfying lives.
  • Focus on how you survived. At first it can seem like you’ll never get over this failure, but you will. And you have. Jen suggests remembering 10 other times when you failed but survived.
  • Take a break. “Lick your wounds by retreating from the world,” Jen writes. Engage in activities that soothe, calm and rejuvenate you.
  • Create comfort cards. What are the quotes or words that comfort you when you’re feeling  down and disappointed in yourself? Write them on index cards (or whatever  you have), and place them throughout your house, office, purse, wherever. Everyone needs reminders from time to time. (You can borrow a few ideas from this.)

Failure may not feel good at the time. Often it feels downright painful. But it offers us an opportunity to learn, grow and blossom.

Even if there’s no lesson in sight, there’s always the lesson of choosing to accept ourselves despite the mistake.

Walking hesitantly on the path toward growth and self-acceptance is always better than sprinting to the dark place of self-loathing and destructive thoughts.

How do you deal with failure? What helps you be kind to yourself?  

Coping With Failure Constructively

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2014). Coping With Failure Constructively. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Mar 2014
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