How to overcome feeling of failure

Download Article Co-authored by Catherine Boswell, PhD Last Updated: May 12, 2022 References Download Article Ne

How to overcome feeling of failure

Download Article   Co-authored by Catherine Boswell, PhD

Last Updated: May 12, 2022 References

Download Article Negative Thought Elimination | Effective Distractions | Lifestyle Changes | |Show more |Show less Negative Thought Elimination | Effective Distractions | Lifestyle Changes | |Show more |Show less   X

This article was co-authored by Catherine Boswell, PhD. Dr. Catherine Boswell is a Licensed Psychologist and a Co-Founder of Psynergy Psychological Associates, a private therapy practice based in Houston, Texas. With over 15 years of experience, Dr. Boswell specializes in treating individuals, groups, couples, and families struggling with trauma, relationships, grief, and chronic pain. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Houston. Dr. Bowell has taught courses to Masters level students at the University of Houston. She is also an author, speaker, and coach.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 109,716 times.

Feeling like a constant failure can negatively affect your health and well-being. However, stopping such thoughts doesn't mean you have to all of a sudden start succeeding at everything. Instead you can learn to master your thoughts. Stop feeling like a failure by getting rid of negative thoughts, changing your focus, and taking action to improve your physical and mental health.[1] X Expert Source

Lauren Krasny
Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach Expert Interview.  27 March 2020. Go to source

Steps

Method 1Method 1 of 3:Negative Thought Elimination

1Figure out the source of your feelings.[2] X Expert Source

Lauren Krasny
Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach Expert Interview.  27 March 2020. Go to source  Spend some time thinking about why you feel like a failure, and try to be as specific as possible. For example, you may feel like a failure because you got a D on a test, or because you forgot to return a friends phone call. Determine if you can take action to change your feelings.

  • Also, think about the reality of that narrativedoes it really reflect who you are right now?[3] X Expert Source

Catherine Boswell, PhD
Licensed Psychologist Expert Interview.  18 December 2020. Go to source

2Find one action you can take in the next three minutes. Sometimes, thoughts of failure pop up because you feel overwhelmed by a specific task. You might be looking at a mountain of work that seems impossible. You can't figure out how you'll tackle it. One strategy is to figure out one thing you can do within the next three minutes to take action. Then, do it.

  • For example, your room hasn't been cleaned in weeks and it's a complete mess. Figure out one action you can take, such as picking up dirty clothes from the floor. As soon as you figure out an action, get started.
  • Start with small actions and build up to larger ones. Action creates emotion, so trying something positive can help you feel better.[4] X Research source Go to source

3Throw your negative thoughts in the trash. Write down the negative thoughts you're having on a sheet of paper. Be very specific by noting exactly what's going through your mind. Once you're done writing, ball up the sheet of paper and toss it in the trash.[5] X Research source Go to source

  • This exercise helps you release the hold negative thoughts have on you. Putting thoughts down in words helps you see them more objectively and allows you to detach from them.

4Tell yourself to stop. Let the word "stop" come into your brain when the negative thoughts begin to creep in. Do not allow yourself to complete the thought, as doing so means the thoughts win. Instead, tell yourself to "stop" and then distract yourself with something else.[6] X Trustworthy Source Johns Hopkins Medicine Official resource database of the world-leading Johns Hopkins Hospital Go to source

  • You may feel like you have to tell yourself to "stop" all of the time. But eventually, it will become less and less.
  • Distract yourself with something to avoid the negative thoughts, such as doing a crossword puzzle, listening to music, or making a meal.

5Shift your thoughts in a positive direction. Its easy to beat yourself up when you feel like you messed up. Negative thoughts might enter your mind and add fuel to the fire of what you already believe about yourself. Reframe these negative thoughts by making them more positive and realistic.

  • For instance, instead of saying "I always get this problem wrong," you could say, "In the past, Ive been wrong about this." Changing "always" to "in the past" gives you the potential for growth and change in your mind. Your next attempt may result in a different outcome.
  • Try matching every event or thought that makes you feel like a failure with an equally valid time when you were a success.[7] X Expert Source

Catherine Boswell, PhD
Licensed Psychologist Expert Interview.  18 December 2020. Go to source

6Change the word "failure" into "mistake." Tell yourself that youve made a mistake instead of a failure. The word "mistake" sounds less permanent and harsh than "failure." Looking at it this way may help you feel better about the situation. Plus, when you use the word "mistake," you can look for a learning opportunity.[8] X Expert Source

Lauren Krasny
Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach Expert Interview.  27 March 2020. Go to source

  • Making a mistake also gives you a chance to grow. You can learn from what you did and use it as a chance to give yourself more information for next time.

