it is impossible to NOT FEEL BAD unless you also "NOT FEEL GOOD"

When I work with people on coping with the bad feelings of failure, my strategy is to ruin their successes :). This is where the catharsis comes from.

In a lot of the trainings and coachings I was part of, one of the needs that came up was about self-worth:

- how can I cope with failure

- how can I increase my self-esteem or confidence

- how to be more sure of myself, how not to have so many insecurities

- how to not feel guilty or ashamed when I fail or I don't succeed quite enough

- how to not stress so much about my performance

- how to cope with my need to make things perfect

I noticed that a lot of the times the default talk is about NOT FEELING BAD, this is where the focus goes ... how to NOT FEEL BAD

However, I think that it is impossible to NOT FEEL BAD unless you also NOT FEEL GOOD

Just give me a second:

When something works out, goes our way and we feel like "we succeeded" we feel good. We are proud and happy. I think this is where the source of our problem comes from. If I feel proud/good about myself when I succeed (I meet some random criteria in my head) ... I conclude in my mind that "IF I SUCCEED IT MEANS THAT":

- I was smart, able, skilled, competent ....

- I put in effort, ambition, drive, determination

This is all fine and dandy .... but to BELIEVE that belief, that if we succeed we can feel PROUD .... to be able to create that emotion, we also need to believe the opposite:


- I was NOT smart, able, skilled, competent ....

- I DID NOT put in effort, ambition, drive, determination

Our problem comes from wanting OUR SUCCESS TO BE an attribution about us as a person (to be able to conclude about traits we have), but for OUR FAILURES to be an attribution that is not so deterministic or characteristic of who we are.

We want to be able to say that our success says we're SMART, and our failure doesn't say that we're STUPID.

We cannot have it both ways ... with all the ability of our mind to tolerate cognitive dissonance this one is impossible.

So ... what I have learned is that if one wants to not feel horrible, stressed, ashamed, guilty about FAILURE ... the solution is to NOT FEEL PROUD ABOUT SUCCESS


When we succeed we can approach success with the same curiosity, skepticism and analysis that we approach failure.

We can admit in success the big influence of luck, timing, context.

We can say ... "Whoa! This project worked out so well, let me analyze it a bit: how much was luck from it, how much was about timing, how much was about the support of people around me, how much was about things just clicking into place" ... so we can really see that it is not just a matter of effort and skill, it is not just about us.

When we get the job we can be curious about the luck we had: how we got lucky that the recruiter noticed our CV, how we had a good day when we had the interview, how ideas about answers just came up and we were lucky that the answers resonated somehow with what the hiring manager imagination of what they wanted from us ... and so on.