What To Do When You Feel Like A Failure At Everything

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Failing can be distressing for some people. Negative thoughts and a negative perception of failure can make you feel like giving up or increase your stress level, but you're not alone. These responses to failure may seem to undermine your confidence and self-esteem, demotivating you and causing a shift in mood. However, there are several professional techniques to cope with failure; you're not alone in these experiences. Understanding your options when failure arises can help you gain insight and prepare for future situations that may cause distress. 

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There are several ways you can cope with failure

Why do I fail? 

Some people set goals they want to attain to improve relationships, their status at work or to meet personal aspirations. You may choose goals based on the people around you, society, or use your ambition to set goals for the distant future. Unrealistic expectations can often contribute to this feeling of failure.

Regardless of where goals come from, it can be natural to feel disappointed if you fail to achieve them. People may fail due to multiple causes, and not all causes may be in your control. Everyone makes mistakes, and, sometimes failure comes from the mistakes of others or misunderstandings. These situations can be stressful, but they don't necessarily mean anything negative about who you are. It can be possible to reframe failure and find ways to let it motivate you instead of causing you to want to give up. Failure means learning and moving forward is part of the process.

How to cope with failure at work 

Work is a significant part of many people's lives. Whether you enjoy working or would rather stay home, you may spend most of your days at work. If you feel unappreciated or unfulfilled at work, happiness can decrease, and work morale may be low. If these emotions impact your work quality or a failure occurs, your distress with the situation may increase. 

It can be common for some people to think of work as a part of their identity or even as their whole world. When you meet someone new, they may ask about your job and what you enjoy. If your work is important to you, it can be helpful to know that it is only one part of who you are, and failure doesn’t mean that not everything about you is ruined. And remember, even if you feel like you fall short on a particular task, failures are lessons learned. 

Practice self-acceptance and recognize low self esteem

To cope with disappointment and mistakes at work, it can be helpful to practice self-acceptance and self-compassion. Seeking professional advice can be part of this process. You can learn from this experience by focusing on positivity. Think about the tasks you excel at in your job and how many times you've succeeded in the past.

Ask yourself questions 

If you frequently experience feelings of defeat at work, you may assess your job satisfaction in general. Ask yourself:

  • Am I bored at work? 
  • Do I feel like I'm not making a difference?
  • Is the pay lower than what I believe is fair for this job description? 
  • Does my job offer me a chance to be promoted? 
  • Have I ever received a raise? 
  • Am I making my best effort to complete my duties?
  • Are there any outside circumstances that may be distracting me from work? 

These questions can help you determine why you might feel like a failure. Once you determine the cause, you can take steps to move toward a solution. For example, if you are bored at work, you might outline a schedule that keeps you more engaged. You might also ask your boss for a few odd jobs or new duties to help keep you busy. 

Think about your impact 

If you want to make a difference, consider your customers or clients. How would they be inconvenienced without you? If you improve your interactions with them, you might notice immediate changes in how you feel about yourself at work.

Consider a career change 

In some cases, you may realize that you want to change your career path. Healthy ways to approach this decision include assessing your core beliefs and understanding what truly motivates you. If you are not ignoring the real cause of your dissatisfaction, that might help you address some of your feelings of failure and frustration. However, if your career choice is not a problem for you, changing careers may cause frustrations to travel with you. Failure can be a chance to grow at work, and it's not necessarily negative. Learning from failures, like those of famous inventors such as Thomas Edison, can be a part of achieving success.

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How to cope with emotional distress and feeling like a failure in love 

Humans are social by nature, so relationships with others may affect your sense of self-worth. However, it can be dangerous to tie your self-worth to romantic relationships and whether you are loved. Putting your worth at the mercy of another person can lead to anxiety and fear if a relationship ends or doesn't turn out as you hope. Below are a few strategies for coping when a relationship fails.  

Be yourself 

When entering a relationship, be yourself from the beginning. Speak up about your opinions, core beliefs, feelings, and hopes, and spend time with diverse people. Being with another person does not mean you have to lose yourself. Recognize that your partner can have feelings and interests unrelated to you. In addition, if they are upset or distressed, it may be helpful not to assume it is your fault if you haven't made a mistake. Being yourself from the beginning and looking for healthy behaviors from potential partners may lead to you having healthier and more fulfilling relationships. 

Leave unhealthy relationships 

If your partner puts you down or tells you that you are a failure, this may be a sign of abuse or an unhealthy relationship. In these cases, it might be safest to end the relationship. When a relationship ends, it does not necessarily signify defeat. Instead, it can be a new beginning and a phase of growth. Moving forward from such relationships can be a significant step in improving your mental health.

How to set healthy goals 

If you often struggle to reach your goals, you may discover your goals are not aligned with your values. It may be worth reassessing your goals and finding new ones to bring you more significant satisfaction over time. Further, goals based on your core values may be more meaningful to you. 

Examples of core values may include the following: 

  • Dependability
  • Reliability
  • Loyalty
  • Commitment
  • Open-mindedness
  • Consistency
  • Honesty
  • Efficiency
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Good humor
  • Compassion
  • Spirit of adventure
  • Motivation
  • Positivity
  • Optimism
  • Passion
  • Respect
  • Fitness
  • Courage
  • Education
  • Perseverance
  • Patriotism
  • Service to others
  • Environmentalism

Once you identify your core values, see if your goals align with them. If your goals do not reflect your core values, find ways to fit them. For example, if your core value is honesty, but your goal is to change your personality to fit in with popular people, you aren't being honest with yourself or others. Instead, you might restructure your goal to find friends or family members who value you for who you are. 

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There are several ways you can cope with failure

Professional support for perceived failure 

If you're struggling to set goals or understand why you think you're a failure, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist. A counselor can help you outline your goals, restructure your thoughts, and help you develop healthy behaviors. Seeking professional help can be a key step in addressing mental health conditions and learning a healthy way to cope with failure. If you can’t find a counselor in your area or struggle with financial insecurity, you can also try therapy through an online platform like BetterHelp. Therapists can also help with additional concerns, such as substance use.

Recent research has shown that online therapy positively affects people with confidence challenges, depression, or a lack of motivation. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders compared the efficacy of online therapy with that of traditional therapy in treating depression. The study focused on the immediate and long-term effects of both types of therapy delivery and found that online therapy was more successful in treating clients with depression, with results lasting at the three-month follow-up. 

Participants received online counseling using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a talk therapy widely implemented to help clients cope with and restructure negative or maladaptive thoughts. Those undertaking online-based CBT work with therapists in limited sessions, in addition to completing assignments and utilizing specialized techniques on their own time to manage their symptoms. 

Internet-based CBT can be a convenient and cost-effective way to cope with a fear of defeat or failure. An online therapist can offer actionable exercises and worksheets for clients to complete between sessions. You may also have the opportunity to connect with your therapist through messaging during the week, outside of sessions. 

Takeaway

A feeling of failure may come from a lack of goals, difficulty meeting goals, or a fear of judgment from others, such as parents. However, there are ways to move forward. Comparing yourself to others, often referred to as the comparison trap, can exacerbate feelings of failure. Learning lessons from tough times, recognizing that not everything in life is a success, and understanding that failure is a part of life can help you develop resilience. Consider contacting a licensed therapist to discuss how you can align your goals with your skills and values and receive emotional support related to wanting to give up. You can overcome negative perceptions and change your point of view to help deal with feelings of failure. You’re not alone, and support is available.
You are deserving of positive self-esteem
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