From an early age, we all live, in one way or another, experiences that can be called a failure. Our instinctive reaction is to break down, to see failure as the negative conclusion of a certain experience.
What we don’t immediately consider is that the failures we experience can actually teach us a lot. Not only can we reflect on the mistakes made, learning not to repeat them, but we can use the emotions we feel to temper our character, becoming more and more experienced in managing this type of situation.
How social media changed our perception of success (and failure)
We live in an era where what we see on social networks is studied and designed to convey the impression of what we would like to be, rather than what we really are. Celebrities who share their secrets to stay young and attractive, friends who post photos of their happy families on vacation, entrepreneurs who pride themselves on their success.
What we do not see instead are the failed attempts, the lost jobs, the quarrels, the fears, the anxieties, the depression. Anything that gives an impression of imperfection is carefully hidden.
Despite this, there is a minority of people, even famous ones, who have started to show their most vulnerable side, the one who does not live a perfect existence. There are those who talk about their problems, from depression to food problems, exposing what makes them human. This too, however, is running the risk of simply becoming the latest trend, as if honesty is nothing more than a hashtag.
In addition to this, we have to deal with waves of opinions, which anyone allows themselves to shout loudly. Any topic, any person, is constantly overwhelmed with opinions and criticisms, often negative, by those who, sitting behind a keyboard, feel entitled (if not even obliged) to express their indignation and their opposition to this that sees.
When it comes to bankruptcy, the risk of being pillaged is so high that it often leads us to stop, not to mention our failures, not to seek help.
Living negative experiences is never pleasant, but it allows us to mature, and to face life with the awareness of the decisions we make. Failure is something that everyone, in one way or another, will have to face in life. So let’s try to live it in a positive way, not as a catastrophe from which we cannot recover.
If we face it with the right spirit, we will have the necessary tools to overcome it.
Because women and men experience (and remember) failures differently
Men and women have very different ways of dealing with bankruptcy. As much as this may seem just yet another stereotype on the difference between the sexes, there are scientific reasons that prove it.
The part of the brain that deals with managing our mistakes and making decisions (the anterior cingulate cortex) is generally more developed in women. This causes them to form stronger linked memories and negative experiences, and therefore more likely to view their failures in a negative way.
The consequence is that women therefore often underestimate their abilities, and therefore are less self-confident when it comes to applying, for example, for a promotion.
The difficulties of integrating as young people can help us as adults
As children, it is not always easy to interact with one’s peers. We often feel excluded, it seems to us that we cannot be part of the “group”. Especially in school, this can lead to isolating us, risking worsening the situation. Often, parents and teachers urge us to try to integrate, perhaps by behaving more like others, in order to be accepted.
But what not everyone realizes is that the difficulties in socialization lead us to develop some behavioral characteristics that can be very useful in adulthood.
Not being part of a group, for example, pushes us to observe behaviors and interactions more carefully, to think about the social mechanisms that govern an environment. The sense of “rejection” that we can often feel is transformed into a kind of resilience, which can make us stronger.
Furthermore, one of the most important things we can learn from this situation is independence. This can help us acclimatise in new situations, a fundamental skill for those who work in a dynamic sector.
Finally, experiencing exclusion firsthand will make us much more empathetic towards those around us. We will be able to better understand who is in similar situations, perhaps a newly hired colleague or someone away.
This empathy will allow us to become a point of reference not only for them, but for the whole team.
Too many exams and tests can be negative
When we are young, our life is marked by a myriad of exams and tests. In theory, these should be a tool to evaluate our skills and our growth, but in reality they hide much more.
For a young person, a test becomes a way of measuring oneself with the expectations of one’s family, professors and companions. It becomes an external validation tool, around which, for many, their self-esteem is centered.
A test, however, is able to provide only a partial evaluation, strongly influenced by many variables, such as the intention of the writer of the question, our psychophysical state on the exam day, the mood of the examiner, and so on saying. When our sense of self-esteem depends on the results of the tests we are subjected to, the risk is that, at the first failed exam, our safety will collapse.
