When we fail at something important to us, whether in relationships, at school, or at work, it can be very painful. These experiences can threaten the very core of who we think we are and who we want to be.
To cope with failure, we often turn to self-protective strategies. We rationalize what happened so that it places us in a more positive light, we blame other people, and we discount the importance of the event. These strategies may make us feel better about ourselves in the short term, but they are less likely to help us improve or avoid repeating our mistakes in the future. Research shows that people who have an overly inflated view of their performance on an academic task show decrements in subsequent motivation and performance, compared to people who view themselves more realistically. It makes sense: if you already think you're great, it may feel like there's no need to put the effort into improving yourself.