When All Seems Lost, How Do You Take Your Humble Pie?

A slice of berry pie sits on a plate with a fork. There are berries to the side of the plate and a full pie nearby. My local college football team recently lost its big rivalry game for the seventh year in a row. It happened the week after the national election, and felt like it capped an emotional season of conflict and divide at every turn. No matter your allegiances, when football teams or politics go head to head, we are reminded of the humbling reality that others see things differently.

2016 is behind us, and some of us are still feeling the extra pounds from all that humble pie. Maybe it wasn’t the election or a football game for you this past year—perhaps you endured the end of an important relationship, failed the bar exam, or experienced a health setback. When life humbles us, it reminds us of unpleasant things. If we can better understand what happens when we are humbled, we can move forward with strength and grace.

Having defeat or a setback handed to us serves as a reminder that we are different from others. How could someone you have known your entire life, and respect as a friend or family member, have voted for a candidate whose values are the polar opposite of everything you believe in? How, after two great dates, could your new love interest be ignoring your texts? How could your supervisor select someone else’s proposal when yours was clearly the best?

Some outcomes are tough to swallow. Being humbled by a diagnosis or a decision can feel like a bad card is being dealt to you. It can feel out of your control.

In many instances, this lack of control bothers us almost as much as what has happened. This is one of life’s most unpleasant feelings. We want to rage against something larger than ourselves: the unknown, the unexplainable, the other side. It feels lonely.

So how do you take your humble pie if you’re on the losing end of something meaningful to you, be it a sports event or a consequential election? Here are some steps to get you back in the game:

This is one of life’s most unpleasant feelings. We want to rage against something larger than ourselves: the unknown, the unexplainable, the other side. It feels lonely.

First, acknowledge the feeling of being on the losing end. It might seem obvious you’re down because a situation didn’t go your way, but it’s important to be able to say to yourself, “It doesn’t feel good to lose. I feel embarrassed/worried/angry/fearful.” (Or something else.) Perhaps you feel your body let you down in spite of your best efforts to keep it healthy. Acknowledge your frustration and disappointment.

Next, take some time to think. Most situations benefit from not acting immediately. If you don’t have to rush into surgery or a new relationship, or start studying again right this instant, then don’t. Take a walk, watch a movie, do some research, sleep on it. The day after the election, I watched people walk a local hiking trail from end to end and then turn around and repeat the trek. Being humbled is uncomfortable. Take some solace in a little bit of space.

Then, learn what you can in a spirit of self-compassion. Starting a new year is a great example of how the nice feeling of a clean state is all about mind-set. The same problems will follow a football team or an administration if they don’t learn from the past. We can teach ourselves how to make smarter decisions that lead to less heartbreak, illness, or failure. We can forgive our bodies for breaking down, and our choices for taking us astray. Of course, bad things may still occur randomly, but when we look to the past to find life lessons, we can usually see them.

Last, use your new perspective to connect with others and take control of your life. If you suffered on a personal level in 2016, whether due to a breakup, illness, career setback, or any other obstacle, take note of your support network. Who was there for you? Were you reminded of any values you have that had taken a backseat? Did the death of a loved one help you resolve to never miss another birthday party? Did your year-end review with your supervisor remind you that sleep is imperative for optimum job performance? Since being humbled involves feeling out of control, take some control back by aligning your behavior with your values. Based on some examples here, you can:

  • Donate to or get involved with an organization that furthers a cause you believe in.
  • Take the first steps toward caring for your body in a compassionate way. This might not be food or exercise, but could be meditation or massage.
  • Forgive yourself for relationship mistakes.
  • Get up 20 minutes earlier so you’re not frazzled or late to work.
  • Go to bed 45 minutes earlier so you can give the day your best.

Keep a list nearby of your top five important values or areas of priority. Align your behavior to this list, and when the going gets tough and life gets you down, or you feel stuffed full of humble pie, be glad you did what you could with what you knew and all you had.

Here’s to a happy and healthy year!

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lindsey Antin, MA, MFT, therapist in Berkeley, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • gabriel

    gabriel

    January 9th, 2017 at 8:35 AM

    I lost my job last year and as a direct result of that I am probably going to lose my home this year. It’s tough going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows all within a few months of each other but you know, what will be will be. I am trying very hard to take it all in stride, but I made some very bad choices and I have to now own up to all of that. It’s hard, but I guess I had to hit the bottom finally before I could try to start to climb back up again. Hopefully all of this setback will help teach me the lessons that I might not have learned otherwise.

  • Monty

    Monty

    January 9th, 2017 at 2:15 PM

    Most of us don’t do that well when we have to eat a piece of that humility do we?

  • Leigh

    Leigh

    January 10th, 2017 at 11:07 AM

    Listen I used to be that person who would rather have stuck a fork in my eye instead of admit that I had done something wrong or made a mistake . That’s how proud and ridiculous that I was determined to be and without a doubt won me absolutely no friends whatsoever. I think that in my more mature age I now do better but it can be hard still to admit that you were right, I was wrong and apologize for something. There is just something innate in me that makes this so hard to do, but I promise that I am trying to do better,

  • edna

    edna

    January 10th, 2017 at 5:39 PM

    It’s only natural to feel bummed out after a big loss. So spend a little time moping and then move on and get over it.

  • Alec

    Alec

    January 14th, 2017 at 12:33 PM

    Those who never quite learn their lesson and who refuse to acknowledge when they have done wrong or they have not succeeded? Who needs someone like that in their life? I sure don’t, I have too many other things that I would much rather focus and concentrate on that that kind of negativity.

  • Hilda

    Hilda

    January 16th, 2017 at 7:29 AM

    Forgiving ourselves can often be the hardest thing to do, but from my own experience until you forgive yourself there can be no forgiveness from others nor will you ever be able to forgive others for the things that may have done to you. It is a really vicious cycle that we often get into, one where there doesn’t seem to be any resolution. But I think that you will find that once you have offered your own self that elusive forgiveness that things indeed can get better.

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