As the saying goes: “nobody is perfect.” Everyone slips up at times, makes bad decisions, and experiences challenges.
Setbacks in life, whether failures at work or the end of meaningful relationships, have the power to make you question your judgment and self-worth. But this is only true if you don’t actively learn from your setbacks, in addition to showing yourself compassion for any mistakes you may have made.
The truth is, difficult experiences can sometimes be the most motivating. It’d all about how you perceive setbacks and respond that matters. If you can learn to view obstacles in a positive light, you’ll gain valuable wisdom and be better prepared for what’s to come in the future.
How Setbacks Impact Our Self-Esteem
A “setback” can include any type of life event that didn’t go the way you hoped or expected it to. Examples include: being laid off from your job, getting divorced, making a bad business or investment deal that costs you a lot of money, developing an illness, and so on.
When we feel like we’re personally to blame for our setbacks, then guilt, shame, regret, and insecurity are common feelings we might deal with.
While some amount of guilt/regret can be a good thing because it helps us absorb lessons from our mistakes and stops us from repeating them, too much can be paralyzing.
On the other hand, once we work on accepting whatever has happened, especially if it was out of our control, then we can also experience positive emotions following a setback. This is true even if we were initially unhappy with how things turned out since our feelings are capable of changing over time.
Here are some examples of how difficulties can wind up benefiting our lives:
- We might initially feel disappointed that we didn’t get an opportunity we desired, but afterward, something better comes our way, and we wind up feeling appreciative.
- When we’re challenged and pushed out of our comfort zones, we can gain new skills and insight, which helps us grow and feel the ground of our progress.
- Setbacks can humble us and remind us we aren’t perfect. This has the power to motivate us to keep learning and also makes us more understanding and empathetic towards others.
- Events that derail your life give you perspective and remind you what truly matters. Once you’ve made it through very hard times, you’ll know you have great strength.
How To Grow From Challenges And Mistakes
- Let go of what you can’t control — You’ll never be able to completely control the outcome of situations that involve other people. Since it’s not helpful to blame yourself for other people’s actions or for things that are simply no one’s fault (such as an illness or natural disaster), the only thing you can do is focus on the present and future instead of the past. Let go of whatever is out of your control and instead make a game plan for how to move forward.
- Forgive yourself— If you’re not proud of some decisions you made in the past, work on forgiving yourself first. You can do this with help from people you trust who you’re able to open up to — such as trusted friends/family, a religious leader, or a therapist — or you can use tools like books and journaling. Work on improving your self-talk, such as by letting go of negative, critical thought patterns and replacing them with affirmations such as “I’m a work in progress” or “Lesson learned, now I’m doing better.”
- Do the next right thing —Take some time to reflect on factors that contributed to your setback, whether it’s a lack of communication or too little preparation or perspective. Then focus on what you can do better next time, plus what you can immediatelydo to help the situation. Stop playing victim, accept responsibility, and then start being actionable. Think about your bigger goals and break them down into smaller steps, which gives you a clear plan to follow so you feel like you’re making progress.
- Practice gratitude for what is going well —Even when something big went wrong, chances are some things are still going great in your life. Your instance, your job or income might be suffering, but your family might be being very supportive, and you might also have more time to spend with them. Put your attention and energy towards things you’re grateful for to lift your spirits and give you a more positive mindset. Try keeping a gratitude journal and telling people how much you appreciate their support.
- Share what you’ve learned with others— Use your newfound knowledge to help others avoid the same mistakes that you made. Helping others and adding value to their lives can improve your relationships and connections and also increase your self-esteem.