Have you been feeling like a failure lately? As if you haven’t accomplished anything in life and it’s gone wasted. And all you are left with is a bunch of regrets and missed opportunities.
A surprising number of people are familiar with this disappointing feeling. Too high expectations, perfectionist tendencies, and sudden adversities can fool us into believing that whatever we achieved in life is too insignificant and everyone else is progressing while we stay behind.
More often than not, it’s just an illusion that stems from self-pity and distorted perception of yourself and others. It means that you can deal with it by changing your perspective. So, what to do when you feel like a failure?
What to Do When You Feel Like a Failure
1. Realize that everyone fails
Right now you are feeling like you’ve failed at life. Guess what? I feel like a failure too sometimes. And everyone does.
Even the most successful people have known failure. It’s practically impossible to always have things going your way, and unexpected problems and obstacles are a part of life.
If you feel like a failure, the first thing to do is realize that you are not alone. Everyone fails, but few are those who use their mistakes as a stepping stone to success. Ultimately, it’s what you do with your failure that really matters.
2. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others
When feeling like everything goes wrong and you’ve failed at life, it’s easy to end up comparing yourself to your more successful friends or colleagues.
In moments like this, you are convinced that everyone else is moving forward while you are hanging back. Jill got a promotion while you’ve been working here for longer and still haven’t progressed in your career. Alan moved into a new house and you still live with your mum.
Unhealthy comparisons will only make you feel worse about yourself and your situation. So, whenever you have the urge to compare your life to someone else’s, just stop.
3. Learn from your failures
This is a key step when it comes to dealing with failure. The most important thing is what lesson you can learn from your situation.
If you are busy regretting your actions and beating yourself up for the wrong decision, you will miss the opportunity to think clearly and learn. All your energy will be wasted on emotions of self-pity and regret.
Instead, try asking yourself the following questions:
- What can I learn from this failure?
- How can I use this experience in the future to prevent such situations?
- What can I change to make sure it won’t happen again?
4. Turn to the bright side
When feeling like a failure, it seems like the whole world is plunged into darkness. Like there is no single positive thing about your life, yourself, or around you.
This gloomy picture arises in your mind because you are focused on negativity, and it’s understandable since you are dealing with failure. So, what’s the remedy? How to not feel like a failure?
When feeling defeated in life, turn to gratefulness. Make a list of things that make you happy and successful. These don’t have to be material things–maybe it’s your family that makes you accomplished in life.
Turning to the bright side will help you see the situation from a different angle and realize that there are many things you can be proud of.
5. Make a list of your past achievements
This is a similar trick to the previous one, but it involves making a list of specific achievements. Write down all the things you accomplished in life.
If there aren’t any outstanding accomplishments, it may be something as simple as graduating from high school or making extra money from your hobby. No matter how small these things may seem, they still represent success, and this is what you need right now.
This list will remind you that you are not bound to fail. If you were successful in the past, you can accomplish more in the future.
6. Recall a moment of glory
Now pick an accomplishment from your list and recall a memory associated with it. It should be a moment of true glory when you felt like a winner and on top.
For example, it may be a memory of your graduation day or the moment when you won your first money from your business. Keep in mind that the past situation of your choice should be charged with strong positive emotions, otherwise, it won’t work.
Immerse yourself in this memory. Recall every nuance of what you saw and felt on that day. If you focus well enough, you will manage to experience all those exciting emotions as if the situation happened right now.
You are not a failure. You are a winner. Do you see it now?
7. Stay off social media
People show their best selves on social media. You never know what’s really going on in their lives if you judge by their Facebook and Instagram profiles. But when you feel like a failure, it’s easy to get fooled by the illusion of perfection people portray online.
It works the same way when you begin to compare yourself to successful people or your more accomplished acquaintances. These comparisons only make you even more miserable.
So, when failure knocks on your door, make sure you stay off social media.
8. Get inspired by successful people instead of envying their achievements
It’s easy to envy another person’s success when you feel like you’ve been working hard and achieved nothing while someone else has it all. Why is life so unfair? Why do some people’s efforts go wasted and some succeed without even trying?
But don’t be so quick to judge. Read a few success stories and you will see that nothing comes effortlessly to anyone. Even famous people had their portion of failed attempts and moments of despair. But they got their act together and tried again.
So, get inspired by their example instead of envying their success.
9. Think about the deeper reasons for feeling like a failure
Sometimes you feel like a failure because your life is going the wrong way. This is when you seem to be pretty accomplished and happy, but a vague feeling of dissatisfaction is still lingering at the back of your mind.
In this case, you need to ask yourself, “Why do I feel like a failure?” and re-evaluate your priorities.
Are you pushing yourself too hard to comply with other people’s idea of success? Are you busy fulfilling someone else’s expectations instead of following your own path? Are you trying to please others while forgetting your own needs?
Think about all these things if you always feel like a failure after the slightest problem or experience this emotional state on a regular basis.
10. Help someone who is less fortunate than you are
Sometimes self-absorption is the root of feeling like a failure. You are so busy analyzing yourself and the results of your work that you end up beating yourself up for the tiniest mistake.
That’s why helping someone is a great way to shift the focus from your problems and negative emotions. It will also help you see that other people are less fortunate than you, but they still don’t give up.
Your failure may seem like the end of the world right now, but in reality, it’s nothing in comparison with the challenges some people are going through. Think about it.
