“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” — Ernest Hemingway
Feeling defeated after being pummeled by the stormy torrents of life is natural. We are all going through a roller coaster ride that we call life.
There is no entitlement that life owes us. Instead of engaging in a victim’s mentality, we should learn to be resilient and try to bounce back.
But when you have been crushed, your hopes dashed, and feeling disheartened, bouncing back will be the hardest thing to do at a time when you have been rejected for the umpteenth time from your dream job.
Or when your feelings aren’t reciprocated, or when you lose all your savings, a loved one, or suffer back-to-back losses in business, however, despite all of that, deep down you should know that nothing lasts forever.
This article is for the people who feel defeated because life has crushed their hopes one too many times.
You can scroll right on over to the list of the things you can do right now to pick yourself back up from feeling like a failure.
But, first, let’s unpack your feelings of defeat and uncover some answers.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
What Does it Mean to Feel Defeated?
To feel defeated is to lose hope in yourself, your abilities, in the universe, your family or friends, or your plans.
When you have lost hope and feel so utterly defeated that the only thing that you want to do is to curl up in the fetal position and cry yourself to sleep.
Feelings of defeat are accompanied by other depressive symptoms that — if not handled in a timely manner — can upend your life perceptions and lead to a spiraling black hole of depression.
Soon apathy (lack of interest in anything) develops when you feel defeated for long. The things that interested you, no longer mean anything to you.
You have been so disheartened by your failures that you start projecting the failure onto your entire personality.
A person’s self-esteem takes a real good pummeling too.
Why Do People Feel Defeated?
The problem can usually arise for a number of reasons.
Some people take the saying, “shoot for the moon,” to their heart and come up with some really ambitious plans that are often practically impossible to achieve.
Let’s suppose you were to start a strength training program today, and you tell the trainer that your goal is to be able to deadlift above 300lbs AFTER A MONTH.
If you happen to have a good trainer, he will smack you behind the head first just to make sure you weren’t daydreaming or joking.
Then he would go on to tell you about the principles of progressive overload and whatnot.
You should set goals that are achievable in the near and longer term.
Setting impossible goals means that you have to work way harder with no results to show for, which will automatically lead you to feel like a failure.
Other times people will expect too much of others, and when those people don’t act the way they are supposed to your plans can go downhill pretty fast along with your hopes and dreams.
Banking your hopes on other people and expecting too much in return is a sure-fire way to make yourself feel defeated.
They don’t factor in the most important anomaly into their plans: PEOPLE JUST DON’T CARE!
What would you feel if all your efforts are so brazenly sabotaged?
To build resilience against the meddling people, Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher said:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good and evil.”
Preparing yourself for failure or considering the option of your plan failing before you even embark on it is not negativity; it makes you prepared on the off chance that things don’t go your way.
10 Things to Do When You Feel Defeated?
So you feel defeated, and while still wallowing in your misery, you are searching for some quick tips to get over this rough patch as soon as possible.
Well, consider this list of things to do when you feel defeated.
1. Stop Blaming Yourself
If you feel defeated and have been stuck in a negativity trap, blaming yourself non-stop, then you should STOP immediately.
In most situations, people blame themselves more than they should or more than their fair share.
This leads to a spiraling downward plunge into depression and self-hate, both of which will just aggravate the feelings of defeat or demotivation.
So the first step is not to blame yourself disproportionately for the failings of your spouse, your company’s failures, the toxic work environment, or even if something was apparently your fault, there are a million other situational factors that could have influenced the end result.
You cannot win against your self-critic; all you can do is ignore it.
2. Take Your Mind Off the “Thing” For a Bit
If you are feeling too overwhelmed with your life or work for now and feel defeated, you should consider taking a break from things.
Your mind needs the space to process things.
If you have a hobby, take your mind off work, engage in that hobby, it will help you rest your mind and alleviate the feelings of defeat so that when you get to work again, you will feel refreshed.
Meditation has a lot of benefits. One of the most important benefits of meditation is that it can help in stress relief by creating a space between you and your problems.
That mental space lets you take a sigh of relief, a breather, think over your problem objectively, and come up with suitable solutions.
So if you feel defeated, and don’t have the time or the money to go on a vacation, why not try meditation.
It will clear your mind, make you aware of your thoughts so that you can weed out the negative ones, and declutter your brain so that the overwhelming presence of your life problems dissipates.
4. Create Small Victories for Yourself
The idea behind small victories is simple: accomplishing simple and small tasks provide an impetus that brings our motivation back to life or ratchets up our motivation for the bigger tasks.
When you are feeling defeated it is impossible to think that you can go back to the life you were living prior to your failures almost instantly. Feelings take time to process.
In the meantime — to help with the recovery — it is important that you engage in simple and easy tasks.
