4 Scientifically Proven Ways for Recovering Self-Esteem after Failure

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4 scientifically ways for recovering self-esteem

Have you ever failed miserably?

I certainly have. It’s awful isn’t it?

Failure leaves you disappointed, angry, desperate, and hopeless.

It crushes your self-esteem and convinces you that you’ll always be a failure.

You wish you could know how to get your self-esteem back.

Well, we’ve all failed at least once in our lives. Living without failing is simply impossible.

We fail if we don’t reach a goal. We fail if we don’t deliver as required or if we don’t perform as expected. And we fail if we make a mistake.

Some failures are better to hide than others, and that’s why some people seem to never fail. But deep inside, covering things up is hard, isn’t it?

Because one part of you always knows that you have failed and how you feel about it: Your brain!

You just may not realize how much your brain controls your responses to failure.

You also may not realize how much control you have over your brain —and how that can empower you.

You Control the Power to Change your Brain

As we go through life, our brains create new connections that affect our beliefs and emotions, often to the detriment of our self-esteem.

Fortunately, we have the power to change our brains to help rid our minds off the beliefs that don’t serve us.

The science behind this is called neuroplasticity, a fancy word for a simple but fascinating truth: the brain can always change throughout life.

It doesn’t just learn and create new connections; it can also break old connections.

This amazing ability of the brain and the nervous system to re-organize its structure, function and connections is researched more and more.

This knowledge is used to understand how we learn and de-learn as adults. It is also important in the medical field to help people recover after brain injuries or strokes and to understand addictions and mental diseases like depression.

This knowledge is also important if you want to change your brain.

So if you want to recover your self-esteem after failure, the following four ways will reprogram your brain to create beliefs that boost your confidence:

1. Break the connections that steal your self-esteem

It happens to all of us. We make a mistake that causes us to fail.

Now we are desperate, angry, and unbelievably sad. We then obsess over our stupid mistake —the one that kept us from reaching our goal.

This obsession causes our brains to constantly create new connections. With every new connection, our brains learn again and again that we are a failure.

With every new connection, this belief becomes stronger and stronger.

So you must not let it be engraved in your brain that you are a failure. You failed. That is part of life, and it’s perfectly ok. But you are not a failure.

There’s a big difference. Obsessing about it gives too much power to the failure, and you’re just wasting your precious time doing so.

Fortunately, you can make and also break connections in your brain.

If we take the focus from what causes the connection, we can stop new connections. If we don’t think about it for a while, the connection can be broken.

So, be disappointed and angry, stamp your foot, or shed a tear, but then shake it off. You can do that by following some practical tips:

  • You can actually shake it off by physically shaking your hands. That might sound a little silly, but it works. The brain reacts to movement.
  • If you lean more toward symbols, you could write your mistake on a piece of paper and then burn the paper – or tear it into many small pieces. I have done this before, and it has a wonderfully liberating effect.
  • You could also make a list of all of your accomplishments and consciously focus on them. See that you are capable of so much and make your mistake look small and irrelevant.

Stop thinking about failure and your brain stops treating you as a failure.

So forgive yourself, treat yourself compassionately, and you’ll break those bad connections that wound your self-esteem.

Concentrate on success to recover self-esteem

2. Create goals that guarantee success

People often fail because they set unrealistic goals, and, also they often plan and execute wrong while trying to reach their goals.

By wanting too much too fast, we set ourselves up for failure.

By impatiently pushing towards a goal, we lose our focus on what needs to be done and fail.

In the end, all we do is program our brains to believe we are incapable of succeeding.

If this is why you’ve failed, you can recover your self-esteem by learning to set small achievable goals, give yourself more time, and plan better.

You can also track your goals and reward yourself every time you have reached one of your smaller goals.

Don’t be foolish and think only reaching a final major goal can be called success.

What we see as a big success is always the sum of many small steps and successes. So, don’t forget that every time you reach a goal you do experience success.

How to measure success – should be part of your initial planning.

And experiencing success is even more crucial and important than you might think; because your brain is again involved in this experience.

The smaller the goals, the more likely you are to succeed. And while you experience success, your brain shows high measurable brain activity.

It results in increased motivation, self-esteem, and happiness, which only increase your likelihood of succeeding again in the future. Success is what you need to go on.

Don’t expect to be a billionaire in half a year, to perform as a musician at the Sydney Opera after a few years of practice, or to lose half your body weight in a month, though.

Set yourself up for success with achievable goals.

Feat and sense of accomplishment breeds self-esteem

3. Ensure you’re prepared, and try again

On your way to success after failure, don’t forget an embarrassingly simple strategy that appears to be a little bit out of fashion these days.

That strategy is to practice, practice, and practice. By practicing, we gain knowledge of how something works and the confidence with everything we do.

While you may have failed you can build your self-esteem by trying again and this time making sure you are prepared.

For important information to travel from short-term memory to long-term memory, we must repeat things at least three to five times.

Doing something only once is not enough to have it stick; unless it is mind-blowing.For the best results, repeat it as much as possible as often as possible.

Repetition tells the brain first of all that this must be important and that it is better to keep it in the long-term memory.

