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Failure Doesn’t Define Who You Are

Failure Doesn’t Define Who You Are
[four-minute read]

We care about succeeding at our goals. That’s why we put so much time, effort, and passion into achieving them.

So it makes sense that, while in relentless pursuit of those goals, our individual identities become attached to them. We want success so badly that it consumes us. We envision it in our minds and create mental pictures of ourselves that depend on it becoming reality.

But what happens to that identity when we fail? 

One answer is that, just as we depended on future success to define us, we come to subconsciously depend on failure to fill the same role. The unfortunate result is that we begin viewing ourselves as “failures.” You’ve probably heard the phrase uttered many times throughout your life: “I’m such a failure.” Maybe you’ve even told it to yourself. 

Tying our failures to our identities can poison other areas of our lives where our failures should have no bearing. We may begin thinking of ourselves as failed parents, failed partners, even failed people. 

To change course, we must realize that our failures don’t define who we are. It is you who defines your individual worth in each moment, not a lost job, failed relationship, or unrealized dream. This can be a difficult notion to grasp while caught in the storm of emotions that arises when we fail. But it’s worth holding on to for how it allows us to grow stronger and more resilient from the experience.

To help you keep your identity safely anchored in still waters, here are a few tips to bear in mind when confronted with failure.

Success Doesn’t Define You Either

To prevent attaching our identities to our goals—and therefore our failures—we must understand that our successes don’t define us either. Tying our identities to success so tightly is precisely what entangles us in negative states of mind when we fail.

In truth, though success may bring more pleasure than failure, they are two sides of a coin that flips each time we choose to set a goal. Both are bound to happen at some point. So tying our worth to either of them, regardless of what goal we’re pursuing, doesn’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things. 

Rather, it’s how we react to success and failure alike that shapes our character. Both experiences can lead to growth, so we need to treat them as equals—not by identifying with how good or bad they make us feel, but by envisioning how we’ll learn and grow from them.

Avoid Being Harsh With Yourself

We’re conditioned from youth to draw self-esteem from our achievements, so failing can make us feel inadequate. From there, we’re liable to double down on another habit we’ve been conditioned to partake in which is using hurtful, deprecating language toward ourselves: “You really messed that up, didn’t you?” “You should have done better.” “I guess you’re just not good enough.”

We speak to ourselves in this way because we believe it will make us better, or that it will motivate us to be better. But take a moment to recall a time in your past when someone else spoke to you in this way. When has harsh, hurtful language ever made you feel good about yourself, like you could take on the world? This habit of hurtful self-talk doesn’t incentivize us to improve. Rather, it’s precisely what causes us to view ourselves as failures in the first place.

Show Yourself Love Instead

The alternative is to show ourselves kindness and compassion. This seems counterintuitive given that we’ve been conditioned to beat ourselves up whenever we fall short of achieving a goal. But maintaining a reservoir of love for ourselves can assuage the pain of failure and motivate us to get back up and try again. It’s also a healthier, more effective way of deriving our self-worth than by tying it to goals, successes, and failures. Love functions independently of these things.

Growing Stronger Every Day

At Oats Overnight, we believe that leaning into learning is the recipe for personal growth and success. Embracing setbacks and growing from our mistakes is how we got started as a company and how we continue to improve each day. We invite you to join us by pursuing your own goals as the strongest version of yourself, fueled by a premium breakfast and backed by a community whose members help one another overcome the challenges of daily life.

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