As a high school senior, I experienced my first big failure: I was rejected from my top choice (and at that point, only) college. Before that moment, I’d never worked SO hard for something and not benefitted from the fruit of that labor. I was crushed.

A disappointed young adult sitting by a wall.

But had I gotten in and accepted an early decision offer to that school, I would’ve missed the huge scholarship that was later to come my way.

Let me help you reframe your thinking about your next failure: rejection is merely a redirection.

What is failure?

We all have goals. Some are self-created, and others are imposed by our parents, teachers, and even society. But what happens when we don't achieve something as planned?

A stressed woman in front of her laptop. Piles of scrunched paper litter her desk.

Failure is defined as.....

  1. An omission of occurrence or performance

  2. A lack of success

  3. A falling short

But all of these are relative to an expectation. And the good news is that expectations can be constantly readjusted.

Benefit #1: Humility

Failure can result in many different emotions, including:

  • shame

  • embarrassment

  • anxiety

  • grief

  • disappointment

  • fear

  • anger

  • hopelessness

All feelings are valid and shouldn't be dismissed or minimized. You’ll need to acknowledge, process, and work through these emotions.

Ron Burgundy saying,

It will be painful, but you'll get through it. And at the end of that road is humility. Being a more humble version of yourself has tons of benefits. We could all use a good ego check every now and then.

You can humbly share your failure story with others. Expressing vulnerability is actually a sign of strength!

Benefit #2: Empathy for Others

Failure builds empathy, which is what makes us human! We can connect with others who have been through similar experiences, or at least understand what it might feel like to go through it.

Empathy quote from Bob's Burgers:

When you have experienced a failure, you can relate to otherswho have felt this kind of pain. The next time you see someone struggling, you can withhold judgment because you understand what it's like to struggle, too.


What is the best way to show empathy towards a friend who shares with you that they feel like a failure?

Benefit #3: Opportunities for Reflection & Personal Growth

Moments of failure are the perfect opportunity for thoughtful reflection.

Man drinking coffee and saying

Find a deeper meaning from your failure by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Why was this opportunity important to me in the first place?

  2. What are potential alternative ways of achieving the same outcome?

  3. What did I still do well, despite the failure? What small wins can I be proud of?

  4. What will this failure push me to improve?

  5. How can I practice gratitude for what I've already achieved?

Growth isn't possible without self-reflection. So think about what happened, and how you can improve or change for next time.


Why is self-reflection an important part of experiencing a failure?

Benefit #4: Practicing Self-Compassion

After you've processed some of the difficult feelings surrounding your failure and thoughtfully reflected on the experience, it's time to start healing. Self-compassion is a fancy way of saying, "Cut yourself some slack!"

Sign that reads, Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Being kind to yourself isn't always easy, but it's important. Treat yourself as you would a friend going through the experience. We're often our own toughest critics.

Benefit #5: Develop Resilience & Grit

Perhaps the most valuable benefit of failure is that it forces you to develop resilience and grit. Many successful people fail initially. Failing early and often can help you develop somewhat of an immunity to rejection, which actually makes you stronger.

In the TedTalk below, psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth explains how grit may be the single biggest predictor of academic and professional success.


Ms. Williams is trying to teach her students about grit. Which synonym could she use to explain it to her kids?

Take Action

Feeling like a failure is painful but you will get through it.

A woman saying,

As Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."''


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