Ask The Therapist: “I failed in three subjects. I feel so ashamed, how could I let this happen…”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“So I am at IVS and recently I got my result and I found out that I had failed in three subjects. And they refused to promote me, and in IVS you have to repeat the whole semester. So I have to wait 5 months at home. And I just feel like a big failure. I aspire to be a big fashion designer one day, and I guess this is a big dent in my plans. I feel like I am not good enough for my dreams. And I just stay at home counting the days, feeling depressed and frustrated. I feel so ashamed, how could I let this happen?” 

Haya’s Response:

Dear Anonymous,

I know that feeling like a failure is really difficult and brings you to a place of not feeling good enough. You feel like you won’t be able to fulfill your dreams. But the language you use with yourself is extremely important. And the language I’m hearing from you is wiring you for negativity. Even if you are the most talented person in the world, if you tell yourself that you’re not good enough, you won’t be able to do anything. And that’s no way to live.

All of us make mistakes and, at some point, fail in some endeavor. Unfortunately, we often address our shortcomings intellectually but let our shame of having failed reign over our emotions. Right now you’re feeling a lot of emotions and they’ve overcome you, which you will need to process.

Failures seem monumental and earth shattering when they first happen. Your emotions are running wild and when you’re feeling this way, you can’t do anything useful.

For that reason, you should take some time to step back from the problem and cool off a bit (after doing any needed damage control, of course). Distract yourself with something that cheers you up to take your mind off everything going on.

Next, identify the cause of the failure and come up with a new plan of attack. What’s happened has happened – there is no point in dwelling in it. To move forward, think of what you can do make things better going forward and come up with a new plan to achieve your goals. And if you need help, like most of us do, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

But amongst all this, please remember that there is no reason to feel ashamed.

When we’re overcome with shame, we tend to carry that burden around with us and it impacts our lives in more ways than one.

  • We isolate ourselves – hiding our struggles out of shame – and start shying away from our family and friends who can be a great support system
  • We stop pursuing our dreams, since doing so involves risk and risks could lead to the potential of failure
  • We lose internal peace because we start living with no more than an illusion of safety and the shame prevents us from pursuing greater things.
  • We start trying to please everyone as much as possible to avoid facing any criticism, which is emotionally draining.

There are ways that we can prevent this shame from paralyzing us:

  1. Notice that you are starting to let shame rule your emotions. Become aware of your behavior and physiological responses.
  2. Pause and breathe. Learn how to stop and observe your conscious and subconscious responses, whenever shame starts to “take over” – but do so without judging yourself. Take deep breaths. Be kind to yourself the same way you would have compassion for a friend going through a difficult situation. Notice when you are avoiding getting together with people, when you are “checking out,” getting defensive, or feel your heart rate going up.
  3. Observe your mindset. Pay attention to what you are thinking – especially to any limiting beliefs such as that you are not capable or worthy of doing something, or that you will always fail. Our minds seek confirmation of our beliefs – if you think you are unworthy you will consciously or subconsciously look for proof of that notion, which can sabotage your moving forward.
  4. Analyze and take action. Reflect on your thoughts and especially on what triggered the feeling of shame. Often your own perspective will be far more critical of yourself than the perspectives of others. With that in mind, change your attitude to one of embracing and learning from failure along the path of success, rather than viewing failure as a dead end.

Once you’ve analyzed and re-assessed what went wrong, you can pick yourself up and try again better than before. And remember, you can do anything you believe you can and put your mind to!

“Failure doesn’t mean the game is over, it means try again with EXPERIENCE”

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