Explore the reasons behind Why do you feel like a failure and discover practical strategies to overcome self-doubt.

Why Do I Feel Like a Failure? Understanding and Overcoming Self-Doubt

Jan 28, 2024

By Will Moore

Have you ever found yourself staring at the ceiling in the dead of night, your mind racing with thoughts that echo the same sentiment, "I feel like a failure"? It's a haunting phrase, one that creeps into our lives in moments of doubt. Whether it's a missed promotion, failing relationships, or simply the weight of everyday responsibilities, everyone goes through difficult times in life.

 It’s not just you.

That successful entrepreneur who seems to live a life of dreams? They've had their share of sleepless nights. From the outside, others might seem like they have it all figured out, but the truth is, that everyone has felt like a failure at some point. The difference is how one deals with it.

In this blog, we'll show you how to overcome this feeling and turn it into a source of motivation and growth. By the end, you understand why you feel like a failure, how it affects your self-esteem in all core areas of life, and what you can do to overcome it.

What Causes the Feeling of Failure?

Feelings of failure are like carrying a backpack filled with bricks of self-doubt and negative self-perception. But, let's unpack this backpack and see what's inside.

Comparing Yourself With Other's

In our hyper-connected world, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reels.

Research shows that frequent social media users are more likely to suffer from negative self-comparison, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inability to achieve personal success and failure. They begin feeling worse about themselves.

 For example, you might see friends on social media flaunting their new cars or dream jobs while you're struggling to make ends meet. This constant comparison can make you feel like you're lagging far behind, resulting in low self-esteem and feelings of failure. 

Lack of Self-Belief

Your mindset is the engine that powers your life’s journey. When it’s plagued by self-doubt, it’s akin to an engine sputtering on low confidence. 

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This idea can be related to the Equation of Life, which states:

Beliefs+Consistent Actions+Time=Person You Become

In other words, your beliefs, when combined with consistent actions over time, shape the person you become. If your beliefs are rooted in self-doubt and negativity, your actions will likely reflect that, and over time, this could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Picture this: a single mom, barely making ends meet, battling depression. She faced a ton of rejections from publishers. But, guess what? She didn't give up. She believed in her story, and she kept writing, every single day. It took years of hard work, sending her manuscript to agents and editors, but she hung in there. And then, bam! Her patience and perseverance paid off big time. Now, she's a global superstar author. Her name is o J.K. Rowling, the genius behind Harry Potter. That's how powerful your mindset can be - it can turn your life around!

It can either propel you forward or hold you back. By applying the equation of life, you can cultivate a positive, growth-oriented mindset that will help you accomplish your goals and dreams

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”-Henry Ford

High Expectations and Perfectionism:              

 Often, we set sky-high standards for ourselves. The desire to be perfect in every aspect - career, finances, relationships - can be overwhelming. When we inevitably fall short of these unrealistic expectations, it feels like a personal failure.  

A study by the American Psychological Association found that more and more young people are becoming perfectionists. They compared college students from the 1980s to now and saw a big difference. Today’s youth is more obsessed with being flawless in their looks, brains, and careers. This obsession can hurt their mental health because perfectionism can cause sadness, low confidence, and even thoughts of death.

Career and Financial Stress

 Research shows that financial stress is a leading cause of anxiety and depression, further feeding into the sense of failure. Plus, in a society where success is often measured in dollars and cents, being broke can feel like you’re losing at life’s game

  Lan Nguyen Chaplin, a professor of marketing after being denied promotion, writes in her article: “I felt like I had failed myself, my family, my students, and my colleagues. I felt like I had let down all the women and people of color who looked up to me as a role model.”

Feeling like a failure can have negative consequences for your mental health, emotional wellness, self-esteem, and motivation. However, it is important to remember that failure is not a permanent state, but a temporary setback. You can learn from your mistakes, seek support, and find new ways to achieve your goals.

 As Chaplin advises: “Think about what comes next. Focus on what you want your future to look like. Redefine your metric of success. It should include two things: Work that aligns with your core values and work that is recognized and rewarded by your organization.”

Strained Relationships

Humans are social creatures, and our connection with people and relationships form a vital part of our happiness. 

When these relationships are strained or unsatisfying, it can lead to a feeling of failure. Whether it's friendships, family bonds, or romantic relationships, the health of these connections deeply impacts our sense of success and fulfillment.

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Robert Waldinger, renowned for conducting one of the longest studies on happiness, summarized decades of research in one of the most viewed TED Talks. He stated, ‘'Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier, and the loners often died earlier.”

Neglected Physical Health 

Your body is your temple, and neglecting physical health can lead to a domino effect of negativity in your life. Poor habits, lack of exercise, or ignoring medical needs can not only affect your physical well-being but also your mental state, contributing to feelings of failure.

 Mental Health Issues

Mental health plays a huge role in how we perceive our achievements. Conditions like depression and anxiety can distort our view of reality, making us feel worthless or incapable. According to the World Health Organization, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, often contributing to feelings of failure and hopelessness.

