The feeling of failure is a tough pill to swallow! When you’re struggling with self-confidence, it can be hard to do the things that usually come so quickly for other people. This feeling of failure leaves you questioning yourself, wondering what is next and how you can stop this feeling. 

We’ve been there too. We know how it feels to feel like a complete failure. Feeling like a failure is something everyone has experienced at least once in their life, and we all have it in common.

In this article, we’ll talk about what this feeling is, why you are feeling it, and some ways we can deal with our feelings of being a failure to regain our sense of empowerment!

What does it mean to feel like a failure?

Have you caught yourself saying, “I’m a failure” or “I’m feeling like a total failure”? This is a common reaction when you don’t get that job you really wanted or you feel as if you messed up with your relationship or other aspects of your life. 

Before you know it, this overwhelming feeling takes over. You start to doubt yourself. You talk negatively to yourself, “you’re so stupid, why would you do that?!” or “you’re never going to get that job/partner/promotion/big lift at the gym/etc. If you keep this up!”

The idea of being successful feels so out of reach for you. You don’t believe that you’re good enough to achieve the thing you’re working toward, leading you to not believing in yourself at all. Instead, you feel inadequate, incompetent, and unworthy. 

Often when you feel like a failure, you don’t think there’s any help for you. You’re so broken that you’re unfixable. No training that you take will help you get further in your career. No amount of dating tips you read can get you a date. You become down on yourself, which tends to translate to looking down on the world. You start to doubt yourself in all of your abilities rather than just in one aspect of your life. 

You start to feel hopeless.

It feels terrible to feel this way, but it’s important to remember that these feelings are triggered emotions, and they don’t represent the most profound truths about who we are as people!

Why do I feel like a complete failure?

Feeling like a failure often stems from earlier messaging you received about yourself and what, over time, becomes our lived truth. Or at least what we think to be true about who we are. This message lies under the surface, subconsciously driving our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

You start to interact with the world in a way that plays this out. For example: If you heard from a person who played a significant role in your life, such as a parent or guardian, that “you’ll never amount to anything” repeatedly, eventually, as a survival technique, you start to believe this about yourself. You may also selectively attend to the instances in which you failed or did something wrong. By accepting this about yourself, you can connect with this parent figure. You are now on the same page. When you stop doing your homework, you affirm your parent’s belief that you’re lazy or have behavioral issues, which will cause you to not amount to anything in life. You help your parent feel correct, which in turn helps you feel good. You’re connected. 

How does this play out as an adult? You continue not to complete your tasks at work. You constantly miss deadlines. You are subconsciously driven by this message that you won’t amount to anything (e.g., you’ll never get the promotion, so why bother). Eventually, you get fired and have to move back in with your parents. They say, “See, I told you you’d never amount to anything.” This reaffirms the message you carry with you to continue the vicious cycle and leave you feeling like a failure.

Feeling like a failure may also just be that we’re going through an incredibly stressful time in our life. It feels like everything is happening at once. Your partner leaves for a long work trip, your dog dies, your family member is sick and in their last year of life, and you took on too many projects at work and feel overextended. These life events compound on you, leaving you struggling to find the positive. When something comes up that doesn’t go as you planned, the path to feeling like a failure is easy to find as you’re worn down and not at full capacity. We all have moments like this from time to time. Fortunately, these events will pass, and you can refill your cup and get back to a positive base level. 

What if I’m struggling with a lack of self-confidence too?

Understandably, you may not feel confident in your abilities if you feel like you failed the last task using them.

The good news is that regaining your self-confidence is possible! Look at these perceived failures as stepping stones to becoming the best version of yourself. Without failure, you cannot learn. Without failure, you cannot grow. It is in the dark, low times that we find parts of ourselves, such as determination, forgiveness of self, and self-empowerment, that we didn’t know existed. We can channel these parts to help us out of this feeling of failure and into self-confidence. 

Helpful ways to build your self-confidence back up: 

  • Let yourself start small. A marathon runner doesn’t start their training with their 20 mile run, you don’t have to either. If you’re trying to get a promotion, start by simply writing down goals and objectives that will get you there. Overtime, work to reach each small goal. When you have a setback, go back to the last goal you achieved and revel in it or tweak it, and then work toward the next goal again. Find your determination in small bites. 
  • Write down the things you are worthy of forgiveness in. Look into a mirror and tell yourself that you forgive yourself for the negative self-talk, for wanting to quit, and for getting angry or frustrated with yourself. 
  • Remind yourself that you’re not just a failure, that you have successes and accomplishments. Write them in a journal to have concrete evidence of all that you’ve done.
    • Sometimes successes and accomplishments can be as small as making a friend smile after a heartbreak or completing an assignment on time, to brushing your teeth every day.
  • Focus on the things you’re good at and balance these things with the ones you know are a bit more challenging for yourself. 
    • If you feel overly challenged, it is easy to lean into the feeling or need to quit. This then spirals into a lack of self-confidence and ultimately that feeling of failure. Instead, balance one challenging thing in your life with several things that you know you are good at and confident in.
  • Take time every day to focus on specific positive qualities about yourself, such as your sense of humor, your warmth, or other attributes.
    • Pay attention to compliments you are given by loved ones as they know you the best! 
  • Focus on the things you’re grateful for. Negativity will always try to steal our sense of power and purpose from us. Remembering what we’re thankful for can help remind us that there’s always something worth being proud of in life and in ourselves.

