How To Face Your Setbacks With Self-Love

We are taught about time as a straight line. PowerPoint presentations and history books depict “progress” as a linear, forward journey. Alas, as we grow into the person we want to become, we are faced with setbacks. These setbacks can feel like disruptions to the narrow path forward we thought we were on. There is, of course, the good news that facing setbacks with love will allow you to reframe the experience as a time for perspective that offers a full view of your history and future.

Reframe

Try to view setbacks as an important part of life on a winding road, rather than as an interruption to your march forward. The time it takes to recover from a setback isn’t time wasted. It is an exercise of learning, of perspective, and of meeting new parts of yourself. This is a time when you can pick up clues and tricks for future setbacks. Frame this time differently and lovingly and watch it transform from a hindrance to an asset. This process is especially important when setbacks aren’t just personal, but are communal (think election results, pandemics, etc.). When a setback feels wildly out of your control, you need to be able to depend on your reframing skills to see the time as necessary, worthwhile, transformational. The reality of a setback is neutral; it is our framing that assigns it value, so be mindful of the frame you choose. 

Be curious

So much of this newsletter is devoted to using curiosity as a tool for approaching life lovingly. Curiosity is our ticket to extracting levity from the heaviness of circumstance. Allow yourself to be curious about what your setbacks have to offer. Curiosity will keep your mind occupied so that you don’t descend into anxious fatalistic thinking. Some questions to keep yourself curious are:

-Why does this setback feel disruptive? 

-What assumptions am I making about this setback?

-How could I use this time to learn about myself? Others?

-How have I handled similar setbacks in the past?

-What can I learn from this time that can guide me going forward?

Rest

Lovingly view these times as inevitable. Don’t force yourself to ignore the impact of a setback and trudge ahead despite it. Once you have reframed the experience as one of growth and learning, allow yourself to sit in it, rest in it, and allow things to be as they are. A restful mindset will protect you from a resistant mindset. 

Call people whose perspective you appreciate

A setback can cause tunnel vision. It is hard to see behind, beyond, and beneath the present moment when it feels like you’ve been pushed off course. In order to find a bit of perspective, call someone who can show you things through their eyes. If possible, call someone who has seen you through past deviations from your plan. Their compassion will be helpful. Even if they don’t quite know what to say, the process naming your current challenge will likely be helpful for you. Often, we don’t know something is true until it falls out of our mouths. The person you call can remind you of where you have been, and they can remind you that they believe in the future you want for yourself. 

Look backward to look forward

The next hiccup in your journey certainly isn’t the first you’ve experienced and certainly won’t be the last. Use this time to look back at how you’ve learned from setbacks in the past and how you would like to learn from this moment to prepare for the future. Spend time zooming out and zooming back in to see life as one long narrative arc made up of shorter stories. Gather nuggets of wisdom so that you have substantive reminders of the fruits of this time.