Repetition is also increasing the connections in the brain up to the point where a behavior or activity happens almost automatically.

Have you ever been to a conference and listened to a presentation?

Some of the presenters look totally surprised at every new slide on the screen. They lack easiness, and they have to read every slide. They are usually the people that have not practiced.

The information presented is not engraved in their long-term memory, and they look insecure.

The self-confident and entertaining presenters have practiced many times; probably with a timer next to them.

The information they present is engraved in their long-term memories and is available to them anytime. They are confident, and they represent self-esteem.

The same goes for playing an instrument, presenting results to the boss, studying for an exam, doing sports, or learning a language.

So, what you do with practicing after a failure is getting prepared to try again.

It is important to get up and not to give up after a failure. But this time try it differently by being better and more prepared.

So, get busy practicing so that you can enjoy some true self-esteem.

Woman seeking validation and fearing rejection

4. Teach your brain the truth about fear

When we fail, we often develop a lot of fear. This fear stops us from taking action and messes with our goals. It prevents us from wanting to try again. It sabotages our self-esteem.

Since fear is also important for our survival, we can’t just get rid of it.

Imagine you are standing in front of a poisonous snake. You need your instincts and all the adrenaline that fear powers into you, to run and survive.

What we don’t want is the fear that stops us, and the fear that feeds more fear and blocks our self-esteem.

Fear is complicated. Fear does not happen in one area of the brain. There exists a complex system of different brain areas all working together.

So if you’ve failed at something and then developed a lot of fears that are shattering your self-esteem, you must teach your brain that the threats it’s feeling are not real.

Here are some tips on how to manage and control your fears:

Analyze your options

It is essential to evaluate and analyze different options. Don’t think you are stuck with only one option. Look into all the options you can think of, even if they seem odd or scary.

Then rank them according to the risks they present.Finally, chose the option you want to try with confidence and consideration.

Familiarize yourself with what you fear

Regain your self-esteem by slowly getting familiar with the situation or the thing you fear. Expose yourself to a situation, observe it, and get familiar with it.

Doing so gives you control over fear, and your brain learns that no threat, but rather something familiar is present.

Talk about it

We often hide, and are embarrassed about our fear and our lost self-esteem. Sharing and speaking it out loud makes a huge difference.

This little boost of our self-esteem can reduce our fear. While we talk about it, we usually experience that a person we talk to is empathetic with us.

Surprisingly, the other one does not see us as low as we think of ourselves. This reality helps us to change our perspective and boosts our self-esteem too.

Ask for help

Maybe you are scared your work, and your abilities are not good enough. Consider getting help from an expert.

For example, a blog post that went through an editor will allow you to hit that submit button with more confidence. Or taking a few lessons before an audition will allow you to show up with earned self-esteem and reassurance.

Final Thoughts

Now we know that our brains control our responses to failure.

We also know that we have control over our brains and how we can use that to be empowered. Isn’t that amazing?

Failure is not the end of the world. What is important is to get up and go on.

For this, we need to recover our self-esteem first, so that insecurities, fears, and wrong beliefs won’t stop us again.

It is also important that we learn from our failures so that we don’t repeat previous mistakes. It is important to sit and see what went wrong.

We might do that alone or even with some help from outside.

Then we have to re-set our goals and re-evaluate our strategies. As we have learned in this post, we can do that using our precious tool of understanding our brains.

We can stop thinking about mistakes, and we can shake them off. We can set ourselves up for success and find motivation, self-esteem, and happiness.

We can practice to keep information in our long-term memories and gain confidence. Being prepared with knowledge we can get ourselves together and try again.

And finally, we can understand and control our fear to overcome it.

Over To You –

What are your experiences with regaining your self-esteem after a failure? Do you see failure and success differently after understanding your brain better? Let me know in the comments below.

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81 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Donna Merrill

    2015-11-06 at 11:16 pm

    Hi Ilka,

    Nice to see you here on Harleena’s place.

    When it comes to this I think number 4 is the most difficult of all. Fear is a funny thing. We do need it in order for survival mechanisms but then there are other types of fear. Fear of the future, of failure, success…oh boy can I write a list about that!

    I myself have battled it and I see it so many times in others. I did so by self talk and then Rapid Eye Movement Therapy which really did the trick. Getting deep into the subconscious mind and replacing a fear with a positive thought.


    • Ilka Emig

      2015-11-07 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Donna!

      I am happy to see you here at Harleena’s as well

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You are absolutely right, fear is a topic that can fill pages. We have to manage it since we can’t avoid it totally.

      I have read about scientific proof for the effectiveness of rapid eye movement therapy, and I am glad to hear that you have tried it with positive results. That is really fascinating.

      Have a wonderful weekend, Ilka

  2. Jenn McKay

    2015-11-04 at 10:03 am

    Hey Ilka,

    What a great post!

    #2 jumped out at me because I have used this technique and I know how effective it is.

    I love that you wrote compassionately about failure while calling it failure!

    It allowed me to think of things I have not yet seen as opportunities in disguise, and has inspired me to use these techniques in new areas.

    Take good care,


    • Ilka Emig

      2015-11-07 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Jenn!

