Feeling like a failure is something we have all experienced. It is that moment when we realize that we have fallen short of our own expectations, or worse, those of others. The sense of disappointment, shame and embarrassment can be overwhelming, and it can cause us to question our self-worth and abilities.
However, it is important to remember that failure is not the end of the road. In fact, it can be an opportunity for growth and learning. The idea of feeling like a failure grips us at our most vulnerable internal place – our inner sense of self-esteem and self-love. Although we know that in reaching high, we are guaranteed some degree of failure, when we fall short, that knowledge offers little or no consolation.
When we fail at something, all too often we think globally rather than in temporary terms. We think that we not only failed, but that we are failures. Feelings of unworthiness drag us down, leading to missteps and setbacks, defining us rather than merely offering feedback and educating us with useful information moving forward. The good news is that we can build on our failures on the road to success.
Even if we know that failure is surmountable, it does not change the way we feel about ourselves when we experience it. Failure can take a toll on our self-esteem and feelings of self-love, diminishing our sense of optimism about our future. So how can we feel better about ourselves? Below are 10 acts of self-love to try when you are feeling like a failure.
1. Forgive Yourself
The ability to forgive is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to ourselves to help us recover from our regrets and missteps. Instead of beating yourself up for not knowing what is so obvious now, see yourself as a work in progress and give yourself the gift of forgiveness. You can’t see into the future, so you can’t plan every step to perfection. Give yourself a break and allow room for mistakes. Try a loving-kindness meditation to prepare yourself for forgiveness. This will open your heart up to the possibility of accepting your mistakes.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is perhaps the most important element of self-esteem and resilience. It used to be thought that achievement and success – rising above the norm – was the road to high self-esteem. However, that road to self-esteem is far too conditional and assures that anyone at or below the norm is not as worthy or special. Self-compassion gives all people – high achievers as well as lower achievers – the assurance that they are worthy of love anyway, with no conditions.
3. Stop Judging Yourself
Suspending the labels you put on yourself is an act of self-love. Instead of calling yourself “a failure,” be more specific and less global. Feeling like a failure does not have to define you and your worth. Change your self-talk from “I’m a failure” to “I could not get things to work out this time” or “I made some mistakes and will use this experience as stepping stones going forward.” Label the experience for what it is instead of labeling yourself based on one mistake.
4. Turn Your Failures Into Goals
Instead of saying “I failed at my marriage,” you can say “I had trouble communicating in my marriage and am learning to communicate better now.” The first statement is anchored in the past that cannot be changed, while the second has an eye to the future and is more empowering of what you can do now. If you can identify what caused your past failures, you can work to develop goals based on those shortcomings.
5. Give Yourself a Hug
Instead of letting your inner critic have full reign, how about just giving yourself a hug? Science has suggested that hugging increases production of oxytocin, one of the feel-good hormones, which may also help reduce stress and depression. We all need hugs sometimes – especially from ourselves! If this feels like too much, give yourself a mental hug by writing down five things you like or love about yourself. This will give you the same sense of warmth and acceptance.
6. Imagine Yourself as a Young Child
Keep in mind that no one thinks of children as worthless or unworthy of love or happiness. And the truth is that we possess the same worth that we had when we were born. Sometimes we need to look behind the scars and wounds to see that preciousness and innate worth is still inside of us. Thinking of yourself as a child may also shift your mind and allow you to offer more forgiveness. Try to realize that you are still like that child, growing as you move through life.
7. Switch Your Mindset From Victim to Victor
When you’re feeling like a failure, you see yourself as a victim of the past instead of focusing on your resilience and ability to spring back. After all, it’s not how many times we are beaten down and fail that matters. What really matters is how many times we get back up and try again, each time a bit wiser. Try to leave the victim mindset behind and view yourself as a victor after overcoming failures to move on to something bigger and better.
8. Become More Mindful
Mindfulness is not just about meditating or breathing deeply and quietly in isolation. Rather, it is staying fully in the present in our daily lives with non-judgmental awareness in whatever you do. When you are mindful, you stay rooted in the present instead of looking back at your past missteps or feeling anxious about the future. As the saying goes, “Today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.”
9. Calm Yourself with a Calming Box
Sometimes we need something tangible to sooth us when we are feeling like a failure. As a therapist, I would sometimes have my clients create a self-soothing box to help them cope in stressful times. Using actual objects that serve to distract and self-soothe can provide soothing touchstones. A journal, a stress ball, or a polished stone to remind you of your self-worth are all examples of things that can be placed inside a calming box and used to soothe you when you’re feeling down.
10. Connect With Others
When people feel like a failure, all too often they isolate themselves, closing themselves up instead of opening up to others, but this is a fast way to damage your mental health. Seeking social support is one of the best choices you can make when you feel like a failure. Getting another person’s perspective will help you stop the tunnel vision that distorts your self-view. Asking for help and having the courage to open yourself up instead of closing yourself down will pave the way not only for avoiding loneliness, but it will also deepen your connections with others.
In conclusion, these 10 tips to stop feeling like a failure will serve as a springboard for a resilient and full life. Instead of focusing on the failure that comes with falling short, be proud that you dared to pursue your dreams with courage and enthusiasm. We must stop thinking in all-or-nothing, global ways, so that our mistakes and failures become stepping stones for success rather than millstones around our neck. Use failures to help you move closer and closer to success.