Failure, Criticism, Rejection and Success

Self confidence is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become self confident you need to do three things.  1) Become an optimist.  2) Face your fears and act.  3) Surround yourself with positive people.

Fear is the enemy of self confidence – and success.  Most people fear failure, criticism and rejection.  It’s only normal.  We all want to feel good about ourselves.  Failure, criticism and rejection are not pleasant experiences.  They lower our self esteem and make us feel bad about ourselves, so we often avoid doing things that we think might lead to failure, criticism or rejection.  Unfortunately, if you want to become a personal and professional success, you have to have the courage to do things that might result in failure, criticism or rejection.

Failure, criticism and rejection provide you with the opportunity to grow and develop – to succeed.   You can’t take failure, criticism and rejection personally.  Failure, criticism and rejection are outcomes.  They are a result of things you have done.   They are not who you are.  We all make mistakes and fail.  We all do things that cause others to criticize or reject us.  This doesn’t mean that we are failures.  It means that we have made some poor choices and done some dumb things.

Failure, criticism and rejection provide the opportunity to start over – hopefully a little smarter.  Buckminster Fuller once said, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence of trial and error experience.  Humans have learned only through mistakes.”

That’s why fear is the enemy of self confidence and success.  If your fear of failure, criticism and rejection paralyzes you to the point where you aren’t willing to take calculated risks, you’ll never learn anything or accomplish any of your goals.

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail, or when others criticize of reject you.  Instead, put your energy into figuring out why you failed and then do something different.  Here are four questions to ask yourself the next time you fail, or get criticized or rejected.

  1. Why did I fail?  Why did I get criticized or rejected?  What did I do to cause the failure, criticism or rejection?
  2. What could I have done to prevent the failure, criticism or rejection?
  3. What have I learned from this situation? 
  4. What will I do differently the next time?

If you do this, you’ll be using failure, criticism and rejection to your advantage.  In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”  I know it’s hard to see the benefit or opportunity in failure, criticism and rejection.  But it’s there – you just have to look hard enough.  But it all begins by facing your fear and acting.

Last week I wrote about my niece Brett and her move from Florida to San Diego.  She left a good job in Florida.  She had no job lined up in San Diego when she moved.  I thought that she demonstrated amazing optimism in making such a long move in such a difficult economy.  I’m happy to report that 17 days after she arrived in San Diego Brett landed a job as an account manager for an athletic apparel manufacturer.  She starts today.  I’m proud of her.  She didn’t let her fear of failure, criticism or rejection stop her from pursuing her dreams.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are self confident.  Self confident people face their fears and act.  Our most common fears are failure, criticism and rejection.  However, if you choose to find and use the learning opportunity in failure, criticism and rejection you will not only become more self confident, you will become more successful.   It’s sad but true – failure, criticism and rejection are the price you pay for becoming a personal and professional success.  Facing your fear of failure, criticism and rejection and acting will pay big dividends in your life and career.

That’s my take on the importance of facing your fears and acting.  What’s yours?  What have you learned from facing your fears?  How has it helped you become more self confident?  Please leave a comment sharing your story with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Success depends on a constant stream of small and occasionally large failures; unfortunately, failure gets a bum rap. Failure is not only the output of an unsuccessful activity; it is also the input for a successful one. Unless failure is understood and respected as an integral part of success, it will remain widely perceived as unnecessary, objectionable… something to be avoided at all costs.

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