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Making Friends with Failure

Many of us may have grown up with the idea that making mistakes is a bad thing. When we received a bad grade or things didn’t go as expected, we may have felt distressed as we told our parents about it. We worried about their negative reaction.

The urge to avoid errors goes back to an earlier time when our ancestors could not afford to make a mistake when they hunted for food or came across danger. Miscalculations cost people their lives in the olden days. Their minds were adept at helping them ensure they didn’t make deadly blunders.

In our modern world, we rarely need to be anxious about oversights that could cost us our lives, unless we have a high-risk job such as being a pilot or an operator of intricate machinery.

Errors happen, and they are part of our existence. When we experience a failure, we can learn from it and improve ourselves.

Some people may say that they cannot afford defeat. They feel anxious, embarrassed, or ashamed. They may conclude that if they make mistakes, others will not respect or accept them.

Lucky for Sara Blakely (Spanx founder), who grew up believing that failing was a good thing! When she was a young girl, her father didn’t ask her “What awesome thing did you do today? Or “Tell me about your successes?” She reports that her father instead would ask her, “What did you fail at this week?” She remembers telling her father about her failures and her dad giving her a high-five saying “Way to go!”

The times when she shared only a success story, her father would actually show disappointment. Blakely learned to not be afraid to fail. She learned that making mistakes were part of the growth pathway, and that she didn’t need to worry about the outcome. It is the process that we need to focus on.

Blakely is not the only one who learned that mistakes are good and can help us succeed. Most successful people have found that out including Thomas Edison2 who is quoted as saying, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

How do you feel about the idea of failing so you can reach your potential? Are you willing to miss the mark to strengthen your resilience?

When you take the wrong step, you may instinctively blame other people or events. However, the best option is to own it, take courage, be curious, and find new ways to get back on your feet. Celebrate failure, and see the benefits associated with it.

Beware when your mind says to walk away and give up. Its advice to avoid makes sense. However, it leads you to believe that the unpleasant feelings that come along with defeat won’t be present. It’ not true! Avoidance will still cause you pain and not long-term results.

“Mistakes are proof that you are at least trying.”

“Don’t decide you can’t before you discover that you can.”

These are quotes that some elementary schools have posted on their classroom walls to teach kids that failing is good for them. Leaders, parents, and educators are trying to ensure kids of today are willing to fall down. This and the next generation can learn how to get up and be ready to climb “mountains of hard things” instead of being afraid of life.

What will you fail at today, so you can succeed tomorrow?

“Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of it.”


  1. Elkins, K. (2015, April 3). “The surprising dinner table question that got billionaire Sara Blakely to where she is today.” Retrieved from
  2. Rotenberg, Z. (2013, Nov. 13) “To Succeed, You Must Fail, and Fail More.” Retrieved from
Making Friends with Failure

Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S

Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S is the owner and clinical director at Mindset Family Therapy. Her practice specializes in treating children, adolescents, and adults coping with anxiety and family challenges. Her expertise is working with obsessive-compulsive disorder and (OCD) related disorders. Annabella is the author of two children’s books, “Emma’s Worry Clouds” and  “Nico the Worried Caterpillar.” She is also the co-author of “The Masterpiece Mindset: Empowering your Kids to be Confident, Kind, and Resilient.” She enjoys writing for various online magazines and her business blog. You can reach her at

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APA Reference
Hagen, A. (2019). Making Friends with Failure. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Jan 2019 (Originally: 21 Jan 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Jan 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.