“I feel like a failure”.
Have you been telling yourself this lately?
Life has this knack of kicking you when you’re already down; sometimes it even likes to follow that up by running you over with an eight-wheeler.
We’ve all been through periods of our life that just felt like it was the end of the world, beyond the brink of what we could emotionally and mentally withstand.
It might have been a divorce, a bad break up, a project that didn’t go the way you expected, the loss of a job or opportunity, or something else.
But these failures and knockdowns are a part of life, even if we don’t want to accept that.
It was Winston Churchill who said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
Because in the ashes of every setback and failure lie the seeds that will sprout new opportunities and paths.
Sometimes it can just be a little hard to see the bright side when you’re telling yourself “I’m a failure”.
But it can be done.
Here are 21 reasons you’re wrong:
1) Cognitive bias is causing you to think you’re a failure
When someone holds an inherent negative perception of who they are, it’s not surprising that small failures and challenges cause them to feel defeated.
A failure just confirms to them what they already know: that they’re hopeless and won’t succeed.
This is due to what psychologists call cognitive bias.
According to Very Well Mind:
A cognitive bias is a type of error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them…Cognitive biases are often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. They are rules of thumb that help you make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed.
So while you may think that you’re processing your failures and limitations objectively, it’s more likely that your belief that you are a failure is influencing how you’re perceiving the world.
Small mistakes confirm to you that you are indeed a failure, but for other people it’s just a small stepping stone.
So next time you think that you’re a failure, take a step back and think about it objectively. You can even write down your successes and your failures.
If you do it seriously and objectively, you’ll realize that you’re not a failure and you’re really no different to everyone else.
After all, everyone fails from time to time. What’s weird is someone who doesn’t.
2) Life isn’t about what you “do”. It’s about who you are
When people focus on their successes to validate themselves, their self-worth depends on those accomplishments.
So of course, when you do well, you’re happy, and when you do bad, you’re sad. But this is limiting and doesn’t represent who you are at all.
“The better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to show off.” – Robert Hand
Even if you are accomplishing things in life, the satisfaction of those accomplishments won’t last long. And before you know it, you’ll be back to desiring another accomplishment to make yourself feel good.
You need to learn to love yourself for who you are.
How can you do that?
The first step is to stop attaching outside factors to your self-worth. Instead, understand that you’re much more than that.
Make a list of all the things you love about yourself that have nothing to do with successes or achievement.
It might feel weird, or unusual, but give yourself 30 minutes to really come up with things you admire about yourself.
It could be the fact that you’re compassionate, or kind. It could be that you’re soft-spoken and not confrontational. Let the list flow.
These kinds of traits are what make a person successful, not outside achievements that have to do with status or material possessions. They’re superficial and short lived.
When you realize that your self worth is about who you are inside, factors outside yourself won’t bother you so much.
3) Accept yourself for who you are
When you’re telling yourself “I’m a failure” it’s clear that you’re not happy with who you’ve become, or what you’ve achieved. There’s a lack of self acceptance.
Fortunately, self-acceptance is something we can nurture.
According to psychologist Ryan Howes, “we are much better collectors of our shortcomings than our strengths…Many people fail to see their strengths and cling to antique scripts they carry about their lack of worth.”
Just like above, writing a list of your strengths is a great way to clear away the weeds and see yourself objectively.
Howes suggests making a list focusing on “all the hardships you’ve overcome, all the goals you’ve accomplished, all the connections you’ve made and all the lives you’ve touched for the better. Keep it close by, review it frequently, and add to it often.”
Another strategy is to shut your inner critic.
A great way to do this is to choose a realistic mantra you can repeat to yourself whenever you’re criticizing yourself.
For example, you could use “I am only human, I am doing the best that I can and that is all I can do.”
Because the truth is, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. In the end, mistakes are simply an opportunity for growth.
4) Failure is proof that you’re pushing yourself to your limits
If you wanted to live in comfort, you could live a life that is free of failure. You’d never try anything new and you’d stay in your comfort zone.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think life is about being boring.
If you want to grow and experience all that life has to offer, then you have to fail. Failing is evidence that you’re living life, trying new things and trying to actually accomplish something.
We’re incredibly lucky to have be alive in the first place, so we may as well make the most of it while we’re here.
5) Some things are simply out of your control
Perhaps you’re feeling like a failure because you didn’t get that promotion at work, or the project you were working on didn’t work out.
But these failures might have been from factors that were simply out of your control. Maybe you were competing with the boss’s son for that promotion.
Whatever it is, failure isn’t always personal. Focus on the things you can control like doing your best.
6) Failure is an opportunity to grow
Just because you’ve failed doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Everyone fails. And in fact, without failure human beings wouldn’t have achieved very much.
Failure is simply an opportunity to grow and sharpen your skills. Every time you fail, you learn something new.
7) You’re not hungry
Even when you do fail, it’s important to keep it in proper perspective.
Food is one of those things that we take for granted, that we forget that many people around the world are starving.
The next time you sit down for a nice meal, take the time to savor every bite.
Enjoy it and find the happiness in the simplicity of a delicious meal, everything from the first bite to the last.
