“I used to feel inferior to a friend of mine. Everything was so easy for her—she never seemed to work for any of it! It made me wonder just what in the world was the matter with me. I can be my own worst enemy.”—Annette. *
DO FEELINGS of inadequacy prevent you from taking on new challenges? Do the well-meaning comments of those you respect sometimes undermine your confidence? Does discouragement over past blunders hold you back from trying again? If so, how can you come to terms with your failures—real or perceived?
You have everything to gain by finding the answer to that last question because sooner or later everyone fails at something. (Romans 3:23) But people who can deal with failures are resilient. That means they can put their mistakes in perspective, get up, and try again. And next time, they’re more likely to succeed! So let’s see how you can cope with three challenges—potential failure, perceived failure, and actual failure.
POTENTIAL FAILURE → WHAT COULD HAPPEN
You expect the worst and therefore hold back from making an attempt, thinking that your chances of success are slim.
Identify the challenge. Below, put a ✔ next to the task that you would like to succeed in—but feel certain that you would fail at if you tried.
- Defending your beliefs before classmates
- Applying for a job
- Speaking before an audience
- Participating in a sport
- Singing or playing a musical instrument
- Other ․․․․․
Think it through. Consider the task that you identified above, and weigh the possible outcomes by answering these questions:
‘What would I like to have happen?’
‘What do I fear will happen?’
Now write one reason why you should attempt the task, despite the risk of failure.
Bible example. When Moses was commissioned by Jehovah God to lead the nation of Israel, his first reaction was to think of what could go wrong. “Suppose everyone refuses to listen to my message?” he asked God. Then he started to dwell on his faults. “I have never been a good speaker,” he said. “I can never think of what to say.” Even after Jehovah promised to help him, Moses pleaded: “Please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 4:1, 10, 13, Contemporary English Version) Moses finally accepted his assignment, and the rest is history. Under God’s direction, Moses led the people of Israel for 40 years.
What you can do. King Solomon wrote: “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) So instead of letting fear of failure immobilize you, put your heart into the task. Why not think of an occasion on which you did better than you expected? What lesson did you learn about yourself from your success? How can that lesson help you conquer any fear of failure you may be experiencing now?
Hint: If necessary, get input from a parent or a mature friend who can help you build up your self-confidence. *
PERCEIVED FAILURE → WHAT YOU THINK HAS HAPPENED
When another person succeeds at some endeavor, you feel that you’re a failure by comparison.
Identify the challenge. To whom are you comparing yourself, and what achievement on that person’s part made you feel as if you were a failure?
Think it through. Does that person’s success really mean that you’ve failed? Below, write about a recent event, such as a test at school, where you did OK but someone else did better.
Now write about why it was worth attempting the endeavor.
Bible example. Cain was “hot with anger” when it became evident that Jehovah looked with favor on his brother Abel. Jehovah warned Cain about his jealousy, but he also expressed confidence that Cain could succeed if he chose to. “If you turn to doing good,” Jehovah said to him, “will there not be an exaltation?” *—Genesis 4:6, 7.
What you can do. Instead of “stirring up competition”—even if it is just in your mind—acknowledge the accomplishments of others. (Galatians 5:26; Romans 12:15) At the same time, without becoming boastful, recognize your own unique abilities. The Bible states: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone.”—Galatians 6:4.
ACTUAL FAILURE → WHAT HAS HAPPENED
You reflect on a previous failure and feel that success is not worth the effort.
Identify the challenge. Which personal failing do you find most discouraging?
Think it through. Does the failing you wrote above truly define you? For example, if you have given in to some weakness, does that really mean you’re hopeless? Or is it merely an indication that you need assistance? If you fell while engaging in a sport, you’d accept a helping hand to get back in the game. Why not take the same approach to coping with a personal failing? Write below the name of a person you could talk to about your problem. *
Bible example. At times, the apostle Paul felt discouraged over his weaknesses. “What a miserable person I am,” he wrote. (Romans 7:24, CEV) Evidently, though, Paul realized that his imperfections did not define him. He wrote: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.”—2 Timothy 4:7.
What you can do. Instead of focusing only on your faults, reflect on your good points as well. Jehovah certainly does. The Bible states: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Hebrews 6:10; Psalm 110:3.
Remember this: No one is perfect. Everyone fails at something, sometime. If you can learn to be resilient, you will have acquired a vital asset that will serve you well in adulthood. Proverbs 24:16 states: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up.” That’s the sort of person you can be!
^ par. 3 Name has been changed.
^ par. 23 For more information, see Awake! of May 2010, pages 26-28.
^ par. 31 Cain chose to disregard Jehovah’s admonition. His downfall underscores the need for you to curb any tendencies toward jealousy that might arise over another person’s success.—Philippians 2:3.