Bouncing Back From Setbacks

Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash

Nobody is immune to failure. Whether you see it as getting poor grades, having a bad month at work, or feeling unfulfilled and unworthy, we’ve all experienced failure. But one thing many fail to realize is that failure is one of the most natural things in the world. Everyone fails at one time or another and just because you have failed (or feel that you’ve failed) does not say anything about your character.Coping with failure can help you become a healthier, happier human being who can take the next setback with maturity, calmness, and responsibility.

When you fail or feel as though you’ve failed, you can feel a rush of unpleasant emotions. They can range from anxiety, low self-esteem, negatively comparing yourself with others, and even depression. If you find yourself feeling these emotions more and more frequently, that can be destructive (especially for your mental health). 


There are many different tactics for coping with failure and some are personal. But, there are plenty of universal strategies for coping with failure that can come in handy. 

  1. Recognize your emotions: This can be done by acknowledging that you feel sad, angry, or ashamed. The more transparent you are with your own feelings, the quicker you can move on and get over your feelings of failure.
  2. Practice healthy coping mechanisms: Sulking for days, eating junk food, and distracting yourself from failure might sound like a good idea, but it can cause a lot more harm than good. Recognizing your emotions means confronting them head on. You cannot do that by becoming intoxicated, lost in your own grief, and refusing to acknowledge why you feel so bad. Some excellent coping mechanisms that can be practiced instead are exercise, taking deep breaths, and going for long walks (you can take long walks by yourself, with a supportive friend you trust, and/or a pet). 
  3. Be open to change: Failure can often mean that the one thing you’ve been working towards is no longer available. This is frustrating and disappointing, especially if you’ve worked long and hard, but it is important to keep an open mind. Keeping an open mind will allow you to see opportunities that you might not have considered before…and in some cases, these opportunities can be exactly what you need and want. 
  4. Create a plan: Another part of coping with failure comes with the inevitable question, “Now what?” It might be tough for you to think of the next step that can be both rewarding and fulfilling, but it pays to start thinking about this in advance. 
  5. Acknowledge that failure might happen again: Throughout your life, you will experience moments of failure again. But realizing that does not mean you can wallow in the possibility of experiencing failure…you have to take it head on and accept the fact that no matter how hard you try, sometimes you fail. Sometimes the most rewarding parts of life involve an element of vulnerability and the risk of failure, but potential satisfaction can outweigh the risks.


The Counseling Center at NC State University is here to help. The Counseling Center provides many resources and mental health services and also works to cultivate healthy emotional and psychological growth, which allows students to flourish and develop in all aspects of life. Feel free to reach out to the Counseling Center if you are feeling overwhelmed. 

10 Healthy Ways to Cope with Failure
5 Ways To Cope With Failure: Psychology Today