Have you ever failed so spectacularly you struggle to even take care of yourself? Along with embarrassment and frustration, depression and grief arrive and seem like they will never go away?
Of course, you are grieving the loss of your hopes and dreams. Your plans have all been shattered and ruined. What can you do? Pep talks aren’t going to help. It’s hard to get yourself into a place of higher reasoning, you are too low to even think that way.
Let’s get really real here, how do you even muster up the will to keep going from moment to moment? Because sometimes it’s about just getting through to tomorrow.
Where do you find the energy to keep going–keep eating, sleeping, showering and LIVING when all you really want to do is disappear into the lonely, dark hole of depression and failure?
Face Your Perfectly Imperfect Self
As hard as this sounds, here’s one thing you must do right now: Get up out of your bed or off the floor. Wipe the stinging tears off your red, raw cheeks and go look at yourself in the mirror.
Look without shame, look even if your eyes are rimmed in tears and your skin is all blotchy. Just look at yourself, really, really LOOK.
What do you see?
Do you see a scared little boy or girl who’s trying their hardest and yet is afraid of not being recognized for doing their best?
Do you see a human? A human being crying out to be loved and accepted even if they’re not totally perfect?
Do you see YOU in all your glory, YOU and all your imperfect perfections?
And I hope you can to.
Successful People Also Fail
If you’re there right now, crying at your own reflection and feeling like a mistake of a human being, don’t be ashamed. You’re in good company. Many successful people have failed spectacularly. I honestly believe failure leads to success, but only IF you get up and keep trying, again and again.
No matter what, failure totally sucks, there’s no way around it. If you’ve failed at something and are feeling low right now, let me help you out a little bit because I’ve been there–ugly crying with splotchy red-faced sobs, snot coming out of my nose, thinking tomorrow is never going to come and that I’ve ruined everything.
Don’t worry. Tomorrow will come and it won’t be nearly as terrible as you’ve imagined.
But until then, I’ve compiled a list of six things I’ve learned along my own bumpy way that might help you out. I’m not claiming to be some guru who’s already perfected this shit, no–no way. But these are things I learned the hard way, while picking myself up from the wreckage of my own failed dream and I hope my experiences help you somehow.
Six Things You Can Do Right NOW To Take Care of Yourself When you Feel Like a Failure:
1. Love Yourself
Okay, are you ready? Go back into that bathroom and look in that mirror. Go back in there every single day until you can look deeply into your own eyes with real, compassion and love. Until you can gaze back with complete acceptance of all that you have been, all that you are now and all that you will be someday.
Love the person staring back at you. If you can’t love yourself, completely and wholly, who the heck ever will?
Think of ways you can be there for yourself right now, ways to nurture and be tender to yourself. Set a goal to love yourself the way you’ve always wanted to be loved. If you can’t forgive your mistakes (no matter how big they may seem) and hold your child self even closer in this time, you’re missing out on the greatest gift you have in this life: Yourself.
2. Forgive Yourself (and Others)
Forgiveness isn’t just for the person being forgiven, it’s mainly for you–the one doing the forgiving. Gautama Buddha taught that holding onto grudges is like holding onto a hot coal: you are the one who is ultimately burned by it.
One way I have found that really helps me let go of my anger and heal is to write a song about it, to make art, make beauty with the pain instead. It’s not wrong to be upset when you’ve been wronged by someone else or to be mad at yourself when you’ve failed. But it’s not healthy to hang on to that for too long.
Let go of your anger. Practice letting it go anyways, it will become easier and easier with time. Forgive because you love yourself and want to be healed from the pain even more than you want to be right. Think of forgiveness as a way of living rather than a singular act of forgiving. Walk the forgiving path, live life in a forgiving way.
3. Let Big (and Small) Stuff Go
It’s hard to let go, we’re human. We have attachments. We want things to stay the same or have specific results in mind. Sometimes the things we are attached to must end and for us this is hard. Letting go is the hardest part.
No matter what your heart is intertwined with, understanding your attachment to it even to the point of your own unhappiness is essential. Being able to freely see our own attachments is the key to finding our freedom. Once we can see and feel the grip we try to maintain on our lives and our realities it becomes easier and easier to let up a little bit on our grip, To learn to let go.
Life is constantly begging us to be open to change, even if we don’t want it at first. Ask yourself: Can you let it go? Will you be open to the unknown? Failure at one thing might allow the magical mysteries of life to take us down a better path, even though the change seems painful at first.
4. Eat and Sleep
As over-simplified as this sounds, taking care of your most elementary, most basic needs is exactly what you need to focus on whenever you are depressed or grieving your failures.
Emotions, sleep and food are all related to one other. Catch me on a low-calorie, low-sleep morning and you will see a much more emotional, much more moody person. You will experience knee-jerk responses to the frustrating things of life and less patience.
What do you experience when you don’t eat or sleep well?
When I’m feeling like a failure, eating food helps but I have to force myself to eat. And when I do eat, it’s hard to pick something other than french fries, tubs of ice cream and bags of candy. And yes, those treats might make me feel temporarily better, but they always end up taking more energy than they give in the end.
What food makes you feel taken care of when you eat it? For me it’s hearty soups and fresh salads, fruit and granola and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, or pasta and garden veggies. Whatever makes you feel healthy and nourished, eat that–eat it regularly and in easily-digested amounts.
And sleep, sleep a lot. If your mind is racing, try to write it all down then let it go, let the paper or your notes app hold your anxiety for the rest of the night. If you can’t sleep at night, take naps in the day.
Let go of your inner battles long enough to restore your body. You literally can’t feel happy or have good reactions without good sleep. No matter what monsters you’re facing it’s always better to face them after some rest.
5. Go Somewhere Else
Wherever you are in your failure funk of telling yourself “I’m no good” or “I can’t do this”…get up and get out of there! Go for a walk, bike ride, or a run. Go see a show, see a friend, book a flight to another place, just get out of there. Change wherever you are right now, even if it’s just for a day or just a few minutes. It might be long enough to see more clearly and gain a little perspective.
Try to really internalize the idea that you’re in a temporary situation and thus all your emotions are temporary as well.
Force yourself to go somewhere, anywhere, else. Go help someone, offer to volunteer at the library or homeless shelter or pull weeds in the community garden. Fresh air and exercise might be the oldest remedy in the book but getting your body moving has been proven to improve mood and lessen depression. Don’t let the darkness of your situation keep you locked away.
I know it’s hard but do it. Get out. Do whatever makes you happy. And while you’re out there, make art, sing, doodle, make up songs, write poems. Be you.
6. Don’t Give Up
I don’t know what you’re going through or what mountains lie in your path, but if you feel like you failed and are struggling to keep going, I hope you know that my heart is with you.
I see you standing there, a fellow-human longing to belong, to be loved and accepted. Hoping to find happiness in this life.
Please don’t give up. Keep striving for love, keep being and giving the love you want to receive. I promise to do the same.
Together we’ll bravely face the future, no matter what it holds.
By Sarah Caton