Why failure should be emotional

Why failure should be emotional

by Vanessa Ng 01 Jan 2020

The British have a famous saying when it comes to encountering setbacks of any kind: Keep a stiff upper lip. While stoicism and unflinching conviction are indeed virtues that we should all aspire to possess, does this mean that we should condition ourselves to be like soulless golems in the face of failure? To actually distance ourselves from any emotional developments that occur as a result? Far from it!


Being emotionally receptive to failure doesn’t mean throwing a temper tantrum anytime something fails to go your way. Feelings of hurt, disappointment and resentment are in fact a very natural and human response, so there’s no sense in completely shutting yourself off from it. As strange as it sounds, coming to terms with them can help with the metaphorical act of dusting oneself off and getting ready for another go.


Strong emotions leave deep imprints on one’s psyche. As such, an emotionally keen individual would be able to tap into the wellspring of his/her feelings and draw succor in times of need. Just how the saying of failure as stepping stones goes, experiencing the emotional fallout of failure can be instrumental in deciding the success of your next attempt.


In fact, a study concluded that emotional responses to failure as opposed to cognitive ones were more effective at improving one's achievements when it came to future tasks of a similar nature. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, sometimes, feeling terrible can improve your actions compared to than when you try to rationalise a failure instead. The latter may reap less benefits as people tend to come up with an excuse that isn’t as critical, thus robbing away the lessons that failure provides.


Does this in turn mean that we should fear failure? Yes and no.


Due to our inherent fear of failure, we often label failure as something negative. Feeling shame and stress from a certain failure can urge us to prevent its recurrence. For instance, being lazy may have resulted in you losing your job or failing a test. All the negative emotions felt can deter you from being lazy in future. By seeking self-improvement, you are more than likely to act in certain way to rid the feeling of humiliation. Being compelled to improve is a result that we can all agree is for the better.


However, a combination of a variety of negativities can have severe repercussions when not channeled into acts of self-improvement. If one pursues the extreme and gives up for fear of experiencing the same level of hurt again, the result would be devastating. As such, this further proves that how we perceive failure can motivate us to feel, and react in a certain way.


All in all, feeling down after a failure is common and almost unavoidable. However, suppressing your feelings can rob you of your motivation to improve. Mope around for a bit if you want, but use that emotion to take yourself to new heights instead letting it drag you down into a pit of inaction. If you’re going to be sad, at least do something with it!