Gaining Strength, Courage, and Confidence from Failure

“He is able who thinks he is able.” ~Buddha

At any point of time every person has:

  • A set of things s/he wants to change but cannot (plans)
  • A set of things s/he tried to change but could not (helplessness)
  • A set of things s/he could have changed and did not (guilt)
  • A fear of the unknown, anxiety about the future, and worry about decisions to be taken (fear)
  • Too many plans and associated what-ifs (anxiety)

I have experienced all of the feelings listed above and have tried hard to ease myself from what I went through. Many times, I was unsuccessful.

After contemplating on all the above, I realized something: If someone can change something in my life, it’s me!

The normal path we all choose is: plan -> effort-> outcome.

And the outcome is usually one of the three:

  • Best effort -> success -> acceptable
  • Weak effort -> failure -> acceptable
  • Repeated best efforts -> unforeseen factors -> failure -> not acceptable

There are plans and then there is effort to work on those plans, and then on top of everything is the result—which, most of the time, is directly proportional to the effort, until there’s a mystery factor, like luck or unforeseen circumstances involved.

I’ve been unemployed for two years now.

I got married two years ago and my husband had a job in another country. After we got married, I had the choice of quitting my job and relocating with him, or hanging onto my job and persuading my company to give me an intra-company transfer. I tried the latter, but it didn’t work out.

So I quit my job and relocated with my husband. I was pleased with my decision, and so was most of my family. With a strong job profile, I was confident that I could nail a job in any country, any time I wanted.

But that was not the case. I tried to get a job, but I couldn’t. There was failure at every step. I slowly lost all the self-confidence I had. My personality just faded away.

I use to sit blankly, not knowing what was going on around me. I was slowly heading toward depression. I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because no one around me thought it was a big deal.

Take a break, its fine; have a baby, it will be fine; enjoy the honeymoon period—this is the type of advice I received. Yet, I knew deep down that my career mattered to me, and I felt that I had ruined it.

Despite all my effort, I couldn’t get a job. This was the first phase, when I told myself that maybe the effort was not enough.

So I put in more effort, everything that I could put in, from studying for interviews to networking and beyond. Eventually I got an offer, and I was excited to have finally made it. But, being an international employee, I needed a work permit—and the government rejected me for these jobs.

This was phase two. I was hurt and spiraling into depression. I was just numb. I didn’t have answers. I reached a low with my self-esteem. I lost self-respect, self-dignity, and the ability to trust my decisions.

Then recently, there was a change, a wave of change that I forced myself into. I decided that I would embrace life and face every fear. I wanted to never feel that low again.

I decided right then that whatever happens in life, I will never again question, “Why me?”

This one decision to let go of my self-pity brought me back to life.

I realized that I am here because of my own decisions, actions, and effort. I decided to quit my job, I was the one who did not have a backup plan, and I was the one who wasn’t mentally prepared.

It was me, and I took responsibility to change how I look at myself and my life. If I fail, I shall try harder, in new ways. If unforeseen circumstances come into play, I shall embrace them and try something else.

Everything suddenly seems brighter, better, and achievable. I have learned to see the silver lining in the cloud.

Slowly I improved myself, externally and internally. I started walking, even if it was just 10 minutes each day. I groomed my looks in whatever way I could. I started working for my entrance exam to join school.

I had a backup plan if this didn’t work. I made measurable goals—as small as wake up 30 minutes early tomorrow, read two chapters, or learn one thing new in my field of work.

I had let my fears overpower me until I decided to take charge. And I’m a much better person than I was—an organized, positive person who can face life and my fears.

If you’ve experienced repeated failures and have struggled to get back on your feet, don’t lose hope! Allow your fear to surface up, and see all your failures as experiences that have given you more strength, courage, and confidence.

The only danger is in refusing to face your fear and letting it hold you down.

Photo by learning_machine

About Shilpa Chandrashakhar

Shilpa Chandrashekhar is an amateur who has written several poems and inspiring short stories. Shilpa has a great love for travelling, meeting new people, and learning new cultures. A foodie, beach junkie, and wannabe entrepreneur, she now works as a software engineer.