Societal Pressures: 

Society often dictates a certain timeline for success. According to the Mental Health Foundation, societal pressures are one the leading factor that contributes to feelings of stress or anxiety, as people feel the need to meet cultural or societal expectations, standards, or norms.

 If you haven't hit specific milestones by a certain age – like having a stable job, owning a house, or being financially secure – you might feel like you're failing at life. These societal benchmarks create an invisible race that not everyone is equipped to run. As Krystal Hollings, a parenting coach, says: “When we allow societal pressures to dictate our lives, we lose sight of who we are and what makes us happy.”

It is important to remember that you are not defined by your achievements, possessions, or appearance. You are a unique and valuable person with the right to pursue your goals and dreams. As Hollings advises: “The best thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to embrace our individuality and celebrate our differences.”

Understanding these reasons is the first step in changing the narrative. Remember, your value is not defined by your bank balance or job title. It's about the journey, the lessons learned, and the resilience you show along the way.

What is the Failure Lifetrap?

Ever feel like you're on a hamster wheel of disappointment, where each step seems to confirm your worst fears about yourself? The phenomenon is called 'Failure Lifetrap' - a psychological pattern that often ensnares those who feel they haven't achieved enough in life. 

This life trap leads to an internalization of failure. It's no longer about specific instances of not meeting goals; it becomes a core part of your identity. This is dangerous territory, where perceived failure starts affecting all aspects of life, from personal relationships to physical health.

What Sort of Childhood Leaves You Feel Like a Failure as an Adult?

A child growing up in a home where their feelings are constantly dismissed or ignored. This is known as emotional neglect. Fast forward to adulthood, this child, now an adult, might struggle with feelings of inadequacy and failure. They may have difficulty forming meaningful relationships and may even engage in self-destructive behaviors.

Read More: Why Do I Hate My Life

For instance, imagine a kid who was often told to “stop being so sensitive” whenever he expressed his feelings. When he becomes an adult he struggles with self-esteem and often feels like a failure, despite his accomplishments. Similarly, a child whose emotions or perspectives were invalidated might grow up feeling misunderstood or unimportant.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) like these can cast long shadows, affecting an individual’s emotional health and family dynamics in adulthood. However, positive childhood experiences (PCEs), such as feeling loved and supported, can counterbalance these effects, leading to healthier adult lives.

How to Overcome Feeling of Failure? 

Turn Self Doubt Into Self-belief 

Shifting from self-doubt to self-belief is indeed a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. It begins with acknowledging your doubts, not as limitations, but as areas for growth.

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Consider the story of Thomas Edison. He once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This mindset shift, viewing failures as stepping stones towards success, is crucial.

Next, practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself when you stumble. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of being human. Then, set achievable goals. Small victories build confidence and gradually replace self-doubt with self-belief. As they say small changes lead to big results.

Finally, surround yourself with positivity. Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Positive influences can help reinforce your self-belief.

Read More: How to Get Unstuck

In an interview, Oprah Winfrey shared, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” So, believe in yourself, embrace the journey, and remember, the only real failure is not trying.

Set Realistic Goals:

 One of the most effective strategies for overcoming the feeling of failure is to set realistic and achievable goals. Let’s say you’re starting a new job and your ultimate goal is to become a team leader. Instead of focusing solely on that end goal, break it down into smaller, more manageable steps.

Start with something like, “I will learn one new skill related to my job each month.” This is a realistic and achievable goal that contributes to your larger aim. Remember, every big goal is just a series of smaller goals. Achieving these smaller goals can boost your confidence and help you believe in your ability to reach the bigger ones.

According to Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, writing down goals, sharing them with a friend, and sending weekly updates to that friend significantly increases the likelihood of achieving those goals. 

Experts from Harvard Business Review suggest five ways to set more attainable goals:

  1. Connect your every goal to a “why.” Understanding the “why” that’s driving your actions makes it easier to avoid distractions and focus on pursuing your goal.

  2. Break your goals down. Instead of setting one big goal, break it down into smaller goals that you can accomplish every day.

  3. Schedule “buffer time” for your goals and increase your estimated deadline by 25%.

  4. Focus on continuation, not improvement. Embrace all the things you’ve already started and would like to continue or build upon with time.

  5. Don’t dwell on past failures. Know that it’s normal and everyone goes through a cycle of ups and downs.

Replace Your Failure Habits with Success Habits: 

Nearly half of what we do every day, we do on autopilot. That's right, about 43% of our daily actions are habitual, and guess what?  Habits, whether good or bad,  shape our lives. Bad habits lead us down the path of failure if not replaced with success habits.

For instance, consider the habit of wasting time. If you find yourself spending hours scrolling through social media or watching TV, this habit could be holding you back from achieving your goals. Replacing this habit with a more productive one, like reading a book or learning a new skill, can lead to personal growth and success.

