Whether it be because of a job loss, a divorce or because of small pervasive events that drive us down, we all experience feeling like a failure at some point in our lives. If you’re asking yourself “why do I feel like a failure?”, you’re not alone.
It feels like it’s always there, in the back of your mind, reminding you that you’re not good enough and that you will never reach success. When this is happening, it can be hard to find any motivation or inspiration for anything else in life. It’s natural to want to give up when something happens that makes us feel bad about ourselves or what we have accomplished so far. But just because you’re feeling down doesn’t mean you should stay there!
In this blog post I’ll talk about why we feel so defeated by our failures, why we need to change our mindset if feeling like a failure has become normal for us, and how finding success after feeling like a failure is possible!
Why Do I Feel Like a Failure?
Life is challenging, and it’s possible you feel like a failure for all kinds of different reasons, or a combination of them. Here are some possible reasons you feel like a failure:
1) you feel out of control
2) you’re suffering from undiagnosed depression
3) you are going through a divorce
4) you are struggling with your finances
5) you are living with a chronic illness
6) you have childhood trauma you haven’t worked through
7) people around you are struggling and you feel connected to their failures
8) you worry you’ve let people down
9) you don’t feel as much satisfaction from your job/career
10) you feel like you can’t get anything right
11) you can’t find a balance between “doing what’s expected” and doing what you want
12) your adult children are distant from you
13) you lost your job
14) your children are struggling with mental health or bullying
Often in our lives, when the people closest to us are struggling, we see this as a failure on our part. Perhaps a failure to keep our children safe from the challenges of the world, or a failure to bring our partner happiness.
Other times, it is a direct loss, like of a job, someone close to us, or a divorce that causes grief. And when we don’t directly handle our grief, it often manifests as feeling like a failure.
Last, there could be a pervasive mindset from your childhood (like mine: always feeling like a burden) due to unresolved trauma in your childhood. These beliefs are always there, but when external circumstances are challenging or you’re going through a tough time, they come out even more.
For some of these, you might be able to take control with things in your outer world to find success and self-correct. For others, (like a general feeling of being out of control), when you work on finding inner peace and greater life satisfaction, your desired success will happen through mindset and learning to let go. Of course, many of these, you may not be able to find the kind of life satisfaction you desire without going through therapy or counseling.
***If you find that your feeling of being a failure is overwhelming and you may harm yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Science Behind Feeling Like a Failure
As Buddha said, “Pain is certain. Suffering is optional.”
In other words, life is always going to be filled with ups and downs. And chances are, if you’re asking “why do I feel like a failure” you’re more cognizant of the downs. There’s actually a scientific reason for this.
“Earlier in human history, paying attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was literally a matter of life and death. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.”–VeryWell
Focusing on the negative literally helped us stay alive.
But as humans started to evolve and become more aware, we began to realize that we had the option of focusing on the positives, adopting mindsets of gratitude, and practicing non-judgment. (That’s what Buddha meant when he said that suffering was optional.)
So this belief that you’re a failure: it’s hardwired into your brain in order to help you survive and thrive!
Looking at this awful feeling from this more objective perspective helps us understand our own mind. (Your mind is actually trying to help you, not harm you, by thinking your a failure.)
Everyone in life fails. Everyone in life succeeds. It’s our job to surf the waves and make the best of it.
9 Ways to Find Success After Feeling Like a Failure
Now that you’ve made it this far, let’s take a deeper dive and move forward into feelings of more understanding, satisfaction, and even success! It may be a great help to you to journal or write down your answers to these questions. Turn that “Why do I feel like a failure?” in “I am a success!”
1. Identify why you feel like a failure
First, take a look at the list above. Which ones resonate with you? If you’re a thinker, I would implore you to stretch out into your feelings for this one. This is because sometimes feeling like a failure doesn’t stem from a rational reason or major event. Sometimes our feelings of being a failure is because a lot of tiny things that happen in our lives.
Even if you feel like there may be more than one reason you feel this way, write them all down. It may even be beneficial to journal about these feelings. Just free-write and see where your thoughts take you. You might be surprised at what you discover and what other feelings you were covering up.
2. Define what success means to you
Next, think about what success looks like. Once you know how you feel like a failure, what would make you feel like a success?
Perhaps if something as clear cut as divorce made you feel like a failure, then having a successful marriage would make you feel like a success. But be more specific than that. How can you feel successful right now, in the midst of your divorce? Perhaps learning how to navigate arguments? Maybe you’ll feel successful by being open and vulnerable with your children to help them process their own emotions.
Things that aren’t as clear cut, like worrying you’ve let people down over the years, could be more difficult to figure out what success looks like. Perhaps you would feel better to hear words of affirmation from people that you love. Perhaps you would feel like a success to feel balanced and in control.
Whatever success looks like for you, write it down.
3. Make time for yourself and your health
I find that when I’m healthy, the rest of my life and the success I find somehow falls into place. This means holistically taking care of yourself by nourishing your body and nourishing your soul.
You may need time to exercise, do fun things, socialize, and generally relieve your stress. Therapy, journaling, visualization or other mental health techniques can also be greatly beneficial to you.
4. Find a community where you can share your failures openly
There are often local support groups that meet in person for a variety of things (alcoholism, grief support), but of course, after the pandemic the new thing is Facebook or Zoom groups.
