Failure is a universal experience… But in a world shaped by societal norms and gender expectations, women can often find themselves trapped in a web of fear and self-doubt when it comes to failure—a lot more often than men do.1
Society tends to perpetuate the notion that women should strive for perfection in all aspects of life, leaving little room for mistakes or setbacks. This places an immense burden on women, leading to feelings of inadequacy, self-criticism, and fear of failure.
But, of course, failure is inevitable. It’s not something we can avoid forever. And women should be empowered to embrace failure as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery… Just like men so often are.
So how can we push back? We can start by dismantling the notion that failure defines a woman’s capabilities. This way, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment that encourages personal and professional development for all.
Embracing Failure and Moving Forward
In the video above, I tell you all about a time—recently!—that I experienced what felt like a major failure. I worked hard to develop an online program and was really excited to get it off the ground. I poured so much time and energy into launching it.
When I finally did, it flopped. No one wanted it. I had very few sales.
And I had to shift my mindset in a few significant ways to feel okay about what had happened and move on from it.
Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:
Expect and Embrace Failure
Resisting failure is like experiencing it over and over and over again. We’re walking through the scenario repeatedly, rehashing it from all angles, trying to figure out how to fix it or deny the reality we’ve found ourselves in.
But failure happens. And instead of framing it as an end in and of itself, we can start embracing failure as the next step in the process.
To do this effectively, we can adopt practical strategies such as reframing failure as an opportunity, setting more realistic expectations moving forward, celebrating our progress and effort, seeking feedback on what could’ve gone better… And surrounding ourselves with a supportive community who will have our backs as we try the next thing.
See Failure as an Opportunity
Instead of viewing failure as a negative reflection of ourselves, we can shift our perspective and see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. When we fail, it means we had the courage to try something new, take a risk, and step out of our comfort zones.
These are all valuable, important things—without them, we can’t gain skills, cultivate insight, or develop wisdom over time.
Each failure presents valuable lessons and insights that can guide us towards future success or help us guide others who follow behind.
Take the Chance to Learn from Failure
One of the most important aspects of embracing failure is the ability to learn from it. Every failure carries valuable lessons that can shape our future actions and decisions. By reflecting on our failures, we can identify areas for improvement, adjust our strategies, and refine our approach. This process of learning and adapting is essential for personal growth and finding success in the future.
Separate Failure and Self-Worth
Failure does not define who we are as individuals—it’s absolutely crucial that we remember this. Failure is nothing more than a temporary setback or a detour on our path to success. (And barely one of those, if we learn to anticipate it popping up along the way!)
We can remind ourselves that failure is not a reflection of our character or abilities… It’s an opportunity to reassess, learn, and grow.
Embracing Failure and Starting Again
In the words of the iconic Aaliyah, “…If at first you don’t succeed/ Then dust yourself off and try again.”
And then maybe again after that. (Because we’re expecting and embracing failure, right?)
Embracing failure fosters resilience, or the ability to bounce back from adversity. When we learn to view failure as an opportunity for growth, we become more resilient in the face of challenges. So embracing failure enables us to persevere, adapt, and keep moving forward, even when faced with setbacks or obstacles.
Listen, this is important because life is unpredictable. Maybe things would’ve worked out differently if there hadn’t been a pandemic… If you hadn’t gotten sick. If your kid hadn’t been going through a rough time that needed so much more of your attention than usual.
Maybe you planned a handful of events, and it rained every single time.
You can’t plan for these things, and you can’t control them. You can get better at rolling with the punches, but sometimes, even that’s not enough. And that’s just life.
What we can do is stop fearing failure. We can strip it of its power to make us feel ashamed or unworthy.
We can firmly put failure in its place as another of life’s many, many experiences… And we can make the next choice, and do the next thing that feels right.
As always, if you’re struggling and in need of support, guidance, or a safe place to explore your experiences, working with a professional can help. You don’t have to go it alone!