8) You have a passion to improve
Give yourself credit for actually wanting to improve.
Even if you don’t believe it, it’s true. How do we know? Because you are sad and down. The reason you feel lost and like a failure is because you believe that you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve.
This means that you want to be better, and you have a desire to get back out there. It may not be now, but someday soon you will be even better than you once were.
9) You are still alive to learn
Defeats and failures suck. They can sap all the life and energy out of you and keep you out of the game for months, and sometimes years, if you let your grief thrive.
But remember this: whatever happened to you, it wasn’t bad enough to kill you. And that means you can change.
You can learn from this experience, and move forward. Continue to build off of that experience and create a better version of yourself that this time has the power to succeed.
10) You are free to choose
When you’re feeling down and out, it’s important to keep in mind that you have the freedom to sit back and let defeat overwhelm you for the rest of your life, or the freedom to deny it that satisfaction and get back up and start again. So what will it be?
11) You have clean water
It’s such a basic necessity, such a simple component of life; so much so that we can’t understate the utter importance of this.
As unthinkable as it may be, clean water is not a universal freedom that everyone can say they have.
So when you feel like a failure, be happy that you have clean water whenever you want, and that you can focus your mind on things other than where your next drink will come from.
12) Your happiness is your own
No one can deny you your own happiness. Every thought, word, and action that comes from you is yours to dictate, and you can choose to focus on being happy.
All it takes is your own willpower and desire to be happy; nothing is stopping you from finding that old smile.
13) You can forgive
Imagine if we lived in a society where we weren’t allowed to forgive. Where we couldn’t absolve people of the pain of regret, and where the mistakes that we make could last a lifetime.
Forgiveness is one of the best things we can do, because we can release people from pain by simply saying, “It’s okay.” Relish in your ability to do so.
14) You can find friends all around the world
As much as they say that we have become more anti-social because of the Internet, it may actually be the other way around, if you play your cards right.
The Internet is the greatest tool for making friends that humanity has ever had; with just a few clicks, you can make friends from all around the world.
Even if you’re feeling like a failure, there’s still so much opportunity these days to meet other people and learn.
Not only can you experience friendship like never before, but you can enjoy other cultures in a way that has never been possible.
15) You have clothes
Feeling down, depressed, and dejected? Put on your favorite shirt, or jacket, or dress, or hat. Make the most of your wardrobe, and be happy that you have more options than you could ever need. Style yourself in the way you deserve to be styled.
16) Your dream is your own
Not only do you have a dream, but you have a dream that came from you. That’s one thing no one will ever be able to take away from you: what you want for yourself.
This dream, if used properly, can be your carrot on a stick, always motivating you to work and be better and feed the fire in your heart.
Make the most of your dream, and make your dream come to life.
17) You know what love is
Whether you currently have a partner or not, realize this: you have experienced love. The most human sensation that our mind allows us, love is what drives so much what we do.
You may feel like a failure now, but you still have the ability to feel love and find love.
Music, books, careers, wars—so much of this is driven by love. And you have felt it, and even if you never feel it again, you know what love is. You have been a part of love.
18) Knowledge at the tip of your fingers
Before the 21st century, knowledge wasn’t a right; it was a privilege. Only those who could go to school had access to knowledge beyond their own skills and crafts.
No matter how much failure is getting to you, we’re still so lucky to learn new skills and apply new knowledge.
Today, everything you could ever possibly want to know is available at the tip of your fingers. From astronomy to cooking to history to languages, everything is available on your computer. Let’s hope you aren’t using all your time on cat videos.
19) You’ve got a bed to sleep in
In an interview on NPR once, they talked to a teenage Haitian mother who discussed how difficult it was raising children who were constantly asking when they would go to school like every other kid in the neighborhood, or why they had nothing to eat.
But the saddest part of the interview was this: she said that as they slept at night, they slept on nothing but a dirt floor.
And you? You’ve got a bed. It may not be the biggest or the widest—or it might be—but it’s yours, and it will ensure that you can start tomorrow with a well-rested state of mind.
20) You have or you’ve had a job
Whether you have a job or you just lost one, it’s still a great situation. It means you have a skill, a talent, something that adds value to the community around you.
If you lost your job, don’t stress out over it—there’s no reason why you can’t get another.
21) You believe in a greater purpose
You may have spent the last few days, weeks, or months, drowning in a pool of self-pity and sadness. But step back and think about what you used to feel, your motivations prior to this knockdown.
Here’s the truth: you believed in something greater than yourself. Whether it was God or your family or your dreams or your community, you lived for a reason other than just to put food on your table and satisfy your needs.
Guess what? That greater purpose is still there. Waiting for you to get out of your slump and get back on track. So it’s time to start moving. Time to start being you again.
A quick message from Lachlan Brown, the founder of Hack Spirit
In 2018, the third year of Hack Spirit, I poured thousands of hours and considerable resources into creating these articles. It's a labor of love and remains free thanks to your patronage. If you found any value in these articles, please consider supporting what I do with a donation. Your support is what helps me to continue creating more Hack Spirits articles. To make a donation, click the "donate" button below and choose between a single donation or monthly.
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