WHAT TO SAY TO YOURSELF WHEN YOU FAIL

We all mess up, make a misstep or fail from time to time. This is part of being human. (Side
note: if you encounter someone who tells you they’ve never failed, run. This will not be a healthy
relationship for you.) When we fail there are multiple options for response. Hopefully, you
respond to yourself in a way which provides acceptance and understanding. If you’re like many,
you don’t.

Our lives are made up of relationships, and one of the more influential relationships is the one
we hold with ourselves. That’s right. You’re in a relationship with yourself, and this relationship
needs nurturing, care, acknowledgment, and understanding just like all of the others. Since this
is true, it’s ironic then to reflect on the things we think and believe about ourselves after failure.
For many, these moments give way to the cruelest, least compassionate narratives the mind
can create. Shaming, name calling, and catastrophizing (thinking up the worst possible
scenarios, often times in an irrational way) are common. Our minds create hurtful messages
which reinforce old beliefs about our inabilities and insecurities. These are things many people
would never say to others. They would never scream at a friend, “You’re such a screw up!” or
“Everything you do falls apart!”. Yet, these messages are all too available in our relationships
with ourselves.

Imagine if you did say these things to others, or if someone was saying those things to you. The
relationship wouldn’t last long. Or, it would be incredibly dysfunctional. What then are these
messages doing to the relationship you have with yourself?

The next time you fail, consider choosing one of the below statements to offer to yourself:

  • “I can’t change what’s already happened.”
  • “This moment is a result of over a million other decisions.”
  • “The present is the only moment I have control over.”
  • “Fighting the past only blinds me to my present.”

* Statements from: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for
Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, & Distress Tolerance

What you say to yourself matters. Every conversation you have is going somewhere. Make an
effort to guide conversations with yourself to a healthy place.