Growing up, we realize that, except for a few rare cases, there are no tests in the real world. There are no exams that can rate us for correctly filling out a form, or for the way we manage our savings.
“When you are an adult, nobody gives you a vote for giving the right answer.”
It is important to understand the role of celebrities on social media
Our obsession with celebrities was certainly not born with social media. Already from the golden age of Hollywood to the beginning of the last century, we learned to venerate those who reach fame, earning, so to speak, the title of “star”.
For years, cinema has presented us with unreachable canons of beauty, bordering on perfection. Teams of make-up artists, stylists (as well as surgeons) took care of the appearance of the stars, so that they always looked perfect, untouchable.
Today the situation is somewhat different. Thanks to social media, we can get in “direct” contact with any star, and discover aspects of daily life that previously were destined to remain private.
This makes us feel closer to them, almost like they were just like us. We see them post photos of expensive clothes, revolutionary diets, dream holidays, and we have a tendency to make a comparison between our lives and theirs.
Because of this closeness that we feel, the comparison seems equal, but we often forget that behind those photos and those stories there are often advertising agreements or sponsorships, and that, however much they want to give the appearance of being “ordinary people”, often these characters live in a completely different world.
Following a famous person on social media is not necessarily a bad thing, but we always try to remember that trying to emulate their (often expensive) life will not make us stars.
It is important to learn to say “no”
Often at work we find ourselves, especially if we are beginners, to accept any type of request. The “last arrivals” are often those who are entrusted with all the most tedious tasks, which the others refuse to do. And we accept them, almost thanking them for the opportunity, because we feel it will “make us grow”.
Unfortunately, however, things are not exactly like that. Accepting a job or a job that someone else does not want to do, or perhaps at a reduced price if we are on our own, can create dangerous precedents, which risk pushing us along a dead end road.
Learning to say “no” is a very important step for anyone who wants to build a career based on rules that he himself establishes. In the face of some occasion that may seem lost, and make us feel that we have failed, what we gain when we learn to reject certain offers is the value of our time and our work.
In this way, we will be able to invest in ourselves, and at the same time make ourselves recognized for what we are truly worth.
Because anger is a more complex feeling than it seems
Anger is a common feeling, which we all feel, and which each manages in his own way. However, we have always tended to see anger in a profoundly different way, depending on whether the subject is a man or a woman.
An angry woman is often seen as hysterical, unable to manage her emotions. Even when anger is justified by years of torment and abuse, if it is a woman to demonstrate it, society tends to see it as something extreme, not feminine, wrong.
In contrast, a man driven by anger is often seen as manly, strong, determined. Think for example of the myriad of films in which we see a hero – male – who uses his anger to take revenge for a wrong he has suffered.
For years, this has led women to internalize this feeling, to lock it inside themselves. The profound misogyny that – still today – permeates our society tells us that women’s anger is the consequence of some mental disorder, hiding what it could become: strength.
Thanks to the #metoo movement, more and more women are finding the courage to scream their anger, to denounce incorrect behaviors that they have had to undergo in silence for years.
When women can express themselves on an equal footing with men, then we can say that we live in a just society.
“Success” is not the opposite of “failure”
What does achieving success mean? For a writer, it means having many readers who buy his books. For a singer, it means selling a lot and playing in front of thousands of people. For an actor, it means acting for great directors in large productions. Every profession, every path, has the standard definition of “success”.
But it is also possible to fail to succeed. For many, especially for those who find themselves successful enough to be recognized, if not even followed, by their fans, the experience can be alienating. This does not mean not appreciating what you have, but it means recognizing that success is not what is often transmitted to us.
For this reason, when a successful person manages to be open and honest about their problems, about the difficulties not only of the past, but also of the present, we can learn a lot. When a person who seems to have everything manages to show us their vulnerabilities, we feel more connected, and we can see the human side. They make us understand that success is not necessarily something tangible and material, and that money – really – does not make happiness.
The real success, if we want to call it that, is the happiness that each of us can find only within himself. When we understand what is really important to us, then we can really know if we are happy.