      I am glad you liked the post and you found it helpful.

      Good to hear that you already tried a technique and that it worked for you. I hope the other techniques will be just as effective.

      Thanks so much for sharing and all the best,

  3. Ryan Biddulph

    2015-11-01 at 10:46 pm

    Wow Ilka awesome tips. #1 can be a reality check because all connections can rob our self esteem. Why? Any time we rely on anything or person outside of ourselves to change or define our feelings, we are doomed. You are whole and complete as is, so remember this anytime you depend on another for self esteem boosts. Thanks so much for sharing Ilka.


    • Ilka Emig

      2015-11-06 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Ryan!

      I am glad you liked the post and you found it helpful as well. Thank you for sharing your experience. Sometimes people do let us down and disappoint us. Then it is good to be independent and in control. At other times we might need help from others but should chose the help very careful.

      I wish you the very best, Ilka

  4. skipprichard1

    2015-11-01 at 7:13 pm

    Ilka, what a great post. Comprehensive and full of great strategies to get life back on track. Failure is only a sign of coming success. I appreciate your post and Harleena’s consistently good features and posts.

    • Ilka Emig

      2015-11-06 at 10:06 pm

      Hi Skip!

      Thank you so much for sharing. I like how you phrased that failure is only a sign of coming succes.

      I am glad you liked the post. Best, Ilka

    • Harleena Singh

      2015-11-23 at 11:13 am

      Welcome to the blog Skip – good to have you over! 🙂

      So glad you liked Ilka’s post. You are absolutely right about failure being a sign of success – in fact, it’s a stepping stone towards success. I don’t think anyone succeeds without failing!

      Thanks for stopping by, we do appreciate it. 🙂

  5. Carol Amato

    2015-11-01 at 5:11 am

    Hi, Ilka and Harleena,

    What a wonderful post! I really appreciate you sharing these thoughts. I love the second point about creating goals that are achievable.

    I find that if I can get that ‘easy win’ it’s a huge encouragement, and build momentum for the next win, and the next. That’s my favorite takeaway!

    Also, I think it’s important to properly celebrate what we have accomplished, as so many of us look at the glass half empty and focus on what we haven’t been able to do…

    Hope you all are having a great weekend so far, I am.

    Take Care,
    Carol Amato

    • Ilka Emig

      2015-11-02 at 12:31 am

      Hi Carol!

      I am glad you liked the post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I like your positive approach on celebrating the glass being half full. Setting small goals and then reaching and celebrating them; I can feel motivation, self-esteem and happiness blooming.

      Have a wonderful new week, Ilka

    • Harleena Singh

      2015-11-23 at 11:08 am

      Hi Carol,

      So glad you liked Ilka’s guest post and could relate to it. 🙂

      Absolutely! Creating achievable and small goals help us to reach the larger goals eventually that we may have set. You are right about celebrating those achievements too, something we often fail to do, but it’s so essential I feel.

      Thanks for stopping by, we do appreciate it. 🙂

  6. Sherman Smith

    2015-10-31 at 12:43 am

    Hey Ilka,

    what a great topic that many of us go through. We all have failed at something and for many of us we focus on those failures and hinder our self esteem.

    The three things that has helped me a lot was practice, looking at my options, and questioning what I can improve on and focusing on it.

    Also since I’m learning two instruments, I learned to practice much slower, control and with more precision. I started doing this after reading “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. He talks about Mylin sheets which is the membrane that wraps around our neurons. The more mylin sheets that are developed and secured, the better we are in any activity.

    So with that said, I practice for constant improvement and with the mindset I could see a big difference from when I started to now.

    Thanks for the insightful post Ilka! Have a great weekend!

    • Ilka Emig

      2015-11-01 at 5:09 pm

      Hi Shermann!

      I an glad you liked the post and you could relate to the topic. Playing an instrument is a fantastic example for the importance of practice and repetition. This can go to the point that the fingers play almost automatically. I remember my last vocal lesson where i spent half an hour practicing

      • Ilka Emig

        2015-11-01 at 5:18 pm

        … One line.

        (Sorry I replied to fast)

        The beauty of practicing music is that it also makes us very happy by releasing the ‘happy hormones’ endorphins.

        Thank you so much for sharing Shermann!

        All the best, Ilka

  7. Dana

    2015-10-30 at 3:50 am

    Hi Ilka,

    I know exactly what it feels like to beat myself up over failure.

    If I were to take a look back at some of the projects and other attempts I’ve made toward achieving various goals in my life…I could have easily become discouraged about trying anything new.

    Eventually, I realized that many of the things I’ve “failed” at were things I had no real interest in…but thought I “should” do. It ended up that failing at these things allowed me to start getting honest with myself about what I really did want – and perhaps to start taking some steps in that direction instead.

    Awesome post – and a topic I know many of us can relate to.

    • Ilka Emig

      2015-10-31 at 2:02 am

      Hi Dana!

      I love the thought that some failures happen because what we tried was just wrong for us. Understanding that is also a sign that you gained control over your situation. And with it you gained self-esteem and peace. Much better than beating up yourself 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, Ilka

4 Scientifically Proven Ways for Recovering Self-Esteem after Failure

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