We all have moments of low self-confidence from time to time. No matter how often these feelings happen, all of us deserve the love and support from ourselves, as well as others to get through this tough time! It doesn’t mean we’re a failure or that our lives are meaningless. It does mean that we have a great opportunity to learn something about ourselves and work toward growth and forward movement.

What can we do when we feel like a failure?

When you feel like a failure, your ultimate goal is to gain self-confidence back and believe in yourself to succeed the next time. There are a few things to do and remember to help take back our sense of power and purpose when we feel like a failure:

The first step is to remember that the feeling of failure is just that, a feeling. It is a response to an environmental cue. Although in the moment the feeling feels very real, it does not have to become your identity. Just because we’re feeling down right now doesn’t mean it will last forever or define you. 

Identifying failure as a feeling does not mean you should minimize or dismiss it. Labeling the feeling is important to the process. Giving it space to exist within you. Give yourself time to heal. You may also identify other feelings that come with the failure such as a loss of dignity or self-esteem. You will also be able to understand that it does not define you by labeling it as a feeling rather than a personality trait.

Next, explore why it is failure that you feel versus something else. Take the example from above, that person will realize it’s the messaging they received from their parents about never amounting to anything that led him to feeling like a failure. However, if they can point out successes in their life to challenge these messages, they may mind that they feel something else. Perhaps they identify excitement to learn from a mistake, or empowerment to make changes. When you stop to think about where the feeling is coming from, sometimes you can challenge it’s existence by pointing out evidence to the contrary. 

If exploring this feeling on your own continues to lead you to feeling like a failure talk about your feelings with someone who won’t judge you, such as a close friend, sibling or parent. Here they can hear your feelings and really see you in them. Allow them to validate where you’re coming from but then gently challenge or propose a different perspective to the one you have that leads you to feeling like a failure. Leaning on our loved ones let’s us know that we’re not alone and that feeling this way is normal sometimes. 

If you continue to feel like a failure after you’ve done some self-exploration and you’ve had conversations with your loved ones but nothing seems to get you out of this funk, it may be time to speak to an expert. Asking for help from someone who is an expert in the area of failure, such a therapist or life coach, may be helpful to dive deeper into the narratives that led you here. They can provide a safe space to be vulnerable with yourself and learn from this experience.

Lastly, it is important to learn how to accept change without comparing yourself to others. What matters most is how you feel about yourself, regardless of whether or not other people are happy with your accomplishments. In addition, each person has their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it’s not a fair comparison when considering our differences. Focus on your strengths and commend yourself for them while learning from your weaknesses. 

The power in focusing on being in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or future too long.

Being present with yourself is essential. If we dwell on the past or future too long, it can often look like there’s nothing worth being proud of and that our life is meaningless. You can get stuck in negative self-talk and doubtful feelings, which keeps you in the past. Or, you can worry yourself to exhaustion if you go too far in the future. 

We need to take time every day and focus on where we are right now. Whether we are able to focus on our positive qualities about ourselves, such as our sense of humor or other good traits, or tuning into things that we want to experience growth in, such as assertiveness or boundaries. As you take time every day to be with yourself, you will learn who you are, what you need, and the direction to getting these things. 

Sitting with yourself to learn truly who you are can be helpful in moving out of failure. Many people who feel like a failure oftentimes measure themselves against something that was never articulated prior to the feeling presenting itself. Using what you’ve learned about yourself, you can measure what success actually looks like and feels like to you. You now will have a concrete way to measure success versus failure, and have insights as to what to change and a direction for how to go about doing so. 

When you feel you’ve spent ample time with yourself and being in the moment, take a moment each day to think about what you’re grateful for. Negativity as a tendency to steal your power from you and run the show. Negativity can give you the sense that there’s nothing worth being proud of in life. Being thankful can help remind us that there’s always something worth being appreciative of, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.

How can we deal with feelings of failure and regain our sense of empowerment?

Dealing with feelings of failure and depression can be difficult, especially when we’re going through a tough time in life. It can also feel like all of our efforts are for nothing and that the failures define who we are as people.

There’s always something worth being proud of, no matter how many times you’ve failed in the past. It is important to dive deep into your past or internal experiences to find meaning and remind yourself that you’re not a failure. Remember, failure is a feeling, not an identity. 

