This is Why Failing Doesn’t Make You A Failure

Posted by on September 16, 2017 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living with 0 Comments

By Brianna Johnson | Tiny Buddha

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” ~Zig Ziglar

Take a second and imagine little you: running around like the little ragamuffin you were. Imagine as far back as you can—back when you were first able to comprehend feedback from parents, teachers, or whatever other authorities were around.


When considering the cause of low self-esteem, the most obvious answers are under the umbrella of past abuses or failures: a parent who demanded straight As, an abusive spouse, etc. These are common forms of mistreatment that cause some people’s self-esteem to tank.

But for those who’ve lived fairly easy lives, while surrounded by reasonably supportive people, low self-esteem has no obvious root (I talked about my own experience with this here.) What’s worse is that having an issue we don’t understand can make us feel weak or defective because the problem seemingly has no cause.

So if you’ve suffered with low self-esteem, even if just occasionally or in certain situations, research is now pointing us in an interesting direction. There’s a surprising link that can help us out, and it has everything to do with effort.

How Low Self-Esteem Takes Shape

Are you one of those people who think Sigmund Freud is an absolute dunce? I don’t blame you. But he was right about something, and it’s that what happens to us during childhood shapes us—big time.

Researchers in the Netherlands discovered that parents who praise their children for innate qualities may actually do more harm than good. According to the study, parents should instead praise children for their hard work and effort.


So what’s the difference? It’s hardly possible to distinguish between a mom exclaiming, “Oh, you’re such a good reader!” and another who says, “Oh, you worked so hard on your reading assignment!” But this difference is significant.

Children who were praised for “being” something felt a strange pressure that children who were praised for their work didn’t feel: When they fail, they associate the failure with an innate quality instead of associating it with the amount or quality of work they did.

As you can imagine, associating your failures with innate flaws instead of just the quality of effort you put in can be damaging to a child’s impressionable self-image. And it can continue to wreak havoc on your adult self.

Suddenly “I didn’t study enough” becomes “I’m stupid,” or “I need more practice with painting” becomes “I’m a bad artist,” etc. The low value falls on the self, not on the action taken.

To put it another way, this kind of praise conditions us to think we are supposed to already be something without practice or trial and error. After falling short of this irrational standard a few times, self-esteem can drop quickly.

The researchers also found that parents were more likely to praise children with low self-esteem for their innate qualities, thinking it would help give them a needed boost. Whoops.

If you think this sounds like a bunch of BS, I can vouch for it personally.

For much of my life, I wouldn’t try anything that I felt I wasn’t “innately” good at. I was big on beginner’s luck and anything I knew how to do intuitively, without much effort. Everything else (especially when hand-eye coordination was involved) could suck it as far as I was concerned.

My parents were not major enforcers of hard work, so their praises were usually directed at innate qualities.

As I grew up, this subtle distinction wreaked havoc in many areas of my life. I would quit things at the first sign of trouble, becoming extremely discouraged, and sometimes even feeling ashamed at the slightest mistake.

Basically, how I behaved and my upbringing exemplified the above theory: I had no understanding of commitment and how it was the key to being talented in any area. Instead, I fearfully avoided anything that required practice and stuck to things I felt I had a “knack” for. I believed that what I did was who I was—for better or worse.

 

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE…….

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