11. Beware of the cognitive traps that make the situation look worse
When the situation is emotionally charged, it’s easy to get fooled by cognitive biases. These are shortcuts our minds use to make conclusions. The problem is that these shortcuts prevent us from perceiving the situation in an objective light.
So, you are feeling like a failure, like your world is falling into pieces and as a result of a failed project, you are going to lose your job and home. This is catastrophizing. Your mind is making the situation look much worse than it is.
Maybe you feel like you always fail whatever you do and you will never accomplish anything good in this life. This is generalization where you make a general conclusion from a particular situation.
Pay attention to such thought patterns, as they can distort your perception greatly.
12. Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you feel like a failure for a solid reason (for example, you made a mistake at work), it’s easy to give in to your inner critic. It’s your mistake that got you where you are. It’s your lack of concentration that is to blame or maybe you are not trying hard enough.
However, if you focus on beating yourself up for your failures, you don’t learn from them. When you start to be too hard on yourself, make a try to redirect your focus on to finding a solution for your problem and learning a lesson from your situation.
13. Think about what you could change in your life to not feel like a failure
How to not feel like a failure if you always do, no matter how hard you try? Then something is not quite right. Maybe you have chosen the wrong lifestyle or job. Maybe deep inside, you feel that your life lacks purpose because what you do doesn’t bring you a sense of meaning.
Sometimes you don’t even realize these things consciously, you just have an elusive feeling that something important is missing from your life. So, how to stop feeling like a failure?
If making a career change is impossible, then you could pick up a meaningful hobby. Or you could stop taking too many responsibilities at work. Maybe your friends are overly critical, so they make you feel insignificant and not enough. In this case, you need to re-evaluate your social circle.
There could be so many possible reasons why you feel like a failure. So, sit and think about what situations and people cause this feeling in you and how you could avoid them.
14. Embrace the fact that some things aren’t under your control
This is one of the most important lessons failure teaches us about life. Some things are just out of our control, and we can do nothing about it.
Trying to control everything brings unnecessary tension, and it’s futile after all. Some things will still happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent them.
So, it makes no sense to dwell on regrets like ‘If I had chosen a different building 10 years ago, my shop wouldn’t have suffered flood damage now’. You can’t predict and prevent everything. What you can do is respond to challenges adequately.
15. Don’t let your inner critic be in charge
Every time your inner critic starts to condemn you for something you did wrong, challenge it. Inner critic loves generalizations and false accusations. So, when you feel like a failure, you may end up saying offensive things to yourself, such as,
You never do anything right.
You are such a loser, other people of your age already run their own business, and you are still at this worthless job.
Such lazy/stupid/worthless people like you never accomplish anything in life.
So, if you want to stop feeling like a failure, don’t let your inner critic be in charge and say all those awful things. Respond with positive statements about yourself and your previous achievements.
16. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms and practice healthy ones
Negative emotions often make us adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s understandable–we are trying to escape the situation and distract ourselves from what we feel. So, we end up drinking, overeating, indulging in compulsive shopping, or watching crappy TV shows.
However, things like that only bring temporary relief. Try healthy coping mechanisms instead. Work out, put your self-pity and despair into a creative endeavor, or talk to a friend.
17. Remember that failure is relevant and temporary
We said above that everyone fails, and it’s true. But another undeniable truth is that every person has a different idea of what failure and success are.
The situation you are going through may seem like a real disaster right now, but to someone else, it’s a joke compared to the challenges they are facing. For example, if you had a bad day at work, most likely, you won’t even remember about today’s problems in a month or a year.
You might be feeling like a failure right now, but this day will go by and you will see the light again. Be sure that no matter how you feel at this moment, you will have many more reasons to smile in the future.
18. Take responsibility
Most often, people who feel like a failure are just too hard on themselves. But there are also those who blame everything and everyone else for their adversities. It could be an economic crisis, a toxic boss, or competitive co-workers that are to blame for their failures, but it’s never them.
If you are one of these people, then failure can teach you to take responsibility. This is not the same as blaming yourself for everything. Owning to your mistakes is very different from dwelling on them.
It’s a healthy approach that allows you to learn your lesson and make conclusions, focusing on a possible solution, not the mistake itself.
When you take responsibility, you realize that only you can change the situation for the better, so you gotta act. You have no time to complain about your failed career and useless life. You now know exactly how to not feel like a failure.
19. Use positive affirmations
When I feel like a failure, I challenge my inner critic with positive affirmations. These are short statements that convey messages of self-love and positivity.
If you feel like you are a loser and your life is a failure, this is exactly what you need right now. Replacing your self-deprecating thoughts with positive statements about yourself can do wonders for your emotional state.
Try affirmations such as,
- I’m a capable person
- I’ve accomplished much in life
- I do my job well
20. Turn to your support system
How to stop feeling like a failure? Talk to the people who love you and believe in you.
Socializing with your friends and family can help you cheer up when you feel down. Sometimes all you need is a listening ear. But it may also happen that your friend or parent gives you a piece of advice you didn’t expect to hear from them.
When you go through challenges, it may be difficult to distance yourself from a situation to find the best solution. Other people can sometimes do this for you because they see it more clearly.
So, go talk to your best friend, sibling, or partner. Even if they can’t help you with overcoming your troubles, you will have the opportunity to express your negative emotions and put them into words.
The Most Important Thing to Remember When Feeling Like a Failure
Life goes on no matter what. Some things are out of your control, but it’s always up to you how you respond to a challenging situation. You may choose to sit and feel pity for yourself and your life, or you may stand up and keep trying.