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Does your mental health take a hit after experiencing failure?

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Every single one of us experiences failure in different ways at some point in our lives – some are small, others are bigger. The feeling of failure in question may be felt at different times in our life on the career, home, social and personal front too. While some of us are able to deal with it and move on, there are others who have a tough time coming to terms with failure, and that may be because of the expectations that they put on themselves or associated with the particular activity. It may seem like a phase but may often continue and even affect our mental health to a great extent. 

City-based psychologist Shruti Padhye with the Mpower Cell, explains, “We have a strong association of value as humans with how successful we can be in our financial, romantic, academic or other pursuits. Some of us prefer to be seen as infallible beings who do things perfectly and are admired by many. While others are frightened by failure, as it can be a great attack on their sense of who they are. Some have painful experiences with punishments after failures, and they may tread rather cautiously on their path.” 

In the last month, the Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, has seen a series of flops – right from Shamshera to Raksha Bandhan and even Laal Singh Chaddha more recently. Interestingly, social media doesn’t wait too long and gets to trolling the makers and actors within a hot second after they have watched the film. Dealing with this have become a part and parcel of actors’s lives but often it does get to them. If not them, the makers would definitely feel the disappointment expressed by people online as it is a ripple effect.  

After Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Shamshera received a lot of hate online, the movie’s director Karan Malhotra took to social media to express his feelings about the reactions he experienced on the medium. In his heartfelt note, Malhotra goes on to elaborate how he took some time off because he couldn’t handle the “hate and rage” and his withdrawal is simply his weakness. However, he did come back and is “proud and honoured” to have made the movie and will deal with whatever comes for it along the way. Malhotra is definitely one among those to have handled the reactions better than most others, especially when high stakes are involved, but there are others, who may not be able to do it. 

Keeping in mind the kind of form that failure can have in today’s social media age, Mid-day Online spoke to Dr Kedar Tilwe, consultant psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital Mulund & Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi and Shruti Padhye, psychologist and outreach associate with Mpower Cell, mental health initiative, to understand how people can deal with it better. While dealing with failure is going to be a daily process, the two experts stress on why people need to take timely breaks from social media at such times. 

How can one deal with failure when there is a lot of money and time involved?

Tilwe: Talking with your loved ones and trusted confidants always helps. Focusing on the variables that one can improve or implement in the next project allows for focus on the road ahead rather than unrequited ruminations about the past. 

Padhye: We all deal with it differently in many ways – some avoid taking risks, some avoid taking opportunities, some deny it and fail to learn from it. And a few see it for what it is, accept and integrate it, while still managing to keep their view of self rather unshaken. The essential difference between people who can integrate failure and who don`t, is the meaning that they attach to the experience. With that, and with the strength of self-concept, growth mindset, past experience and the narratives we learn surrounding failure.

What are the first feelings one could possibly have after the failure?
Tilwe: One may experience self-doubt, feelings of shame and guilt along with a decline in one`s self-confidence. 

Padhye: Failure may come to many as a message that what you did is not valued, and your efforts were in the wrong direction, and therefore you don`t have the value that you thought you did. It`s generally a bitter pill for most people but has hidden secrets for learning. It can also evoke feelings of anxiety about our place in the external world and our view of ourselves which then leads to feeling of worthlessness and helplessness.

Does the kind of reaction to failure depend on different age groups?
Tilwe: People at different stages in their life often tend to have different expectations and vulnerabilities, so the response may vary from person to person and across age groups. 

Padhye: Children are usually better able to deal with failures, until they haven’t been taught to attach global and personal meanings to it. Adults who believe in perfection or have high self-expectation which might often feel like a failure even if they have achieved all of their goals. Perfection is a social construct where you are fighting a losing battle with the society. Its stressful and frustrating to constantly compete amongst ourselves which leads to burn out.

How can people around them help the person deal with failure?
Tilwe: Just being with them in the immediate aftermath and lending a listening ear will help. Engaging them in activities and helping them refocus on the immediate future projects is a good idea too. 

Padhye: It could be challenging to help a person dealing with mental illness like Depression, Anxiety due to failure. However, one can use the following suggestions to help them feel better about themselves: Listen to them actively, avoid asking them a lot of questions about the incident, be empathetic, use verbal praises to highlight their efforts, tell them they have your support, hang out with them often to cheer them up and encourage them to seek professional help. 

While failure of a big kind is experienced on occasion, people also experience failure on a daily basis. How can they pick themselves up after that?
Tilwe: Focus on small achievable goals, talk with peers and well-wishers, work on the constructive feedback received and try relaxation methods or stress-buster techniques that they may know.

Padhye: Picking up after a failure is challenging. The key is to not let it wash away all of the success that the person has worked so hard for in the past. To trust in the power of effort, planning and perseverance so they continue doing the work that needs to be done. With a kind and forgiving stance towards oneself. 

Many people even lose hope in what they are doing after experiencing failure. What are the tips and tricks for people to be mentally prepared?
Daily mindfulness exercises, yoga or meditation practice can help reduce the amount of stress experienced. If need be, reaching out to a mental health professional to discuss your concerns in a confidential and non-judgmental environment would help.


Be kind to yourself:
You failing at something doesn’t necessarily make you a failure. Failure is a path to success, try to learn from your mistakes instead of labelling it as a failure. Avoid generalising, if you fail at something doesn’t mean you fail at every other possible thing. Use daily affirmations to help you feel loved and in control.

Move your body
Exercising everyday can help you boost your happy hormones like dopamine, endorphin which will also instigate feeling of accomplishment, confidence.

Believe in the power of efforts:
“Success is never owned; it is only rented and the rent is due every day,” said Jeff Bezos. 
The efforts you put in will never go to waste. Believe in your efforts and have a positive and kind stance to oneself. 

Emotional Regulation:
Recognise your emotion and try to regulate it in a healthier way. Understand that sitting with your feelings and reflecting upon them is as important as working hard to achieve something. 

Study your behaviour:
Make a behaviour chart to study your behaviour and modify the behaviour that does not make you happy. For example, spending hours reading a novel instead of spending 45 minutes or an hour a day, so that you can finish all the other activities planned for the day.

Seek professional help:
Therapy will help you copy with the anxiety, panic attacks or depressive episodes. It will also make you more self-aware and regulate emotions better.

How to deal with hate, rage and trolling on social media today?
Tilwe: Focusing on daily activities and connecting with your friends and well-wishers in real life will help you tolerate any cyber bulling or trolling that you face. Most platforms also have specific protocols in place to deal with these types of trolling and should help deal with the situation. Maintaining a gadget-free time in a day or weekly digital detox is also beneficial. If necessary, talking about it with a mental health professional will help. 

Padhye: Social media hate or trolls definitely takes a toll on your mental health. Public figures who have no choice but to face it every day could get frequent panic attacks, anxiety and depressive episodes. It’s not easy to run away from them; it is important to face them. Understanding that trolling is usually done to either get your attention, unburden their frustration or jealousy in their life probably because they didn’t get a space to talk about their problems and concerns. Research has shown that trollers are either Sadist, Narcissist or have Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Coping with it can be done by limiting your time on social media. Understand that social media could be superficial not everything that you see on it is true. Hence, do not get too engrossed in it. Put a timer on it. Be your honest with your feelings.

Also read: College daze: What the lack of social interaction takes away from the college experience

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