How To Effectively Cope With Entrepreneurship Setbacks

The following tips will help you deal with setbacks better by subduing your self-critic, boosting your self-compassion and achieving more emotional balance during challenging times.

Most entrepreneurs have experienced setbacks and failures resulting in self-criticism. When a person’s self-esteem is hurt and they experience emotional pain, the inner dialogue shifts. They focus entirely on the negative aspects, exaggerate weaknesses and undervalue strengths and capacities.

Personal failures are events often perceived as inadequacy, incompetency and inferiority. These types of constant self put-downs and unrealistic ideals may easily propel you to race after perfectionism, which breaks down self-esteem and beliefs in your own abilities even more, causing further emotional pain.

The following tips will help you deal with setbacks better by subduing your self-critic, boosting your self-compassion and achieving more emotional balance during challenging times.


1. Be your own best friend.

When the brutal and merciless self-talk starts playing automatically in your mind, become aware of it and stop to think. Ask yourself, would I say the same things to a friend if s/he were in my position or would I be more comforting, kind, forgiving and accepting? How would I support and encourage someone else going through a similar challenge? Next, reformulate your message to yourself in a more supportive tone. Additionally, think about the lessons you can learn from the current situation; what you could do differently the next time and subsequently, motivate yourself with kindness to realize that change.


2. Remind yourself that everyone has struggles.

Everyone messes up, struggles and has shortcomings. Don’t bully yourself or dismiss your painful emotions and thoughts. Acknowledge them and be more compassionate rather than judgmental towards yourself. By accepting your genuine and whole self, you will feel better about yourself. It also promotes change and growth. When your worthiness is not dependent on external circumstances, successes and wins, then the ruthless self- criticism is reduced and higher emotional stability, satisfaction and resilience is achieved (Neff, 2011).


3. Practice positive self talk.

Positive self-statements enhance your self-esteem, self-efficacy and boost resilience. It is purposely giving yourself positive feedback, reinforcement, motivation, recognition and compliments when you deserve it. Be generous towards yourself when affirming your strengths, skills, talents, achievements and your potential, however, keep it real and justified.

You can start boosting your self-awareness and self-acceptance by naming at least 5 points a day. Write them down in a journal and whenever you think everything is negative and going wrong, re-read your entries. It will elevate your mood, perseverance, motivation, efforts and reduce stress levels. Positive self-talk thus shines a more balanced light on your perceptions, thoughts and beliefs, which impacts your behavior and emotions.


4. Engage in effective problem solving.

You can change how you react to negative circumstances. Perceiving the adversity as disastrous, impossible, unmanageable and irresolvable is self-defeating. It is better and more assertive to perceive setbacks and adversities as learning experiences, challenges and personal growth opportunities.

Analyze the problem and break it down to small manageable steps. Set realistic goals that will enable you to gradually and successfully solve the problem and carry out your plan. The small successes will improve your mood, determination and increase resilience. Utilize every available coping strategy and resource to achieve your goals. Change and solve what you can. Accept the things that are out of your control, unchangeable and unsolvable at the present time.


5. Seek social support.

The right peers can offer support, hope, comfort, strength and reassurance, which increase resilience, coping and problem solving abilities. Reach out and utilize these resources as it will brighten up your life and sooth your distress. A helpful and positive social network is associated with increased academic, task or work performance, more positive outcomes, higher achievements and increased well-being (McMillan Reed, & Bishop, 1993).


6. Realize the dangers of perfectionism.

Striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations can be detrimental. The inability to achieve these high standards leads to self-criticism, low self-worth, distress, stress and failure.

Even if you did not achieve your goals, take the time to acknowledge the efforts, positive actions taken, your capacities and the smallest components that were successful. Take it as a learning experience from which you can improve and grow. You should aim high, but goals need to be realistic, flexible and tangible.


7. Take better care of yourself.

A healthy body and mind are basic necessities you’ll need to deal with adversity, yet these personal needs are often neglected (e.g. enough sleep, good and healthy food, physical fitness, appearance) which leads to a decline in your physical and mental well-being.

Find out what makes you feel better and puts a smile on your face. Engage in healthy behaviours and participate in constructive and pleasurable activities. Try yoga, deep breathing, meditation and other relaxation methods that will help you be present at the moment, calmer and more focused.

Activities that raise positive emotions, such as hope, happiness, gratitude, serenity and love function as a buffer from stress, promote problem solving flexibility, efficiency and creativity (Folkman & Moskowitz, 2004), thus make sure you schedule a hour a day in your daily routine for such activities. You matter and you deserve to take the time and invest the effort in taking care of yourself physically and mentally.


Sources: Folkman,S.,& Moskowitz,J. T.(2004). Coping: Pitfalls and Promise. Annual Review of Psychology, 55,745–74.

McMillan, J. H., Reed, D. R., & Bishop, A. (1993). Defying the odds: A study of resilient at-risk students.” (Richmond, VA: Metropolitan Education Research Consortium, Virginia Commonwealth University).

Neff, K. D. (2011) Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5, 1, 1–12.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Dr. Sharon Galor, at The Light Wave Psychologists Practice, helps expats demolish their obstacles, unlock their fears, strengthen and acquire new capacities and realize the life that they yearn for. Dr. Galor’s research was published in prominent peer reviewed journals. She is also the author of Be assertive! Be your authentic self!. It is a straightforward, practical and easy CBT workbook which will enable you to apply the strategies directly in your life. 


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