7Focus on the bigger picture. Everyone has things in their life that they want to improve. However, you end up feeling like a failure because you are overlooking the bigger picture and getting caught up on the little details. Take a step back and look at the overall picture. Is your life really that bad? Or, are you caught up on small details? Take a step back so you can put things in perspective.[9] X Research source Go to source

  • For instance, you might find yourself obsessing that your crush didn't say "hi" or worrying about your unfinished to-do list. Allowing these small things to nag at you can make you feel bad. But, they arent important enough to allow that to happen.
  • To help you gain perspective, you may want to watch videos of space or go the highest point in your town and look at the vast expanse before you. You will see how small you are, and how small your problems are, in comparison.

8Change your definition of success.[10] X Expert Source

Lauren Krasny
Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach Expert Interview.  27 March 2020. Go to source  You may want to rethink what you believe to be success if youre still hanging onto the beliefs you made as a child. Striving to be rich or have what you believe to be the perfect family may not be something that is achievable for you right now. Create a new definition of success and you may feel better about yourself.[11] X Research source Go to source

  • Sit down and make a list of what you believe defines success. Dont just focus on material things. Concentrate on personality traits and characteristics of that nature. Now, ask yourself if this list is realistic.
  • If it's not, try to revise your definition with traits and strengths you have right now. For example, if you are going to school or have a job, that's a form of success. If you are healthy, have a roof over your head, and have people that love you, that's success, too.
  • If you need to, ask other people about your strengths and successes! Then, write them down so you can look over them when you're feeling bad about yourself.[12] X Expert Source

Catherine Boswell, PhD
Licensed Psychologist Expert Interview.  18 December 2020. Go to source

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Method 2Method 2 of 3:Effective Distractions

1Call or visit someone who can take your mind off things. A good friend or family member can help you change your focus when thoughts of failure come up. Choose someone who is light-hearted and can make you laugh or smile.

  • You might call or drop by and say, "I'm in a funk. Can you help cheer me up?"
  • You may even be able to take your mind off your own problems by helping this person with something. See if they could use your help with something.[13] X Research source Go to source

2Practice visualization. A great distraction technique is visualizing the order of something. This can help take your mind off thoughts of failure, and improve your mood.[14] X Research source Go to source

  • For example, close your eyes and imagine you are in the grocery store. Think of one specific aisle and visualize the different items on the shelves.
  • You can also picture a place that you enjoy, such as a beach. Close your eyes and visualize feeling the wind on our skin and hearing the sounds of the waves as vividly as you can.
  • You can also try this trick with songs on an album or with the order that items are placed in your bedroom.

3Have a warm treat. Negative thoughts can make you feel cold and lonely inside. Comfort yourself with something warm. Sipping hot tea or taking a hot shower or bath may help to warm you up emotionally.[15] X Research source Go to source

  • Take your treat to the next level by choosing exotic teas or by adding scents to your bath.

4Get lost in a positive activity. One way to overcome feelings of failure is by doing something. You'll naturally feel less negative when you exercise your brain and get in the flow of an interesting activity.[16] X Research source Go to source

  • Distract yourself with activities such as exercising, gardening, reading, watching a movie, making a to-do list, or practicing a sport.

Method 3Method 3 of 3:Lifestyle Changes

1Make healthy choices. Negative thoughts can influence your health and wellness for the worse. They also impact your immune system, making it more likely that you'll get sick. A self-defeating attitude can even cause you to make poor lifestyle choices like skipping workouts or binge-eating junk food.[17] X Trustworthy Source FamilyDoctor.org Family-focused medical advice site run by the American Academy of Family Doctors Go to source

  • You can counteract these negative effects by making healthy choices for your physical health. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Eat nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, and low-fat dairy. Get enough rest each night--aim for 7 to 9 hours.

2Avoid alcohol and drugs. Negative thinking can tempt you to turn to drugs and alcohol. These substances may temporarily numb painful feelings, but they only make the problem worse in the end. Avoid them in favor of relaxation exercises and self-care activities.[18] X Research source Go to source

3Ask for support from loved ones. Having low self-esteem can even harm your relationships. You may put your negativity off on the other person, blaming them for the way you feel. Counteract this problem by communicating with those closest to you and letting them know what you need.

  • Telling them may help them understand that you are the one with the issue, not them. For instance, you might say, "I know I get down on myself sometimes. I really appreciate you trying to cheer me up. I need someone positive in my life like you right now."[19] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • Avoid isolating yourself, as it can make things worse.

