Why Some People Don’t Recover From Failure


Time doesn’t always heal all wounds. The bitter memory of failure can linger and plague our minds for months, years, even decades, if we allow it to. Granted, it’s never easy to process defeat when you’ve poured blood, sweat, tears, and money into putting up a good fight.

This, though, is where so many people falter. After the fact of your failure, it’s much easier to choose to wall yourself in instead of going out there to take another shot. You can’t fail if you never mount another attempt. In doing so, however, you’re also choosing stagnation instead of growth. You’re bringing your career to a virtual standstill.


The ball is ultimately in your court. Recovering from failure is both hard and daunting. Still, it is a necessary step on the ladder of personal and career growth. To that end, developing the self-awareness skills to recover effectively is crucial. It requires an understanding of your own counterproductive mental and emotional traps. Hence, here are four reasons why some people don’t recover from failure.

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1. They allow failure to define themselves


In the battle to outdo yourself, half the fight is about deliberately framing your thoughts appropriately. Neither failure nor success will matter that much to your learning in the long run if you’re not consciously thinking and behaving in growth-minded ways. In this context, how you perceive the failure you experience is critical.


If you view it in absolute terms, you tend to see it only as a reflection of your incompetence and inadequacy. Consequently, you’ll open a Pandora’s box of negative thinking, until all you see in failure is negativity.

On the other hand, for growth-minded people, failure is not self-defining. In other words, failure is only an indication of current shortcomings, not a death note. It tells you that there’s room for improvement and that success can still be yours if you take your failure as a learning opportunity.



2. They avoid challenges to avoid the past repeating itself


Once bitten, twice shy. For some, the dejection of failure is so debilitating that they will go to any lengths to avoid even the possibility of it re-occurring. Hence, they choose to plant their feet firmly inside their comfort zones. This, of course, is self-sabotage; to grow and learn new things, you need to move outside your comfort zone.


Time and tide wait for no man. Fear will always grip our hearts and minds unless we stop giving it a license to do so. The best way to break free from your fears is to take the plunge. The problem, though, is finding the courage to jump.

When you think you have the most to lose, you often have the most to gain; challenge and adversity are both stellar teachers. It’s a win-win situation; if the outcome is as you expected, you’d have conquered your fear. If the outcome isn’t as expected, you come one step closer to breaking the hold that your fear has over you.



3. I, the tragic hero


Some people react to failure by blaming themselves to the point of inertia, while others blame it on everyone other than themselves. One of the hardest things to deal with when when you fail is the thought of what could have been. The more you allow yourself obsess over and dissect what you can’t change, the further you slip into the trap of “if only” thinking.


Recovering from failure necessitates that you take ownership of yourself and your learning. Pointing fingers at everyone else and nitpicking on the specific circumstances that thwarted you isn’t going to help. At the end of the day, you are the captain of your ship; you are responsible for your growth. It’s as simple as making a choice not to dwell on what you can’t change, and focusing on what you can change moving forward.



4. Taking criticism personally


Most people know that sticking with the same strategies after failing will only yield similar results. Some, though, view it as a matter of pride. In their eyes, criticism of technique and strategy only comes from vindictive naysayers, no matter how well-meaning or constructive their comments may be. Harbouring such attitudes towards criticism is clearly counterproductive. 


A beginner often thinks he knows enough. It’s worse than just not knowing; if you don’t know that you don’t know enough, you won’t even recognise the need for you to learn. A lot of the time, it takes someone more learned to tell the beginner what he lacks and what he doesn’t know. Feedback is indispensable to progress.

As such, interpreting criticism as condemnation is shooting yourself in the foot. Of course, harsh criticism can sometimes leave you reeling, making you feel small and putting on over-defensive mode. The fact is, though, most of the time, no matter how harsh your critics can be, their feedback is what will help you go from a diamond in the rough to a sparkling jewel.



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