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Overcoming failure with kindness and compassion

Kindness and compassion are qualities that have the potential to guide us toward a path of healing and growing from failure.

Enrique Rubio
Overcoming failure with kindness and compassion

Failure is a universal experience. You will probably never hear anybody say out loud: “I want to be a failure. I want to fail,” but that does not mean it will not happen to them. Failure is part of the fabric of life.  It weaves its way into everyone’s life’s journey, creating unique and complex realities that not only tell the stories of failure itself, but of growth, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of dreams and goals. 

No one is exempt from failure. Failure is part of everybody’s journey. Failure is not limited by geographical boundaries, cultures, or people’s backgrounds. It is rather one of those rare things that are common to all of us, regardless of our differences. 

Despite its inevitability, failure remains one of the most challenging aspects of human existence. Failure pushes us to confront our limitations, question our abilities, and grapple with the very essence of who we are.

Sadly, for most of us, the fear of failure often looms extraordinarily large. Fear of failure constantly casts a shadow over our aspirations and, left unmanaged, it will inhibit our willingness to take risks, use our creativity and imagination, experiment with ideas, and, ultimately, step out of our comfort zone into the unknown. Unfortunately, failure is that old record that continuously whispers in our ears, reminding us of past shortcomings and warning us against future endeavors. Failure conjures vivid images of public humiliation, shattered dreams, and the daunting prospect of starting anew. 

However, as painful and heartbreaking as failure can be, it holds immense positive power too. With the right conditions and management, failure has the potential to lead us on a journey of profound self-discovery, unforeseen opportunities, and the kindling of the kind of resilience that only adversity can ignite in us. 

To properly manage failure and its effects we must turn on the power of kindness and compassion as the means to enable us to rise above the paralyzing grip of the fear of failure. Like a beacon cutting through the darkest night, kindness and compassion are qualities that have the potential to guide us toward a path of healing and growth. 

Kindness and compassion are a reminder to be gentle with ourselves in moments of despair, recognizing that our struggles, failures, and adversities are not a testament to who we are, but a sign that we are on the journey to become what we want to become. Failures are there to remind us that if we want something really bad, we will have to work hard for it. They are not meant to halt us, but to encourage us to try a little harder, or a bit differently. 

The conventional narrative says that “failure is positive.” However, this narrative fails to address how we can turn a painful and heartbreaking experience into an opportunity for growth. Not only that, even if we can acknowledge that failure can certainly make us stronger and help us desire something with more passion, actually doing so does not just happen automatically. It requires deep levels of kindness and compassion. 

The journey to overcoming failure with kindness and compassion is an exploration of our capacity to rise above adversity. Overcoming failure is the strongest testament to our ability to transform setbacks into stepping stones and setbacks into springboards. 

Ultimately, failure is not the enemy. It is a mentor if we embrace it with kindness and compassion. 

Kindness and Compassion: such simple words, yet so meaningful. 

Kindness is the act of being compassionate, considerate, and caring for ourselves and others. Kindness is about using our talents, resources, and leverage to improve other people’s lives by leading with authentic acts of love, generosity, compassion, care, and, especially, service. Leading with kindness is inclusive of servant leadership.

Compassion is an intense emotional connection with our and other people's sorrows and pain, together with a strong inner urge to alleviate the cause of the suffering and remove their source. Compassion is also the willingness to do something and relieve the suffering of others.

The Impact of Failure: Unraveling Psychological, Emotional, and Physical Effects

Failure carries a range of profound effects that ripple through the fabric of our being: our minds, emotions, and physical bodies. Failure is certainly not just a momentary setback: it is a force that can shape our psychological, emotional, and even physical state in ways both subtle and profound. 

To truly understand the transformative power of overcoming failure with kindness and compassion, it is essential to delve into the intricate ways in which failure leaves its mark.

1. Psychological Effects of Failure

The psychological impact of failure is intricate and multifaceted. When faced with failure, our sense of self-worth can be shaken, leading to a cascade of negative self-perceptions. The inner critic, that relentless voice within, amplifies our shortcomings and convinces us that our failures define us. That it is not that “something failed,” but that “we are a failure.” This is awful, but that is the message we play to ourselves in our minds. This can result in decreased self-esteem, heightened self-doubt, and a reluctance to engage in future endeavors.

Moreover, failure can trigger a profound fear of vulnerability as a weakness. We may become unreasonably cautious and hesitant, fearing that exposing our vulnerabilities might lead to further disappointment or judgment. This guarded approach can hinder our willingness to take risks, stifling our personal and professional growth.

2. Emotional Effects of Failure

The emotional aftermath of failure is a turbulent sea of feelings, each wave carrying intensity. Initially, there might be feelings of shock and disbelief, followed by more poignant emotions such as disappointment, frustration, and even anger. The emotional rollercoaster can take a toll on our mental well-being, contributing to stress, anxiety, and even depression in severe cases.

However, this emotional journey also provides an opportunity for self-exploration and growth. By allowing ourselves to fully experience these emotions with kindness, compassion, and without judgment, we create space for healing. Acknowledging our emotional responses to failure can foster self-awareness, enabling us to identify patterns of thought and behavior that need nurturing or transformation.

It is worth mentioning that “positivity” is not the only human emotion. We are biologically wired for more negative than positive emotions (it is always more “fight, flight or paralyze” than “embrace”). Telling someone to see the “positive” side of failure makes sense, but it just does not happen immediately. Take time to feel, explore, and understand your emotions. Be angry, sad, frustrated, or anxious because of a failure. But do not dwell there. Make sure you acknowledge your emotions, give them space, and move on.

3. Physical Effects of Failure

The mind-body connection is a powerful scientifically-backed phenomenon. Failure can exert its influence on our physical well-being as much as it does on our minds and emotions. The stress and emotional turmoil that accompany failure can manifest as physical symptoms. Increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, weakened immune responses, and even a heightened risk of cardiovascular issues. The toll of these physical effects further underscores the need to address failure with a compassionate approach.

With this information in mind about the psychological, emotional, and physical effects of failure, the practice of kindness and compassion becomes much more valuable and relevant. Rather than succumbing to the self-defeating narratives that can make us think that WE are a failure, that we are not worthy or valuable, and letting it all affect our emotions and bodies, we can become kinder and more compassionate and properly navigate the aftermath of failure.

The effects of failure are far-reaching, impacting not only our psychological and emotional well-being but also echoing within our physical selves. The choice to approach failure with kindness and compassion is not just a gentle response -it is a strategic one. By cultivating self-compassion, we disrupt the cycle of negative self-perception, allowing us to rebuild our self-esteem and embrace vulnerability. Addressing the emotional turbulence with compassion helps us process the spectrum of feelings, leading to emotional resilience. Furthermore, by caring for our physical bodies with kindness, we counteract the physiological toll of stress, paving the way for holistic healing.

Overcoming failure with kindness and compassion is a transformative process that invites us to rewrite the narratives of defeat and despair.

The journey of overcoming failure with kindness and compassion is not a one-size-fits-all process. The strategies provided here are meant as guidance and you can use the ones that work best for you and leave the rest, or include new ones that I did not add but make sense for you.

Stay tuned for 18 Strategies to overcome failure with kindness and compassion ;)

Editado por

Raquel Rojas

Overcoming failure with kindness and compassion
Enrique Rubio
Founder - Hacking HR
Enrique is an HR, Tech, and Future of Work expert, keynote speaker, and founder of Hacking HR, a global learning community with thousands of members worldwide at the intersection of Future of Work, technology, business, and organizations.


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