Have you ever been sacked from a job?
I was once sacked from a job and it sent my self-confidence and sense of self-worth into a death spiral.
I felt so much shame, I felt like I had failed and that I was a failure. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to show myself in the professional world again.
It was like a huge weight and a feeling I’ve never, ever experienced before.
I would wake up in the middle of the night crying and feeling absolutely gutted and like the bottom had fallen out of my world. I started to believe what my crazy brain was saying,
“You’re useless, you’ve proved that. You don’t deserve success”.
It would take hours to get back to sleep. And then the feeling would consume me all through the next day.
The thoughts in my head were like words from a stranger, not like me at all.
Would this feeling ever go away?
But it did, after 6 months.
This was because I was able to stomp on that stranger in my head and start to reframe my thoughts about the experience. Slowly I became able to see the situation in a different light.
The fact was that I actually disliked almost everything about the experience at that workplace - the chaos and lack of direction, the ever-changing goalposts, the lack of communication, the managers, almost everything.
It was one of the most toxic workplaces I’ve had the misfortune to work in.
This workplace was everything I help businesses to avoid!
So how did I change how my brain processed the thoughts about what had happened? How did I change my thinking and start sleeping soundly again?
How did I start feeling good about myself again?
It’s not magic, it’s about doing a few simple things.
Reframe the Experience
When failure happens it’s really easy to play the self-pity game and blame the world for what happened. Your head keeps asking, “Why me?” over and over.
By all means, have an afternoon of wallowing on the couch with a box of tissues and a packet of Tim Tams (red wine and potato chips for me thanks).
But the next day, pick yourself up off the couch, wipe the crumbs off your face and say out loud,
“There is no failure, only feedback”.
Reframing is about shifting your internal narrative from “I am a failure, I’ll never be able to do it” to something like, “I tried and it didn’t work this time. I know there is another way, I’m smart, I know I’ll find a new way”
It comes down to the meaning you give the experience.
Humans are meaning-making machines! We give meaning to all sorts of things; a look someone gives us, a comment we hear, what someone doesn't say or do.
Some call it a sign, others say it's the universe talking.
When I would wake up at 2:30am crying and mentally beating myself up I started asking, “What am I making this mean?”.
"What am I making this mean about me?"
You can use this whenever you feel triggered by someone or a situation.
Be Kind to Yourself
Self-compassion and being kind to yourself helps you to face what life throws at you with a lot more ease and grace.
Whether the situation was within your control or not, show yourself some kindness.
What does beating yourself up really achieve anyway? It just makes you feel like crap. Beating yourself up over a mistake or when something goes wrong just serves to introduce shame into your thinking.
And shame loves shadows.
Shame is a heavy burden that we carry around on our own. You don’t share the burden of shame. We hide our shame behind masks and hold back from experiencing all that life offers up.
Admitting and owning your mistakes or failures is the only way to release the hold shame has on you.
You don’t have to love your mistakes or publicise your shame but when you acknowledge that it didn’t work out the way you’d planned and you'll do it differently next time, the weight of shame will dissipate.
No one is perfect.
We often speak to ourselves with so much venom. Try talking to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend. With kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
When you’ve given it a go and it didn’t work, acknowledge that fact. Be proud that you gave it a red hot go.
As for what others will think, let it go. You’ll never be able to control what others think, say or do. So why stress about it?
Believe me, there are plenty of people holding themselves back from trying and they’re looking at YOU, admiring your courage and boldness.
So next time you try and take a fall, why don’t you take a bubble bath rather than a guilt trip.
Take 100% Responsibility for your results
The day I heard the phrase, ‘You are responsible for 100% of the results you get, both good and bad’, I started to think differently about success, failure and my ability to influence my results.
A setback may not be your fault but it doesn’t mean that you can’t own it.
Leaders own the mistakes of their team.
Leaders avoid making excuses and start recognising the role they, as leader, played in the situation.
They don’t waste time being bitter or assigning blame, leaders ask what could have been done differently and how can we stop this from happening again.
How much joy, love, fulfilment or success do you get from blaming the world for your problems?
Taking responsibility empowers you to know that you can change it up for a different result.
Find the Good in it.
Isn’t it funny that what once seemed like the worst thing in the world now turns out to be a blessing in disguise?
When something doesn’t work out, it leaves you open and available for new opportunities. And often it just takes sharing your challenge with someone to open up that new door.
Maybe failing will help you see that a different path was in fact the better path for you?
Research shows that having a positive outlook when things get tough is the most important predictor of resilience. By being able to look at the brighter side of a challenge you will feel more empowered to find a solution.
See the glass as half full not half empty.
It’s not the end, it’s the start of a new adventure.
Get straight back on the horse again
You have two choices when life throws horse sh1t at you;
1. You can stay on the ground, accept defeat and get buried in more sh1t.
2. You can get up, pick up a handful and throw it right back.
I have found that the longer you stay down, the harder it is to get up. The longer you allow the shame to fester and grow, the more painful it is to release yourself from its hold.
Growth doesn’t come from comfort zones. Einstein said,
“You can’t expect to solve a problem with the same thinking that created it”.
So, something needs to change. You need to think differently.
Every successful person or leader has stories of failure and struggle. No one gets to travel a completely smooth path to growth, wealth, fulfilment or success. The successful all have stories of their journey, what they learned, and how their thinking changed along the way.
The difference between those who accept defeat and those who transform to become leaders in their lives is that the leaders were driven to change their thinking and get up one more time.
What I once saw as my great failure is now a tiny blip on my radar.
I remember it only as a lesson to myself of a time when I didn’t stay true to my values, my professional standards and when I didn’t ask enough questions.
Emma Taberner is a qualified Leadership and Executive Coach, Speaker, Facilitator, author and self-confessed Human Behaviour nerd. With over 20 years in leadership positions in FMCG, coaching and mentoring frontline leaders, she is passionate about helping small business owners and their teams to understand how their behaviours determine their leadership and effectiveness in business, relationships and in life. Emma works One to One, with groups, both face 2 face and online.
When she’s not building future leaders you can find her flying small planes, being in the outdoors, growing her own food and hanging out with her husband of over 20 years.
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