How To Develop More Confidence After A Costly Failure

The ability to process disappointments and events we deem to be failures is extremely valuable because most of us will have more failures than successes in life.

The better our ability to deal with failures, the easier it will be for us to keep our maintain our confidence and keep moving forward towards the things we want in life. It is our responsibility to ensure that no matter what we experience in life, we still continue to develop our confidence so that we can continuously challenge ourselves to do things we have not done previously.

When I first started public speaking, some of my early experiences were giving talks at different Rotary clubs. During my second or third Rotary presentation, I could sense that the audience was not resonating with what I was saying. I even saw a couple of people snickering, whispering and laughing, which I thought was because of what I was saying to them.

At the end of the talk, I received a polite round of applause but I knew I had not done a good job. That did affect my confidence and I started to question whether I could be a good public speaker or not. If I evaluated that experience alone, I could easily have rated it as a failure.

Fortunately, I had acquired some personal development skills at that time and was able to change my perspective of that experience and give it a more empowering meaning. I told myself that I was very fortunate to have had an experience like that so early into my speaking career. As a result of that experience, I started investing more time into preparing for my talks and was willing to ask others for guidance and support as I needed it rather than trying to do it all myself.

Our level of confidence is directly related to our ability to learn and try new things in life. Eric Hoffer, an American social philosopher, once said, “To learn, you need a certain degree of confidence, not too much and not too little. If you have too little confidence, you will think you can’t learn. If you have too much confidence, you will think you don’t have to learn.”

When we have a costly failure, there are a number of things we can do to pick ourselves up and get back to doing what we know we should and can do. Here are five things that will help us maintain and even grow our confidence after a costly failure.

  1. Acknowledge what happened. There is no value in denying or pretending something didn’t happen if it is causing us to feel disappointed. The key thing is to be aware of how we are interpreting the failure. The truth is we did not get a result we were expecting, hence we consider the experience a failure. But that does not mean we are a failure. We failed while doing something and we should not label ourselves as a failure. It can be as simple as “I was expecting to get that outcome, instead I got this outcome, which was not what I wanted.”
  2. Accept your role in the failure. We have to take ownership of what happened and the part we played in it. We should also accept that we did the best we could with the resources, knowledge, skills and abilities we had at that time. Had we known better, we would have done better. This can be a powerful motivator to do better next time.
  3. Adjust your attitude around what failure really is. We can look at something we deem to be a failure in a positive or negative way. If we look at it from a negative perspective, we will focus on all the pain, disappointment and the things we missed out on. If we are able to look at it from a positive perspective, we will always find something extremely valuable from the experience. A couple of questions we can ask ourselves in such situations are, “What does this experience make possible now?” and “What is the opportunity as a result of this experience?”
  4. Ask for feedback. Most times, we fail at things because we weren’t aware of what needed to be done or we took actions that did not get us to the outcome we wanted. Therefore, getting feedback or advice from trusted advisors, mentors or coaches is helpful. By asking for feedback, we can receive valuable perspectives that we may not have considered previously, which will help us better deal with similar experiences in the future.
  5. Act differently. To get a new result, we must take new actions. Based on feedback and advise we receive, we can be better prepared to do things differently so that we get the outcomes we want. Before we can take new actions, we must develop new thoughts around what we can do and what is possible for us. New thoughts will lead to new actions so this also goes back to having a healthy mental attitude.

Failure is not necessarily a bad thing if we’re able to change our perspective of it. Every failure prepares us better for what we want to do in the future and makes us stronger mentally, emotionally and physically. Our job is to ensure we don’t avoid failures but to embrace them when we do have them. If we do, we will start to deal with failure a whole lot better and fail our way to success.

Action Step: Reflect back on an event or experience that you have labelled as a failure. Use the points mentioned above to reframe your thinking around that failure and start getting back your confidence so that you can still move forward towards what you want in life.

Question: What can be another thing we can do to develop our confidence after a costly failure?

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