Sharing why you feel like you failed and what you are doing to find your success can allow you to be open with others, and get an outside perspective about the challenges that they might also struggle with. You can share strategies and get advice from other members of the community who have felt like failure, too.
RELATED POST: 13 Ways to Support Other Women
5. Learn to be kinder to yourself by using self-compassion techniques
Self-compassion is the act of being kind to oneself. Being kind to yourself is the first step in finding success after feeling like a failure.
Here are some self-compassion techniques:
- Take a deep breath, then exhale slowly and fully; perhaps say aloud “I’m okay.” or recite another affirmation (see #10).
- Use your senses. Notice the sensations in your body: you might stop and take a deep breath, notice how the air feels against your skin. When you feel overwhelmed, noticing your body naturally brings you to feel compassion for yourself.
- When you start feeling down on yourself, notice the feelings. Where do you feel them in your body? Your gut? Your shoulders? Focus on bringing relief to these areas of your body
- When you notice yourself say something negative, try to turn the statement into something positive. Maybe if you say, “I did awful in that presentation. I stuttered and was all over the place.” You can change it to say, “I did my best. I prepared for a long time and gave good information, even if the presentation wasn’t the best.
Self-love is an essential technique for finding success.
6) Write down why you are proud of who you are, even when life isn’t perfect
Even when life is challenging, there has to be something about you that’s worth being proud of. Write it down. For example, I’m proud of my tenacity because it has helped me make some big changes in my life.
If your family or friends want to know why you’re proud, share why you are proud of who you are. This is especially good for children to have parents who model good mindset and accepting themselves.
Share these things you’re proud of with your therapist or a trusted friend so that you can process them aloud and help you release the feeling of being a failure.
7) Reach out to mentors with whom you have relationships from the past
When I was feeling like a failure in my first marriage and was considering divorce, I reached out to my grad school advisor. He had been married a few times and had learned about what really makes a partnership. I asked him for advice about how I was feeling, and he was open and honest when talking me through my feelings about getting divorced.
Mentors who have gone through similar things in life can be integral to our healing and moving on through our failures. Mentors are people who have been through their “failure” and have seen the other side. Looking back on their life, that situation or failure might not have been as big of a deal, and they can help you see your own situation objectively.
Your mentor could be anyone you trust, from your mother, sister, father, uncle, a teacher, a coworker, or a friend.
8) Go home and take care of the people who love us unconditionally
Unconditional love is often the solution to many things. Unconditional love is love without restrictions or conditions. It means that the other person accepts you for your positive attributes, but also your flaws.
When you failed at something (or feel like a failure) they’re not going to abandon you or make you feel bad. They’re going to be there to lean on and to listen.
I find that when I am going through a challenging time, that the people who love me unconditionally are the ones I want around me. Even if we aren’t discussing the current situation, just being around them, laughing and enjoying ourselves can take my mind off my failures.
9) Learn how to apologize
Maybe you really did fail someone else. Nothing is ever 100% our own fault, but if you find yourself, after rational examination, to be the primary person at fault, then learning how to give a heartfelt apology can mean so much to the other person.
Giving an apology when we’ve really messed up can be one of the most difficult things to do. Maybe you feel like a failure for being an alcoholic during most of your children’s childhood*. This is a huge failing that deserves an apology. Perhaps your children won’t react well. But an honest, heartfelt apology just might be exactly what they’ve been waiting for their whole life.
*(My own grandfather was an alcoholic during my father’s childhood. My father waited for an apology for the past 45 years or so after his dad got sober. My grandfather never apologized in those 40-some years. He passed away last May never having made amends.)
10) Use affirmations
When you think, “Why do I feel like a failure?”, affirmations are a great way to reframe your mindset from a negative to positive. These are statements that you use on a regular basis, with meditation, repetition, or journaling, that can help you change your mind.
Basically, when you are always thinking about red cars, you’ll probably see red cars everywhere you go. When your mind is clouded in negativity and failure, you will see negativity and failure everywhere you go.
But affirmations work by replacing those things that you’re thinking about to something more positive. Maybe your affirmation for the day is “I am confident and powerful!” You’ll be more likely to see all the examples of confidence and power in your life!
Check out this video to learn about how to change your mindset. (And learn more about Dr. Joe Dispenza.)
Affirmations can really help us get out of our “failure” mindset and find the kind of success that we’re looking for (because it’s really right there, I promise!).
Check out this page for a huge list of affirmations!
Although it can be difficult to see the silver lining when we’re in a moment of despair, there are ways that you can reframe your negative thoughts and find success in the present moment. Understanding how our brains work is one way to go about this process. Psychology and science suggests that as humans have become more intelligent, our fixation on the negative for survival hasn’t evolved. But we can use our brains and awareness to our advantage.
Make sure you go through all 10 ways you can reframe your failures to find success again. Through understanding why feeling like a failure may seem insurmountable or inevitable at times, you may be able to turn these feelings around and get back on top of life once again!
What helped you overcome any moments where you felt like a failure?
Let us know in the comments below!
When you’re ready to take your self-transformation journey on the next step, consider taking a look through these books on spiritual enlightenment and learn more about what spiritual enlightenment is.