It’s a natural human impulse – if something causes discomfort, we avoid it, and if we can’t avoid it, we seek to resolve it. When we squabbled with our siblings, we apologized and put hurt feelings to the side. We accommodate others to avoid frayed tempers and ugly arguments. We seek to resolve conflict, to stay away from uncomfortable situations and ignore troubling feelings. We dislike vulnerability in ourselves and in others.
But discomfort and failure are powerful teachers, and when we explore those uncomfortable feelings, we often come out the other side stronger, wiser and more in touch with what we really want.
Think about what you have been able to accomplish in the past despite discomfort and adversity and apply those lessons to future challenges. Don’t berate yourself when you fall short – instead, reflect on what you could have done differently.
Author, researcher and therapist Brene Brown writes that while “I am a screwup” and “I screwed up” sound very similar, there’s a vast gulf between them. The subtle change in language allows us to accept our imperfections without the crippling addition of shame. When we give ourselves permission to be imperfect, we are more able to embrace failure as a powerful tool for self-improvement.
The Buddhist nun Pema Chodron urges people to be gentle in the way they talk to themselves and think about why we say certain things when we experience failure. Ask yourself why you feel the way you do, and consider that maybe the real problem not that you are a failure, but that you are just hurting.
When we embrace our failures, lean into our discomfort and seek to grow and change, we also embrace humanity’s best qualities – empathy, kindness, generosity and openness.
So the next time you experience a major disappointment, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, learn from your missteps, treat yourself kindly and emerge from your failure as a better, stronger person.
Image by Gerd Altmann