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  • Joy

    Lovely post. I also made a decision two years ago to take a break from my career when I got married, it was a joint decision with my ex hubby. Our divorce was finalized last month and I moved into a new apartment. I thought it was going to be easy for me to go back to work because of my qualifications, skills and experience acquired over the years but I am still looking for work so that I will be able to fulfill my needs and wants.

    Interesting that this morning I decided to wake up at 5pm (I previously struggled to) and went jogging for an hour. I also made a conscious choice to stop being anxious and worried about my unknown future but rather focus on what is working in my life right now. I have also devoted hours in the day to read few chapters and research about the latest trends in my industry.

    Thank you and wish you all the best 🙂

  • Joy

    I meant 5am not pm lol 🙂

  • Kate

    The link to your article was first in my Twitter feed as I had just sat feeling the very despair you mentioned here after a few very upsetting and difficult months. A beautiful and much needed message for me. Thank you so much for sharing this Shilpa. Best to you and your finding a fulfilling job that brings you joy.

  • natashya

    I needed this. Thank you. Bless.

  • Hanna

    Thanks a lot for sharing this Shilpa. I could relate to your feelings very well. I have been unemployed for some months now and this summer nothings seemed to work out at all. No matter how hard I tried to apply for jobs or to find a place to stay…the result was zero. I returned to Germany after many years abroad and times of extensive travel (spend some 15 months in India) …and I just don´t seem to match any job profile here. Last Friday I received an e-mail saying I didnt´t get a job in India that I applied for. That was one more big dissapointment and for two days I felt completly depressed. Now I realized I can only make the best out of it, learn new things and look for other options. Sometimes we might not see opportunities that are in front of us…sometimes we might just have to be patient. I´m sure something will work out for you soon. All the best!

  • Carter

    Wow. I could have written this essay myself. It is very inspirational to realize that I am not alone in my struggles. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I’m still working hard to regain my self-confidence.

  • Thanks for sharing your story with us Shilpa!

    My favorites bits from your post were:

    “This one decision to let go of my self-pity brought me back to life.”

    “It was me, and I took responsibility to change how I look at myself and my life.”

    It takes a lot of courage to not only acknowledge your fears and the reason for them, but to also take and accept responsibility for facing them and changing your life for the better. It’s very easy these days to “blame” other people or “external circumstance”. But one philosophy I strongly believe in is:

    Regardless of any external circumstance, remember that you are in control of how you think, act and behave, in each and every moment.

    Good luck with your job search!


  • Hitman316

    Great post. I went through a lengthy unemployed period myself and it is an emotional rollercoaster. You really need to take your thoughts and attitude into your own hands, as you said.

    It’s also good to know that there are lots of other people going through the same struggles. It helps put things into perspective. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Jade

    Thanks Shilpa
    I am about to move from the city to be with my partner and have been trying to find a job for some time in the area without success (country towns don’t have a huge need for business people!). I had been getting disenchanted and the universe delivered your post to me at the perfect time. Yesterday I actually started loo looking at what new careers I could consider, what training or courses I could complete to expand my skill set, actively approaching random places with no job openings to express my excitement and interest in working in the region, losing my fear of rejection, understanding that a new job may be half the salary (and nowhere near as impressive or glamorous) as my current job. Accepting that it is my life choice to take this leap into the unknown was my first step. Choosing my attitude was the second. Thank you for reinforcing this for me so eloquently

  • Senn

    I’m a bit confused with the inference that you deserved to be unemployed for 2 whole years because you didn’t have a plan. Nothing is perfect, but despair is understandable when a punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

  • Sunny

    Just wanted to say thanks! I’m currently in a similar situation now and this helps! Your post is still out there helping others 6 months down the track 🙂

  • posh

    Thanks even though my circumstances are a different you have pushed me a step forward to recovery, i will keep your story in mind as i achieve my goals. I can relate to your story but i did fell in a deep depression not only because of unemployment but because the whole relocation and this ended my marriage made the battle 3x harder.

  • shaz

    Why is it that not having a job makes someone feel so incompetent? I feel like you are writing about my life. Thank you for your positive words of wisdom. I’m trying to feel confident and positive again like others reading this blog. I’m assuming when you feel down, you attract that negative energy to yourself.

  • Rae

    I definitely needed to hear that today. Thank you soo much for this article.