How to deal with being a failure: 14 no bullsh*t tips

Want to know something?

I’m a failure. In fact, I’m a multiple-failure!

Now that I’ve admitted it, let me explain why. I also want to tell you how you can come back from it.

1) Improve one area of your life

If you want to know how to deal with being a failure, start small.

In many ways, failure depends on how you look at it, but one thing I know for sure is that if nothing’s going your way…

Don’t try to change it all at once!

Take one area of your life and improve it.

Relentlessly. Enthusiastically. With your whole heart.

I don’t know what it is that makes you believe you’re a failure, but I can tell you this.

Don’t try to fix it all at the same time.

I used to feel I was a failure because I couldn’t find a career I fit into where I really felt useful and talented.

Eventually I found my way into writing and found out a very pleasant surprise: people enjoyed reading what I write!

I steadily improved that one area of my life.

Then I improved my exercise routine. Then my diet. Then my approach to relationships.

Have I reached that mystical “plateau” where I’ve now “made it”?

By no means! But I can definitely say that I no longer consider myself the failure I once did.

2) Get yourself in gear

If you want to know how to deal with being a failure, stop looking at all the ways you’re falling short of those around you.

Start thinking of failure in a completely new way.

Leave the judgments and outer measurements behind.

Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working.

And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for.

I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential. He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist.

In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to achieve what you want in life and stop being dragged down by those who are just going to slow you down.

So if you want to build a better relationship with yourself, unlock your endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything you do, start now by checking out his genuine advice.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

3) Get clear on ‘being a failure’ vs. ‘failing’

It’s crucial to understand one thing before we continue.

Failing doesn’t make you a failure.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do to deal with being a failure is to realize that your failures don’t define you.

No matter how certain you are that you’re a failure, you’re not a static object.

Your past – or current – failures don’t mark you for life, and you still have gas in the tank.

Don’t give up now and don’t make the mistake of labeling yourself as a lifelong failure just because you’ve failed at multiple things.

You may have failed, you may be failing, but you are not “a failure.”

People come back from messy divorces, cancer, mental illness, job loss and horrible failures at work and in their personal lives.

You can too.

4) Stop rubbing salt in the wound

So you’ve failed and you’re feeling terrible?

I’m sorry to hear that.

But I really want you to just stop for a moment and reflect.

What is changing by you dwelling on it?

How is that improving the situation.

Now I understand that sometimes you need to think about how you failed in order to do it better next time. But don’t overdo it!

As Susan Tardanico says:

“Obsessing over your failure will not change the outcome. In fact, it will only intensify the outcome, trapping you in an emotional doom-loop that disables you from moving on.

“You cannot change the past, but you can shape your future.

“The faster you take a positive step forward, the quicker you can leave these debilitating, monopolizing thoughts behind.”

5) Figure out what you really want

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Many of us fail because we don’t really know what we want.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said “a man can get what he wants, but not want what he wants.”

This pessimistic view was part of Schopenhauer’s view of the “general will,” which posits that human beings are subject to limitless desire and striving to impose their will and to fill a void that can never be filled.

But others are far more optimistic than Schopenhauer.

The fact of the matter is that if you can figure out what you really want and then take steps to achieve it you are far ahead of the vast majority of people.

Far too many of us just try to get what our parents, society, friends or culture tells us to want.

Or we strive to get what our ego tells us will make us happy: a great job, a hot wife, an amazing house in the Berkshires.

Then we get it and look around with a sinking feeling…

The empty feeling is still there.

The truth is that knowing what you want should be more about knowing what feeling state and mission you are searching for than outer material things.

Think of the material success and outer aspects as glue holding together a beautiful model airplane.

They’re important things to pay attention to, sure, but it’s more important what kind of plane you want and what you want to use it for?

A trip to Tahiti sounds nice right about now, if you ask me…

6) Look at the big picture

Keep the big picture in mind if you’re dealing with failure.

If you just lost a great job nobody will blame you for feeling frustrated, unappreciated or victimized.

But think of how lucky you are to have your physical health and the experience the last job gave you. Maybe you can spruce up your CV and hit the job-seeking trenches in a few days and find something even better.

Never say never.

There are all sorts of situations where life is going to foil your plans and set you back to square one.

Many of them may not be your fault in any way.

It’s easy at these times to throw in the towel and say that if this is the way things are going to be you’re done trying.

But all that this does is waste time.

When you have a failure the next time, look at the big picture.

Think about the last time you failed and remember how you still came back from it? You can do that again.

7) Stop looking for a person to save you

Many of us want to find love and a fulfilling relationship. I know I do.

That’s a healthy and empowering desire.

But when that desire becomes an expectation, an entitlement and a grand, idealistic dream is when things get a little less positive.

That’s because far too many of us have built up an expectation that we will one day meet the love of our lives and everything will fall into place.

The truth is that even if you meet your twin flame right after reading this article, every relationship has its flaws, even one built on true love.

That’s why the search to find true love and intimacy has to be done the right way if you want to succeed.

You may not be failing in love so much as you are failing to find what your imagination created.

Stop believing in a perfect person who will complete your life and start noticing the flawed but attractive people around you.

It’s a real eye-opener.

8) Learn who to trust

One of the biggest lessons failure has taught me is to be careful who to trust.

This is not about being paranoid or closing yourself off to others.

It’s a lot more about trusting your observations and intuition.

Pay attention to the words, behavior and actions of others. They will tell you a lot about that person.

For example, if someone rarely talks to you without mentioning money or their need for help with money…there’s a good chance they’re into you for your money!

