One of my students told me a story about a stressful creative project. As he spoke it became clear that the failed assignment had made its way into his self image, leaving him crippled with self-doubt. In short, failing at work left him feeling like a failure – a tendency I know well, but we don’t apply this thinking to every situation. For example, when I have a headache I don’t think, “I am a headache.” I know I didn’t choose to feel this way, that the pain will eventually pass, and that it doesn’t make me a bad person.
So instead of attaching our happiness to external factors like what we have and don’t have, or to our successes and failures, what if we measured our self-worth on what we can control instead? Try it next time you’re faced with an undesirable outcome by asking yourself if you truly did the best you could. If your intentions were honest, you may have better luck forgiving your losses and separating your worth from your gains.