Reasons Someone Might Feel Like a Failure and What to do About It

Apr 1, 2022 | Blog, Family Issues, Mental Health, Self Esteem

Everyone fails at some point in their life.  Failure is a part of learning.  When we try something and fail, we typically evaluate our mistakes and then use the “lessons learned” to improve our future performance.  Some people, however, internalize their failures and move from thinking that “I failed at this task” to thinking “I am a failure because I failed at this task.”  Being a “failure” becomes a part of their self-identity.  As a result, each successive mistake or failure reinforces their belief that they are not good enough and therefore a failure.

Some of the reasons that people develop a view of themselves as a failure include:
  • Unresolved Trauma – One of the side effects of trauma is that feelings and thoughts can get “frozen in time” in the brain.  It is not unusual for someone who has been traumatized to have thoughts such as “Why couldn’t I stop it?” or “I caused this to happen” or “I shouldn’t have……”  Over time, these thoughts become ingrained in their belief systems, especially if the trauma happens during childhood.  As a result, they begin to feel like bad things happen to me because I am a bad person.
  • Unresolved Family of Origin Issues – The messages we get in childhood have a dramatic effect on our view of ourselves.  If you grow up in a chaotic family that doesn’t have a lot of love or support it is easy to begin to see yourself as a failure, especially if you hear messages such as “You are worthless” or “You are such a screw up” or “You’ll never amount to anything” or “You are such a failure.”  We tend to talk to ourselves the way we were talked to as kids.  The worse the messages, the more likely we are to see ourselves as a failure.
  • Low Self-Esteem – Kids aren’t born with low self-esteem.  What usually happens is that we get treated poorly long enough that we begin to feel bad about ourselves.  For example, someone who is bullied as a kid might feel like they are a failure because they were never liked in school or that they could never make others happy.
  • Unrealistic Expectations – Sometimes others have unrealistic expectations of us, and we fall short.  As a result, we might feel like a failure because we couldn’t live up to what they expected of us.  Other times we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves which set us up to feel inadequate.
Strategies to Overcome Feeling a Failure
  • Change Your Self-Talk – Remember that we learn to talk to ourselves by how we were talked to as a kid.  Rather than repeating old messages, learn to talk to yourself the way you want to be talked to.
  • Update Your Self-Perception – Sometimes our self-perceptions are old rather than accurate.  Learn to notice the positives about yourself rather than just focusing on the things that you don’t like.
  • Manage Your Expectations – Create realistic expectations of yourself and manage the expectations of others around you.  You will feel better if you do.
  • Take Small Risks – When you feel like a failure, you often become fearful of taking risks.  Take small manageable steps toward accomplishing things that you want.  
  • Treat Mistakes as Opportunities – Mistakes are a vital part of how we learn.  Don’t let the need for perfection keep you from progressing.  
  • Reward Yourself for Small Successes – It is easier to feel good about your progress if you feel recognized for your efforts and successes.  Who better to start the recognition than you?
  • Get Therapy – Therapy can help you resolve old issues, recognize patterns of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, and learn the skills you need to develop healthier self-esteem.  Remember that your belief systems can be updated.  Your past doesn’t have to dictate your future.  You can live a happier life and therapy can help.
New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.