What To Do When You’re Feeling Like A Failure

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated January 15, 2019

Reviewer Tanya Harell

Self-criticism is a common theme among people who experience setbacks and difficulties in jobs, college, or relationships. Sometimes this self-criticism leads to feelings of failure and this is a common problem. Nearly everyone feels that way at one time or another. However, sometimes the feeling is persistent and leads to an overall lack of self-worth and self-acceptance. When a person lacks a general sense of self-acceptance and self-worth, then the failure feeling becomes ever present and serious intervention is necessary. Setbacks, relationship issues, and other problems are always a possibility in life, and understanding how to psychologically bounce back will lead to fewer feelings of failure and more self-acceptance. There are a number of ways to increase self-confidence and self-acceptance which will ultimately help individuals move forward and over feelings of failure.


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List Your Successes

Often, people get into the habit of focusing on their failures. It makes sense to a certain degree, because by paying attention to things that didn't go well, you can determine what went wrong, and you can make a new plan to do better next time.

On the other hand, if you focus too much on your failures without acknowledging when you have succeeded, you can end up feeling incompetent. When you feel that way, make a list of your successes. Creating that list will help you realize how distorted your thinking has become.

Make a "To Do" List:

There is nothing more pleasurable than making a list at the beginning of the day and checking off the things you accomplish. When you accomplish them all, find a way to reward yourself.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

"Comparison is the killer of joy". Sometimes people judge themselves as a failure because they have not accomplished what they believe others have accomplished. If so, you need to step back and remind yourself that you are a unique individual with your own talents and skills to share with the world. You might not have it in you to do what others do, but by the same token, others might not be able to do what you're capable of doing.


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Take Care of Your Physical Needs

Don't discount your need for a healthy diet, a good night's sleep, and adequate exercise. When you don't take care of your physical needs, everything can begin to look dismal. By taking care of yourself, you can feel better quickly, and your thoughts will naturally turn to the positive.

Limiting Beliefs:

Try to understand through self awareness that your feelings of failure are connected to limited beliefs about yourself. Try to understand the self-fulfilling nature of your limiting beliefs - how they lead directly to feeling like a failure and how you would and not feel like a failure without them, in spite of your actual failures.

Engage in Self Compassion:

Find ways to be nice to yourself. Learn ways to refrain from over identifying with your negative thoughts. Through over identifying with thoughts, which are not facts, but opinions, individuals who experience a sense of failure all the time tend to focus on negative thoughts. Perhaps finding ways to experience good thoughts and change the bad thoughts to good thoughts may help.

Use Some Positive Affirmations

Consider the idea that "Failure is an opportunity to sharpen my skills." If everything was easy, there would be no opportunity to learn new things. Consider your setback or relationship problem as an opportunity for learning. Sometimes failure can help you learn something and it is important to be aware of those opportunities.

Watch for Signs of Depression

The feeling of being a failure can be one signal that your mood is dipping towards depression. So, it's imperative that you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical condition. If you notice any of these signs of depression, see a therapist immediately:

  • Always feeling sad or empty
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling guilty
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • No appetite or overeating
  • Loss of interest in the things that usually make you happy
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Thinking about suicide

Find Social Support

Individuals who struggle with feelings of failure and inadequacy might find it helpful to identify truly supportive friends and family who express unconditional positive regard. Choose one of those individuals and ask them what they truly value about you. Then think about what they tell you. Allow yourself to really take in the positive messages you receive and it may be easy to reject their message. However, remind yourself that they really do see you in this way.


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Even if you are not clinically depressed, talking to a counselor about your feelings can help you overcome them. Only when you stop experiencing that emotionally painful feeling can you begin to enjoy your life. As a bonus, you can build off your past successes to accomplish even more than you have in the past. Counselors are available to talk to you right now at BetterHelp.


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