What To Do when You Feel Like a Failure


I haven’t been feeling great about myself lately…

It’s a combination of things, I believe: my recent birthday + new marital status are making me feel like I should have my shit together much more than I actually do, my day job is getting increasingly shittier, my writing just ISN’T coming along. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Thus begins the downward spiral of self-doubt:

Why don’t I have a published book right now, or why am I not at least further along the path to publishing? I’ve been doing this for SO LONG.

Why am I incapable of finding a job I love? IS IT ME?

Why don’t I have my shit together by now? I’m SO OLD.


Why does anyone even like me, given I SUCK AT LIFE so bad?

Etcetera. Etcetera.

Shockingly, this spiral of thoughts isn’t particularly helpful. But they’re kind of like quicksand: once I get one, it inevitably leads to more, and pretty soon I find myself entirely mired in this place of badness and self-pity and 😦

So how do I get myself out of this? (And I’m writing this post for myself just as much as for you, so I can remember:)

1. Acknowledge the way you’re feeling First of all, don’t feel ashamed for feeling down on yourself, which is something I used to do every time I got this way. I would think, you’re healthy, you’re not hungry, you’re not in prison, other people have it SO MUCH WORSE what is wrong with you for feeling this way given you’re so privileged, you are such a spoiled brat, etc. etc.

This way of thinking doesn’t help at all. Yes, I am pretty lucky in comparison to a lot of people in the world. But that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel this way. So acknowledge your feelings, and acknowledge these feelings are okay.

And then…

2. Count your blessings I have people who love me, many of whom I get to see frequently. I have an apartment I adore. There are some things about my job I like. I still love writing, despite my apparent lack of success at it. There is chocolate in the world. Etcetera. Etcetera.

3. Check your health Mental and physical. They’re both important, and they are linked. See your therapist. Exercise. Do yoga. Get a massage. It is amazing how soon things improve when you start caring more about your health.

4. Hang with a friend I’m not sure about you, but for me, so many of my problems stem from spending too much time inside my own head. There is nothing to take you outside your own head like another person. Even for an introvert like me, spending time with other people (the right people, and in small doses) is often the best antidote to feeling this way.

5. Help somebody Donate money, donate time, call your senators, sponsor a child. Because there are people who have it way worse than you. And helping always makes me feel better.

6. Keep swimming I feel like I am at the wrong day job. So what do I do? Look for another, while continuing to do my best here. I feel like I am sucky writer. So what do I do? I KEEP WRITING.

Stopping isn’t going to help anything. Keep on keeping on.

Also, to go along with this, what NOT to do:

1. Make comparisons It’s hard to resist when you see other people getting publishing deals at age twenty, getting praised on the internets, living their “best life”. Etcetera. Etcetera.

But remember that first of all, you don’t know the whole story; one look at my own socials doesn’t show ANY of this self-doubt.

And secondly, YOU DO YOU. Do you really want to do anyone else? With all my flaws, I really wouldn’t. I like too much about me. (Most of the time.)

2. Sit around thinking about it Again, don’t get stuck in the spiral. Get out of your head!

3. Give up It doesn’t solve the problems. It makes them worse.

4. Get a puppy Okay, not really. (Or, really! If you’re serious about it. And adopt, don’t shop. I am thinking about getting another cat…)

Okay, so that is my current plan for getting out of the “I suck” spiral. How about you? Any tips?

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash



One thought on “What To Do when You Feel Like a Failure

  1. I hope you’re feeling better by now, but just in case you’re not, December is the best time of the year for thinking about how to help others, which would usually make it easier to forget about the sh*t going on inside one’s own head. Except it really isn’t working for me at all now. I’ve made this huge (not exaggerated) effort to spread the joy of giving and sharing experiences, you know, the positives of the holidays, and found that people aren’t feeling it and so all of a sudden I’m not feeling it and I love December. Lesson learned: helping others does bring content to life but don’t let your happiness depend on how others respond to your work. I’m tempted to say: rather, make sure the work itself brings you joy, but I dont know. Maybe the right answer is more like ‘don’t try to help people who don’t want to be helped’. In a world where I’d be really unselfish I’d surely care more about the helping than the joy of the work?

    Anyway…it’s easy to underestimate the importance of your number three. However selfish it may sometimes seem, I can’t help others if I’m not doing so well myself. In the perfect world someone would be taking care of me but until the world calms down and we resume taking care of each other, let’s take care of ourselves in December 🙂


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