As mentioned above, it is important to give yourself time and space to heal from the hit to your dignity and self-esteem. Spend time with yourself exploring this feeling and where it came from, talk about your feelings with someone who can create space and listen to you. A therapist will also be able to listen and provide the support you need. You deserve love and support just like every other person in this world, no matter how often you feel like a failure.

Through this process, let yourself feel empowered. You will feel the power that is self-exploration. You will know you have the love and support behind you from friends and family to get you through anything. You will have the safety of a therapist to be vulnerable and experience new ways of interacting and being. 

The importance of self-love and self-care when dealing with feelings of failure.

In dark times, it is difficult to find love for yourself. However, you deserve to feel loved and cared for no matter how many times you feel like you’ve failed in the past. You’re not a failure. Your life is meaningful. 

Knowing the difference between “I am a failure” and “I failed” is important when thinking about your ability to give yourself love and care during this time. I am a failure is more of an identity and tends to be more permanent. I failed is a behavior that was done and can be fixed or rectified and isn’t permanent.

Telling yourself that you failed gives space for you to make changes and move forward. Take the space to find your determination, forgiveness, and empowerment that was discussed above. Know that there is a tomorrow and you can right things then. Today, however, let yourself be in the feelings. 

Tell yourself that it will be okay, nothing is that permanent that you can’t change it. Ask yourself what you need to get through this. For some people, it may be time with friends and family, for others it may be alone time. You may decide to treat yourself to a bubble bath or a cold beer. 

Some self-care techniques can be both self-care and reckless depending on how they are used. When done in moderation, self-care can be very restorative. However, it is easy in times of failure to over indulge and want to numb out. Monitor your self-care activities. Are you feeling more relaxed and confident or have you surpassed that and now you feel out of control and numb? 

Give yourself permission to lean into positive self-talk, self-love, and self-care. You deserve it. Failing at something doesn’t mean you have to punish yourself. Quite the opposite in fact. When we fail is when we need the most love, compassion, and support. 

Acknowledge that everyone feels this way sometimes, even people who seem to have it all together.

When you are down on yourself, it is easy to look at others in awe, to see them as “having it all together.” This is especially true given current social media trends. Remembering that everyone has their challenges and struggles to face, even people who seem to have it all together can be helpful to normalize your experience. 

Share your story. Oftentimes, sharing your story can be cathartic and helps us feel connected. By sharing your story, you may give permission to others for them to share their story. Through common strife comes connection. Knowing that you are not alone offers solace to our pain. 

While sharing your story can be helpful, try not to get bogged down in a tool or technique that worked for your loved one as it may not work for you. Everyone is different and what you need now may be different than what someone else needed for their situation. Check in with yourself and ask if what they did would be helpful or a hindrance to you and your journey. It’s okay to do things differently. 

Summary of tips for overcoming feelings of being a failure

  • Acknowledge the feelings of being a complete failure, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Unfortunately, our society makes it seem like a weakness for us to ask for help but we are not meant to deal with issues alone. We are social beings. 
  • Focus on the present. Be with yourself. Dwelling on the past or future too long can spin us out and prevent us from making any progress.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Practice self-love, positive self-talk, and self-care. Know that you are not alone and that this is all very common for people who struggle to feel confident. 
  • Talk back when negative thoughts come up about how terrible a person you are! It’s not true, and it doesn’t help anything. It takes time, but our minds can change with the proper support from ourselves and others.
  • Acknowledge what’s happening in your life–sometimes it helps just to put a name on how you’re feeling.
  • Take care of yourself–there are so many ways to do this, and it doesn’t have to be something big! We all deserve to feel good in our skin and make choices that support us in feeling the best we can about ourselves. Find things that you enjoy doing, make room for them in your life even if they’re small or just on the weekends when we have more time to think about ourselves a little bit.
  • Focus on people you’re grateful for every day (or even just one person) and what they mean to you, or maybe just how lucky you are that someone is in your life.
  • Ask for help from these people. Share your story. Share common ground as everyone has felt like a failure at one point in their life. 
  • Failure to many is a lack of success. However, people get the sense they failed without really knowing how they measured success. Be concrete in how you are measuring success and failure. Make it realistic. 

These steps can be difficult sometimes, but they can also help us find the strength to keep going when we feel like a complete failure. Maybe it’s in knowing that this feeling is common or just finding someone who understands what you’re going through. It doesn’t have to be permanent, and we can do things about how we feel.

Conclusion

Almost everyone will come across feelings of being a complete failure from time to time. It doesn’t have to be something we’ll always feel, and it certainly isn’t a reflection of our worth as people. Just because you’re feeling these feelings doesn’t make them accurate about who you are.

If you need some inspiration, here are a few quotes on the feeling of failure.

If you hear yourself saying “I’m a failure” or are struggling with self-confidence and believe that you need help, call us today and talk to one of our specialized mental health and depression therapists in Philadelphia, PA on this matter. If you feel like you cannot come to an office setting, we also offer online therapy.