5 Keys to Being More Accepting of Failure

· September 11, 2018

There are people who are incapable of tolerating any minor setback or trouble. When their expectations aren’t met, they feel distressed. When their projects don’t have a great outcome, they have no tolerance for failure. This also happens when they experience painful or unpleasant feelings.

Nobody likes to feel frustrated or like they’re a failure. However, life isn’t perfect. We’d all like for everything to turn out just as we planned, but reality is different from that. There’s a quote that says “Life is not how you want it to be, life is just life”. Nevertheless, as true as this quote is, many people don’t believe this.

We want it all right now, without having to wait. We want everything immediately. Besides, what we expect to happen must happen in a pleasant or satisfactory way, a way that fits our interests. That’s how we believe it should be. Many people do this and, by thinking like this, they build their own representations of the world.

Life is not how you want it to be, life is just life

We’ve all heard things like “You must be happy” or “You shouldn’t feel sad” before. When the word “should” or “must” is used, you have to be careful. Why? Well, because nothing “should” be a certain way. Things are how they are, as much as we think they should be different. This, however, may motivate change or the opposite.

If you think the opposite of this, you’ll spend your time jumping from dissatisfaction to dissatisfaction, from frustration to frustration. Let’s think, for example, about how our lives should be. Should our lives be perfect, pleasant, satisfying, or successful? No, just because of the simple reason that they’re not. We may strive to get close to all that as much as we can, while still being tolerant of the things we won’t accomplish. Accept it as a part of the game.

A frustrated couple.

Our lives revolve around infinite shades of gray. We rarely find black or white situations. And if it’s always like this, why do we keep thinking the opposite?

“Must”: A dangerous enemy

What does must mean? According to the dictionary, must means being obligated to do something. For example, the sun must come out every day.

When we decide that something should be a certain way, we’re imposing ourselves something. We’re saying that things around us (people, animals, objects) have to somehow fulfill a premise. Our premise, as if we were dictators of universal laws. But the truth is that as much as we try to hide our desires with this kind of formula (possibility->obligation), things will still go their usual way (unless we actually try to change them).

Why? Because even if we say so, if the environment doesn’t recognize the obligation we impose, it’s no use. It only contributes to our frustration and feeling small and miserable.

So be careful with those who say you “must be a good person” or “you shouldn’t suffer because of this”. They’re just talking about their own expectationsYou might be a good person for them sometimes, and other times you might not be. Sometimes you’ll suffer because of something, and other times you won’t.


Believing in “musts” is the origin of the intolerance of failure

Intolerance of failure makes people not enjoy their lives. Let’s think of a child who gets angry because their parents didn’t buy them the candy they wanted. They cry, scream, and get mad. They still don’t know that not everything will go their way. And that’s why their parents must teach them to manage their emotions.

As adults, we should have already learned to tolerate the disobedience of reality, the fact that it doesn’t always bend to our desires, even if they’re noble desires. Actually, the kindness or evilness of a desire doesn’t increase the probability of it coming true.

There are people who have been educated in such a way that the “musts” have conquered their lives. Other people have learned to not accept failure or frustration through experiences that made them think this was the way to success.

Great psychologist Albert Ellis wrote: “While less troubled people firmly desire what they want and get angry if their desires aren’t fulfilled, more troubled people demand, insist, or dogmatically command that their desires be satisfied and get incredibly anxious, depressed, or hostile when that doesn’t happen.” 

There’s nothing wrong with getting angry if something doesn’t turn out as you wanted. What’s not healthy is being demanding, insisting, and not accepting it. 

Woman blaming her boyfriend.

The beliefs of those who don’t tolerate failure

People who are intolerant of failure have learned to think and behave in a certain way. They have a set of beliefs that condition their way of seeing the world and interpreting reality. Those beliefs are:

  • Life must be easy and comfortable.
  • They confuse a desire with a necessity.
  • They must get everything they want and to get it they demand, order, or insist on it.
  • Any difficulty, delay, or failure is too horrible to accept.

People who are intolerant of failure demand and order, have little patience, and confuse desire with necessity.

5 keys to being more accepting of failure

Even if we were educated in terms of “musts” and “shoulds” or if we have similar beliefs to the ones listed above, there are some measures we can take to be more accepting of failure. 

Identify your irrational beliefs

When you feel frustrated, try to analyze what you’re telling yourself. What thoughts have you had? Be aware of them and write them down.

You may find that in your internal dialogue there are words such as “should”, “always”, “never”, “I can’t stand this”, etc. These are the roots of your suffering.

Modify your irrational beliefs

Once you’ve identified what you tell yourself and realized it doesn’t help you, it’s time to talk to yourself in another way and change your way of thinking. It’s a process that requires lots of trial and error, but it’s worth it.

In order to start, use words such as “I’d like to…”, “It’s uncomfortable but I can stand it”, “Sometimes”, etc. It’s about substituting your irrational beliefs with more adaptative ones.

Face the failure you can’t tolerate

Exposing yourself to situations that produce frustration might be a good strategy. Make a list of those situations. Write down how they affect you. 

Once you’ve identified them, commit to facing them. To do it, make these situations happen and do nothing to avoid the uneasiness they bring. With time, your tolerance will increase and you’ll feel better.

Woman walking alone on the road.

If possible, take measures so that it doesn’t happen again

Try to look for solutions so that difficult situations don’t frustrate you. For example, stop looking at the clock if the person you had a meeting with doesn’t show up on time. You could do something productive instead. Finally, modify your point of focus to reduce the feeling of frustration and failure. 

Learn to differentiate desires from needs

One thing is needing a bigger house, for example, and another thing is desiring it or having certain preferences. When you need something and don’t get it, you start feeling distressed.

If you know you only desire something, you might feel uneasy at first, but the frustration won’t be as hard to overcome. 

Actually, we need very few things in life. Discerning what we need from what we want is fundamental to avoiding feeling like a failure.

In life, it’s really hard to avoid difficulties or failure. We all fail at least once. It’s part of life and it’s completely normal. Therefore, we need to learn to manage our frustration and allow ourselves to fail. This way, we’ll have a more reality-oriented life and we’ll feel better.