Teenagers are facing insurmountable pressure from parents, teachers, college counselors, and society as a whole. They are constantly told they need to be better, brighter, more talented, and more capable than the next student. The reality is they are no longer competing with themselves or their schoolmates, but are now competing with teens from all across the globe for selective spots that are few and far in between. Students are doing whatever it takes to be the best, and this desire, nay, requirement to be both perfect and number one is a newly formed idea that starts at an early age. This competitive nature and, quite frankly, unhealthy drive is terribly problematic, and what’s worst is that when students fail and are rejected, as we all inevitably do and are, they don’t know how to bounce back. They don’t know how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, dust off their shoulders, and keep moving despite adversity.
It’s so easy to lose perspective and self-confidence, and let the weight of the world, your grades, or your own (un)realistic expectations impact all aspects of your life, but it’s important to dig deep, remain steadfast, and shake it off! Easier said than done, right? Well, here are some tips that will not only help you recover from failure, but also stay motivated and optimistic regardless of what life throws your way:
Emphasize Effort: Focus on your effort and attitude rather than your natural ability. Are you trying your best? Is their room for growth? Do you believe you can succeed even when you fail? If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, then you have what Psychology Professor, Carol Dweck, calls a “growth-mindset.” If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then you likely have a “fixed-mindset.” People with growth-mindsets recognize that anything can be taught, developed, and strengthened, and that we even learn when we fail. Conversely, people with fixed-mindsets believe you either know something or you don’t and that failing means you’re just not good enough. So, which mindset do you want to have?
Embrace Failure: Accept that failure is a part of life and learning. Also, refocus your self-worth and value away from academic success, athletic performance, or popularity contests and on the fact that you’re a complex human being who is growing and learning one day at a time. Be kind to yourself.
Practice Mindfulness: Probably the most important tip of all is being intentionally conscious and aware of what’s happening in the present moment, and both acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. By practicing mindfulness, we focus on what’s happening in the present rather than what happened in the past or what could happen in the future. Research shows us that mindfulness reduces negative emotions and stress; increases our learning, memory, and emotion regulation; and helps us focus. Here’s a great mindfulness exercise that could calm even the Incredible Hulk!
Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re facing, whatever failure and rejection will inevitably come your way, stay calm, look at the bigger picture, and shake it off!