Similarly, the habit of complaining can foster a negative mindset and hinder progress. Instead, cultivating a habit of gratitude can shift your focus from problems to solutions.

Having a bad routine, such as staying up late or skipping meals, can lead to poor health and decreased productivity. Establishing a healthy routine, which includes a balanced diet and adequate sleep, can boost your energy levels and improve your overall well-being.

Pro tip: Sit with pen and paper and note down the failure habits affecting your life and make a plan to replace them with success habits.

Build a Support System: 

A strong support system is like a safety net that catches us when we fall. Without it, feelings of failure can become overwhelming. For example, if you’re navigating career growth, having mentors or professional groups to lean on can be a game-changer. They provide advice, share experiences, and offer a sense of belonging.

On the flip side, being in toxic friendships often drains you, leaving you feeling unsupported and alone. A 2015 survey found that people with emotional support reported lower stress levels compared to those without such support.

So, if you’re feeling like a failure, take a look at your support system. It might be time to make some changes. Reach out, connect, and be with people who believe in you when you give up on yourself. 

Celebrate Your Progress

This step involves assessing your progress, making necessary adjustments,keeping your morning routine checklist updated, and acknowledging every victory, no matter how small.

Suppose you’ve been trying to establish a regular exercise routine, but despite your best efforts, you find yourself skipping workouts and not meeting your fitness goals. This situation can lead to feelings of failure.

Read More: Happiness Hacks

In such a case, it’s important to reflect on your actions. Are there specific triggers that lead to you skipping workouts? Is your workout routine too strenuous or perhaps not engaging enough? Reflecting on these questions can help you identify the root causes and make necessary adjustments.

For instance, you might realize that you’re more likely to skip workouts on busy workdays. In response, you could adjust your routine to include shorter, more intense workouts on those days. Or, if you find your workouts boring, you could try incorporating activities you enjoy, like dancing or hiking.

Every achievement, whether it’s a productive day at work or successfully managing your emotions in a challenging situation, is a step towards success and should be recognized.

According to a study by Harvard, nothing contributed more to a positive inner work life than making progress in meaningful work. 

Hence, setting celebrating your journey can prevent you from feeling like a failure.

Gamify Your Life: Less Stress, More Fun! 

Being overly critical of oneself, especially during setbacks, can exacerbate feelings of failure. It's essential to treat yourself with kindness and understand that progress is inherently non-linear. 

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Treat your life like a game. For instance, consider transforming your career goals into a series of 'levels.' Each small achievement, like completing a project or learning a new skill, can be seen as leveling up in your professional 'game.' This method not only makes the journey more enjoyable but also helps in maintaining a positive outlook during ups and downs. Just as in a game where each level has its challenges and rewards, view each step of your personal and professional growth as part of a larger, exciting journey. 

Take the First Step to Change

Feeling like you’re stuck in a loop of failure? The Moore Momentum System is here to help. Start with our “Core Values Quiz”. It’s designed to pinpoint the areas of life that need improvement and how you can be the best version of yourself. 

The best part? We’ve gamified the process of change to make it fun and engaging. This way, leveling up in life becomes an effortless and enjoyable journey. Ready to play the game of life? Take the quiz and start your journey towards success today. 🚀🚀🚀

And to ensure you stay on track, we have an AI habit-tracking app. It’s designed to keep you motivated on the path of transforming your life and monitor your progress. 


  1. What causes feeling like a failure? The feeling of failure can be caused by various factors such as setting unrealistic goals, experiencing repeated setbacks, lack of self-confidence, or constantly comparing oneself to others. It’s important to remember that everyone has different paths and paces in life.

  2. What to do if I think I’m a failure? If you feel like you’re a failure, it can be helpful to talk about your feelings with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or mental health professional. Try to set realistic goals for yourself, celebrate small victories, and remember that it’s okay to make mistakes - they’re opportunities to learn and grow.

  3. Is it normal to think you might fail? Yes, it’s completely normal to have fears or thoughts of failure. These feelings can motivate us to work harder towards our goals. 

  4. Why do I sense that I’m a terrible person? This feeling often stems from low self-esteem or negative past experiences. It’s crucial to remember that everyone makes mistakes and has flaws, and these do not define your worth. Consider seeking help from a professional if these feelings persist.

  5. What is failure anxiety? Failure anxiety is the fear of not meeting one’s own or others’ expectations, which can lead to avoidance of trying new things or taking on challenging tasks. It’s often linked to perfectionism and can be managed with cognitive-behavioral techniques and mindfulness practices.

  6. Can anxiety lead to a sense of being a failure? Yes, anxiety can sometimes lead to feelings of failure. This is because anxiety can cause one to worry excessively about not meeting expectations or making mistakes. It’s important to seek help if anxiety is causing significant distress or interfering with daily life.


Will Moore is a gamification, habits and happiness expert.

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