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Don’t fear this f-word: Failure – People with high self-esteem are not afraid to fail

Posted by Deb Muoio

Dec 9, 2014 5:06:00 PM

Abraham Lincoln’s initial venture into politics failed. Michael Jordan was cut from his high assertiveschool basketball team,and Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job for being uncreative. Had these people allowed failure to hold them back or to dictate how they felt about themselves, they would have remained unknown and uncelebrated.

Failure is not something to be feared. In fact, according to a recent study we conducted at PsychTests using our Self-esteem Assessment (SEA), people with high self-esteem don’t fear failure – they own it, and “milk it” for information.

When we analyzed the results of 3,660 people, our data reveal that people with high self-esteem and those with low self-esteem have very contrasting views of mistakes and failure. For instance:

  • 72% of people with high self-esteem want their mistakes to be brought to their attention (compared to 46% of people with low self-esteem).
  • 84% are comfortable admitting their mistakes (compared to 36% of people with low self-esteem).
  • 73% believe that success is not imperative – what matters is doing one’s best, regardless of the outcome (compared to only 22% of people with low self-esteem).
  • 89% believe that improving on their weaknesses is worth the effort (compared to 53% of peoplewith low self-esteem).
  • 89% believe that getting feedback on their performance, even if it is negative, can be helpful (compared to 48% of people with low self-esteem).
  • 91% believe that failing at something just means that they have to try harder next time (compared to 64% of people with low self-esteem).

For people with low self-esteem…

  • 71% believe that failing at something means that they are an inferior person (compared to 6% of people with high self-esteem).
  • 66% believe that if they make even one mistake, they will lose other people’s respect (compared to 5% of people with high self-esteem).
  • When criticized 81% say that they can’t help but feel incompetent (compared to 4% of people with high self-esteem).

What this means is that people with high self-esteem see failure as just another stepping stone on the path to success and mistakes as just another lesson learned. They don’t allow these missteps to dictate how they feel about themselves because they know that there is always the opportunity to do better next time, to try a different approach, to ask someone for guidance, or to obtain more knowledge and training.

People with low self-esteem, on the other hand, internalize their failures. They are unable to separate the failure from their identity and as a result, allow it to define who they are: “I failed at this; therefore, I am a failure.” Remember: Our mistakes do not devalue us – they push us to raise to a higher level.”

Absolutely everyone, no matter how perfect they may seem, messes up from time to time. This is how we learn - like the process of learning to walk as children. If we don't stumble, we won't learn how to get up and keep our balance.

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Topics: Leadership Development, Employee Attitude, Mentoring, Employee Wellbeing, Personal Development, Employee Development, Motivation, Emotional Intelligence, Coaching

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