4Practice self-care. Do something positive for yourself once a day. Focusing on a task that makes you feel good can break up those awful thoughts. You can use that time to boost yourself up instead of tearing yourself down.[20] X Research source Go to source

  • You may be burning yourself out with activities that you do not care for. If you find yourself getting irritated easily, it's a sign of possible burn out.
  • Go for a walk, meditate, read a book, hit the gym, or do whatever makes you happy. Purposefully doing nice things for yourself may make you feel like less of a failure.

5Seek help if a mental illness is the cause. Depression and anxiety can cause you to feel like a failure even when there isnt any real reason behind it. Visit a doctor or psychiatrist if you feel that this could be the cause.

  • If you constantly feel bogged down by an overwhelming feeling of failure, you could be suffering from depression. Other signs include feeling tired all the time, worthless, unmotivated, and suicidal. Talking to a therapist or taking medication may help you overcome these feelings of failure.
  • If you cannot talk about your problems or the way you feel to your parents, there are your school counselors, Or your friends. Trust me. I feel this way all the time so I hangout with my friends! It really helps!!

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Expert Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article? Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow

  • Question How can I find a mentor to help me in life?

Lauren Krasny Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. I recommend thinking strategically about who would be best positioned to be your mentor. Give careful thought to every facet of why a person might be an appropriate mentor for you. When you approach that potential mentor, validate to them why their advice and guidance would be valuable and show appreciation for any help they agree to provide.

  • Question How can I take better care of my mental health at work?

Lauren Krasny Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. I really encourage people to focus on practicing mindfulness and maintaining perspective. When something feels stressful, rate the stress on a scale of 1 to 10 and ask yourself how you may feel about it a week from now. Sometimes that can help you maintain perspective and gain a more positive outlook on the situation.

  • Question How do I feel more confident about myself?

Catherine Boswell, PhD Licensed Psychologist Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. First, pay attention to the storyline or narrative that makes you feel like a failure. Then, reality-check that narrative: is it really about who you are here-and-now, or is it an old and potentially inaccurate story?

  • Question How do I let go of my mistakes?

Catherine Boswell, PhD Licensed Psychologist Expert Answer

Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. It can be helpful to match each event or thought that makes you feel like a failure with an equally-valid time when you were a success. You may need to ask friends, family, or a therapist about your strengths and successesthen write them down so you can review them frequently.

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References

  1. Lauren Krasny. Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach. Expert Interview. 27 March 2020.
  2. Lauren Krasny. Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach. Expert Interview. 27 March 2020.
  3. Catherine Boswell, PhD. Licensed Psychologist. Expert Interview. 18 December 2020.
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201010/action-creates-emotion
  5. http://www.happify.com/hd/stop-dwelling-on-negative-thoughts/
  6. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-power-of-positive-thinking
  7. Catherine Boswell, PhD. Licensed Psychologist. Expert Interview. 18 December 2020.
  8. Lauren Krasny. Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach. Expert Interview. 27 March 2020.
  9. https://yourstory.com/2017/04/look-at-big-picture/ampMore References (11)
  10. Lauren Krasny. Executive, Strategic, & Personal Coach. Expert Interview. 27 March 2020.
  11. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-to-stop-feeling-like-a-fraud-at-work_us_58a4a70ce4b03df370dcb91a
  12. Catherine Boswell, PhD. Licensed Psychologist. Expert Interview. 18 December 2020.
  13. https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2013/02/get-a-grip-on-negative-thoughts-with-distraction-skills/
  14. http://www.happify.com/hd/stop-dwelling-on-negative-thoughts/
  15. http://www.happify.com/hd/stop-dwelling-on-negative-thoughts/
  16. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201404/your-brain-is-nagging-you-here-are-5-ways-make-it-stop
  17. https://familydoctor.org/mindbody-connection-how-your-emotions-affect-your-health/
  18. http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/factsheet/depression-anxiety-alcohol-and-other-drugs
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5633215/
  20. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/making-change/201611/what-do-when-you-feel-failure

About This Article

Co-authored by: Catherine Boswell, PhD Licensed Psychologist This article was co-authored by Catherine Boswell, PhD. Dr. Catherine Boswell is a Licensed Psychologist and a Co-Founder of Psynergy Psychological Associates, a private therapy practice based in Houston, Texas. With over 15 years of experience, Dr. Boswell specializes in treating individuals, groups, couples, and families struggling with trauma, relationships, grief, and chronic pain. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Houston. Dr. Bowell has taught courses to Masters level students at the University of Houston. She is also an author, speaker, and coach.  This article has been viewed 109,716 times.   Co-authors:  18 Updated: May 12, 2022 Views:109,716 Article Rating:84% - 17 votes Categories: Personal Failure

Medical Disclaimer

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.

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