It breaks my heart when I hear from truly talented and capable people who wind up feeling like a failure. Maybe it’s because of a choppy work history, or things that happened early on — or whatever reason. And the worst part is when you feel that way, each and every thing that goes wrong only adds to that feeling.
So is there anything you can do to STOP feeling like a failure? Probably. But first we need to look at where that feeling is coming from.
Reasons you feel like a failure
There are many reasons people feel like failures. Lord knows we all screw up. And in this society, starting early on, we can be held to a pretty high standard of achievement. Even grade schoolers now are worried that goofing up may destroy their chances of getting into college!
Imagine the pressure of thinking each failure may mean their lives are ruined forever. Day in and day out, in so many ways, we are told we must succeed. And judged for it if we don’t. Even by well-meaning parents. And we are less often reminded of our strengths. Or assured we have value exactly as we are.
But what is success really? And why do we buy into judging ourselves on some standard that is based on an unreal version of life. Who better than ourselves to create what our own best life should be? Even if it takes us some time — and ample missteps along the way — to get there.
Some more posts on that topic:
Speaking of career success (or not)
Sometimes we keep repeating the same type of job — even if it looks different on the outside. Kind of like always choosing the wrong person to date. And then, when things go wrong, you have even more evidence that you are a failure — and clearly not good at jobs. Well, at least not the jobs you pick.
It’s easy to get caught up in a “wrong job” cycle. After all, it’s what we do, so why not keep doing it. You’ll get better, right?? Well, not necessarily if you aren’t finding jobs / work environments that match who you really are. Even if you do get better, you’re still always pushing that rock uphill.
For all your efforts, you may never have had a chance to put your true skills to the test. Or, there may be skills that need strengthening to help your real talents emerge. So even if feeling like a failure is based on real evidence, that evidence may not be as conclusive as you think.
Things to help you stop feeling like a failure
Feeling like a failure can become a vicious cycle — and a self-fulfilling prophecy. But you can’t wait for the world to validate you. Or give you permission / approval to live your own life. Instead, create your own version of “success.” Some of the following can help:
- Remind yourself of times you felt fully engaged & competent. Whatever the circumstance. No matter how large or small. Don’t judge. Just see a picture of yourself when you felt good doing what you were doing.
- Speaking of pictures of yourself, it pays off in the long run to find out who you really are. Think about your values, talents, workplace preferences, and what you truly enjoy doing. Personal assessment tests can help. So can a good career coach or support group.
- Brush up on skills you enjoy — not just ones you feel obligated to learn. Learning new skills to get ahead can be useful, but not if it pushes you further and further away from your true self.
- Seek out / create new success moments of any kind. Volunteer. Pursue personal interests and hobbies. Help someone. And don’t minimize your accomplishments to anyone, especially yourself!
- Spend private time telling stories about yourself where you are the hero / heroine and not the patsy. It’s called reframing — teaching yourself to see yourself and your accomplishments in a different way. Perhaps using a different perspective. For more on the power of perspective:
- Surround yourself with supportive people. If we spend our time putting ourselves down and with friends who do the same, even in the name of fun, we start to believe our own minimizing press.
- Start a blog about something you love and know a lot about — or want to learn more about. Giving yourself a public voice around something you have true passion for can be empowering.
- And most important of all, take time each day to remember that you are ok exactly as you are. Yes, flaws and all. We all have ’em!
Permission To Be OK (Just As You Are)
We can’t always be a “success” — whatever that means.
Everyone has flaws and makes mistakes.
And many people walk around feeling they are not enough.
But the world would be empty if only perfect people were allowed.
Luckily, we can learn and grow from our mistakes.
And we can dust ourselves off and move on.
We are always a work in process — even flaws help us grow.
So if you can like yourself just as you are, you are ahead of the game.
And people who succeed know that’s the real secret.
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