For example, if you are unable to clean your whole room due to apathy or lack of motivation then try picking up one item and putting it away each time you come into the room.
Soon you will find yourself picking up more than one item at a time or even cleaning the whole room without needing a whole pep talk.
That’s the power of action — even the littlest action can help get you back in the groove just like the small pebble that causes a landslide.
The common thinking around motivation is that it precedes action, but that is not how it actually works.
According to the cognitive psychologist, Jerome Bruner:
“You are more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action.”
So if you are feeling defeated, it is better to get up and get a move on unless you want to keep feeling like a failure, your way out of feeling defeated is to start moving.
Exercise and other physical activities are fun ways to relieve stress, get your mind off things a bit, and come back rejuvenated.
6. Change Your Mindset
Carol S.Dweck, an American psychologist, in her seminal work, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has differentiated between two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
People with fixed mindsets believe that abilities are innate, fixed, and cannot be developed.
The fixed mindset people have a hard time dealing with failures or defeat because they are more likely to project failures onto their personality.
On the other hand, the growth mindset group believes that abilities or skills are acquirable through persistent action, effort, and hard work.
They believe in development that is achieved through working on weaknesses.
In the growth mindset, people take defeat or failure well because they identify these as areas of improvement.
So if you have been beaten to your knees by life circumstances, take it as an opportunity for building resilience, discipline, learning, and building back better.
Life is the grandmaster of mentors. It will keep on teaching you valuable lessons along the way.
Instead of dreading life’s roller-coaster ride, instead, think of it as a rite of passage and a great learning experience.
7. Talk to a Friend or a Mentor
Speaking of mentors, why don’t you call up a friend, colleague, sibling, or anyone that you look up to as a mentor for some pep talk.
At times, we are so utterly devastated by our failings that talking about it or to someone is the last thing that we would like to do.
But, still, if you were to talk to someone about how you are feeling defeated, they might offer some good advice, or, if not, at least you will ease your burden by talking about it.
You can lower your stress or anxiety about anything that is bothering you just by labeling your thoughts and feelings, a process that is called “affect labeling”.
8. Gratitude Journaling
Keeping a gratitude journal has a lot of benefits.
One of the most important of which is that it helps us improve our outlook on life in general.
If you feel defeated, you are vulnerable to feelings of negativity.
By writing out the things that you are grateful for in your life, you minimize the magnitude of the problem that is causing you to feel defeated, and instead, you magnify all the positivity by deliberately writing out the things that are going well in your life.
Writing gratitude letters helps in promoting immediate and long-term positive effects.
In a study on writing gratitude letters, it was found that the participants reported feelings of happiness for even up to 4 to 12 weeks after writing gratitude letters for the study.
9. Where is Your Locus of Control?
Ask yourself, who controls your life? Is it you or the outside circumstances, events that happen to you, or other people?
Once you have a clear conviction that you and you alone are responsible for the life you live then nothing can make you feel defeated because if you are responsible then you know you are the one who can fix things.
There is no time to wallow; only time to act.
According to the Stoic philosopher Epictetus:
“People are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things.”
10. Accept Reality
Acceptance is a powerful thing. There is a reason for placing acceptance in the last on this list. Psychologists say that there are five stages of grief:
Until and unless you accept reality for what it is, you cannot move on.
Acceptance takes time. It cannot be willed, although your mindset can definitely speed things up in going through the five stages.
How Do You Deal With Being Defeated?
First and foremost, avoidance is not an option.
If you are feeling defeated, acknowledge that you are feeling this way, but it is up to you to choose a response.
You might feel defeated for some time, maybe weeks or even months, but eventually it will wash over.
The important thing is to remember that it won’t stay this way forever.
If you have the trust that all will be okay in the end, that nothing lasts forever, or that this too shall pass, then you will make significant progress towards regaining your motivation to live, to work, and to study; and in the end, you will not feel so defeated.
Focus on small victories when big victories seem like too much effort.
When you are feeling low, even small victories can help restore your self-esteem bit by bit.
We have all felt defeated at some point in our lives. It depends on us to not let it take us down the rabbit hole of depression.
Keep the mantra of “this, too, shall pass” in your mind when going through such a phase in your life.
Focus on putting one foot in front of the other and get the smallest tasks done to regain your motivation to climb out of the pit of despair.
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Sikandar is opinionated on a diverse set of topics that include, but are not limited to, Productivity, Health, Fitness, Motivation, and Career. He is in love with the written word and writes mainly to help others on their self-actualizing journeys. A journalist by education, getting to the bottom of things is his modus operandi. Often, he finds himself moonlighting as a life coach to his family, friends, and colleagues. He can be reached at his LinkedIn for collaboration.