If you keep falling in love with people who stab you in the back and have awful failed relationships, start looking at the characteristics these people have in common.

Chances are that you are trusting people too easily and setting yourself up for disappointment.

As Interview Kickstart puts it:

“There are two kinds of failures that you encounter. One where, despite your downfall, the people you trust stay back, and the other, where they isolate you completely.

“As you weigh the reasons behind failure, at times, you will realize that there might be a certain individual responsible for this sudden downslide in your life.”

9) Tap into your network

The friends and colleagues around you are a powerful network you can tap into.

Failure is a chance to take stock of where we’re at and reach out to those who can give us a hand.

Many times we end up self-isolating when we fail, leading to an even worse cycle of depression and future disappointment.

Instead of locking yourself in your room when things fall through, use this as a chance to broaden your network.

Talk to new people and find those who have your back and who you can help too.

The biggest winners in life are those who are skilled at finding trustworthy and smart people to partner up with in their professional and personal lives.

10) Compare yourself to yesterday’s you

I could be a millionaire with a wife I love and trust and still feel like a complete failure if I look at a billionaire tycoon with three wives he loves and who is even more popular than me.

Our ego plays real tricks on us when we start comparing ourselves to others.

Because there will always be someone who is bigger, better or stronger – at least from your perspective.

If you’re dealing with failure and feeling like you’ve failed, start a new way of measuring success.

Compare yourself to how you were yesterday instead of comparing yourself to others.

Start seeing your failures as stepping stones, not gravestones.

As Marisa Peer puts it:

“The truth is: anyone who has ever succeeded at anything has failed along the way.

“Instead of acknowledging how smart, strong, and resilient we are, most of us spend the majority of our time comparing our weaknesses to someone else’s strengths.

“We keep reliving moments of defeat or developing an unhealthy attachment to an idea of who or what we want to be like.”

11) Stop taking failure personally

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When we fail it’s an awful feeling. It’s easy to take it personally.

Why did this happen to me?

Why do I have all these awful breakups?

Why do I have such a hard time fitting into a job?

Why does nobody understand my complex and genius views of society?

Why does this shit keep happening to me?

Well, the truth is that plenty of this shit keeps happening to everyone, we all just deal with it in different ways and with different levels of victimhood.

Learn to stop taking failure so personally and you will have learned one of the most valuable lessons you can ever learn in life about success and resilience.

As Skills You Need says:

“One reason why some people find failure devastating is that their identity is tied up in succeeding.

“In other words, when they fail, they see themselves as a failure, rather than perceiving that they have experienced a setback.

“Try not to see failure or success as personal: instead, it is something that you experience. “It does not change the real ‘you’.”

12) Use failure as a motivator, not a reason to give up

 Failure can be fuel instead of a reason to stop.

Think about your frustrations and disappointments and let them feed into your desire to do better next time.

Stop feeding into a self-fulfilling prophecy in which you’re destined to fail and fall short.

If someone constantly complains about their record of failed relationships, for example, they may be a difficult person to have a relationship with because they’re too fixated on their failures.

You yourself will only fall into a cycle of failure if you associate with others who revel and luxuriate in failure.

Yes, you do have to accept when you’ve failed…

But you don’t have to celebrate it.

Begin to see the hits you’ve taken as training. Start to see that you were never unfairly targeted, you’ve just gotten slammed in ways that others may not have been, and they’ve also gone through things you haven’t gone through.

Let it be what it is and move forward with your life with purpose and grit.

13) Think about what failure and success really means

What is success to you?

Put it in as simple terms as you can.

For me success is group belonging and a mission I believe in. That’s the pinnacle of success for me.

For you it may be individualism and creativity to create new worlds through your artwork.

We all have different core drivers.

But the key thing is to not start treating life’s failures and successes as the final word.

The truth is that looking back you may see some of your successes as failures and some of your failures as successes.

It’s important to start developing a bit of a tough and less reactive attitude to outer failure and success.

Like the poet Rudyard Kipling says in his poem “If:”

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”

Failure and success go up and down wildly. But if you don’t have a solid core inside yourself of personal power you’ll get caught up and swept away in their illusions.

14) Get out of the failure trap

The failure trap is when patterns of early childhood trap us in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We begin to see the world with a loser’s mindset and notice all its problems and difficulties instead of its opportunities and blessings.

This pattern can become really disempowering.

In the same way it’s toxic when people only try to be “positive,” it’s very disempowering to only look at life from behind a permanent scowl.

“It’s down to how we think about failure, based on our childhood experiences – and how we behave as a result. It can lead to persistent, self-sabotaging – and self-fulfilling – patterns of thought and behavior,” explains My Online Therapy.

“If you have the failure life trap, you probably suffer from an inferiority complex.

“You see both yourself and your achievements as never meeting the standards of your peers. This can lead to anxiety and depression.”

Fail your way to success!

The irony is that anyone who tries to get through life without failing is going to truly fail.

Because life isn’t about a shiny gold medal and a perfect score.

It’s about living and learning, getting back up after your scrapes and coming back stronger once you’ve faced the storms of life.

This quote from basketball superstar Michael Jordan gets repeated a lot. But it gets repeated for good reason: because it’s true!

As he said:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Massive boom. That’s it right there.

The only way you’re ever going to truly succeed is by failing.

You’re never going to get by completely unscathed, and that shouldn’t be your goal.

Let failure be your guide and your reminder.

Let it back you up against the wall and give you no place to go but forward.

You got this!

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on and visit his website at

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