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This feeling cuts deep — the feeling that you are a failure.
But why does it cut so deep?
I think it’s because it gets to the core of what we think about ourselves.
It touches on our very identities.
But there is something important that you need to realize.
This feeling of failure, of lack of self-worth, is totally valid, but it doesn’t mean that it’s accurate.
Plus, there are ways to escape from this feeling.
And I’m going to discuss them below.
Feel Like a Failure? Setting the Stage for Our Failure Talk
Before we begin, let’s talk a little bit about why so many people feel like a failure.
Failure happens within a social context.
Would it be possible to feel like a failure if our lives weren’t always on display — on social media, at work, and in front of our family and friends? Sure, I guess it would be possible, but this public pressure amplifies it and makes it so much worse.
You feel a certain way in relation to others. It’s something that a lot of people fail to address when they’re talking about mental health. In our accomplishment-obsessed society, mental health is treated as a personal weakness, but there is such a strong social component to mental health, much of which is out of our control.
So when you think about failure, think about the social and cultural context that you’re in. Are you really a failure? How are the beliefs and values passed down to you affecting your thinking? There is an unbelievable amount of societal baggage that is influencing you every day.
Where Do You Come In?
Ok, that’s fine. But you might be thinking, but Jordan, I still feel like a failure. So what am I supposed to do about that?
First, know this. We all get to this point in our lives. It’s a normal reaction to feeling overwhelmed. I feel like a failure (and impostor) at times. It happened A LOT when I was younger, but I’ve worked hard to change my perspective — and you can too.
This is what’s going on.
You’re human. You’ve been through a lot. You have a collection of experiences mashed together with relationships jumbled up with the ideas and dreams that you have for your life. Sometimes the road you’re on aligns perfectly with what you want, but often that is not the case.
What is more common is that your experiences — which you most likely didn’t get to choose — sent you down a path that you did not want to be on. And so you had to learn how to improvise. You had to make things up as you went along.
Isn’t life fun?
No, not always.
What’s most likely going on for you is that what you want from life is not what you’re getting. And so you feel bad. You feel that you’re not getting your fair share. Or that you’re not living up to your potential. There are many, many variations on a common theme. Whatever is going on for you, you feel like a failure. And that’s a tough place to be in.
Align Your Goals and Values With Your Actions
This is the tricky part.
To stop feeling like a failure, you first need to stop and think about something. You have to ask yourself a question.
Ask yourself: “Is it even reasonable that I’m feeling this way?”
So often, we put pressure on ourselves that shouldn’t even be there in the first place. We decide we need to be a certain way when, in reality, we could just BE. What I mean by this is that we often say, “I need to be happy when this happens” or “I should feel this way when I get this job.”
But “shoulds” don’t lead to happiness; only being present in the moment — in your life — does.
When you apply judgment to your life, when you prescribe a certain feeling that you think you should have, you immediately set yourself up for failure. You are predicting a response over which you have little control.
This is What to Do Stop Feeling Like a Failure
Keep in mind, like I always say, that not all solutions I suggest will apply to your life. You’re going to have to tailor them to do what makes the most sense for you. Still, we’re talking about universal principles here.
1. Use an action plan to align your goals and your values with your actions.
What does this mean?
It means that you know your life best. You know what you want to accomplish. Rather than doing what others want you to do, think about the logical steps you need to take, and the core values you hold deeply, to put together an action plan.
Now, an action plan does not need to be a 40-page notarized document that you spend 20 hours on. It can be one page. It should probably be as simple as possible. It just needs to serve as a guiding light, to get you moving in a direction that feels right for you.
And if you write down a one-page action plan and it doesn’t work, you can always take five minutes and scribble down a new one. Simple plans can always be revised.
2. On one side of the plan, write your values.
These are the deep beliefs you have about what is true in the world — for you. Next to each value, if you can, write a goal that you have that connects with that value. It can be a weekly goal, or a monthly goal, or whatever. What’s important is that it’s meaningful — to you.
Then, as you move across the sheet, write down three simple actions you can take that will move you closer to accomplishing that goal. Try to get up to three. As you come up with more ideas, you’ll probably realize there is one specific action that makes the most sense to tackle next.
The magical thing you’ll realize as you go through this process is that you know a lot more than you think you do. You’re actually on top of your life and know what you want to do.
Taking time for yourself in this way is an escape. It’s freedom from the madness of the fast-moving world.
We all need freedom like this. We all need to take time to get our priorities straight.
And what’s great about this approach is that there is enough flexibility built in for you to make it your own.
Because so much of feeling like a failure is imposed by others and by societal pressure.
At the end of the day, you are the one who gets determine if you are a failure or not. No one else can do that.
I know that no person is a failure. We are all human beings doing our best in life.
Now it’s time for you to realize that for yourself.