Feeling Like A Failure - 50+ Quotes & Coping Strategies

6 Things That Can Falsely Convince You "I'm A Failure" 6 Things That Can Falsely Convince You "I'm A Failure"

If you have depression, anxiety, and/or another mental health issue - or even if you don't - it can be common to experience the negative thought "I'm a failure". And, if you can relate, in this blog post, we're going to share with you:

  1. Quotes about what makes people feel like a failure - to help you feel like you are not alone;
  2. Inspiring, motivational quotes for you to read anytime you feel like a failure - in order to uplift you and help you keep going;
  3. A variety of cognitive behavioural therapy-based strategies you can implement anytime you think the negative thought "I'm a failure" - to help you see that this negative thought is not true; to help you start viewing yourself in a much more positive, self-compassionate way; and to help you feel much more worthy.

Are you ready?

Quotes About What Makes People Feel Like A Failure

A little while ago, we at The Depression Project asked members of our 3,000,000+ person social media community:

What makes you feel like a failure?

And below, we'd like to share some of the responses with you:

  • "I feel like a failure when I compare myself to other people and don't feel I measure up. People who make more money, who are more successful, who are in better shape, who have their life more put together, etcetera."
  • "Not achieving a goal - whether big or small. The most recent 'big thing' I felt like a failure for was not achieving the sales target for the year that I'd set for myself at work. The most recent 'small thing' was screwing up a new dish I'd wanted to cook for dinner."
  • "For me, feeling like a failure comes from not meeting my own expectations. By this point in my life, I wanted to have a better job and be in a stable relationship, and I haven't achieved either."
  • "Not living up to the expectations of others - particularly when they make little comments here and there to remind you of this. I literally can't have a sit-down meal with my parents without them mentioning something about me still being single and not having any children."
  • "Working your absolute ass off at something, and then not getting the results you want. I started a new business this year and gave it my all - probably doing literally double the hours I did at my old 9-5 job - and I barely made a profit and blew through half of my savings."
  • "Losing my job - particularly when everyone I know is employed. This has been by far the hardest time of my life - and not just financially. I feel I've failed as a husband and a father."
  • "Criticism from others. Being told that you're not doing well enough. Always having your mistakes pointed out to you, while at the same time never receiving any compliments or praise."
  • "Just looking at my sister's life. She's doing better at everything than me and has achieved everything my parents ever wanted for us, whereas I haven't. I'm happy for her, but it also makes me feel sh*t about myself at the same time."
  • "Social media. Seeing pictures of people buying nice, expensive things that I can't afford. Seeing people go on overseas holidays when I'm struggling just to pay my rent."
  • "Struggling to do simple things that other people around me easily do - keep a clean house, stay on top of my to-do list and organise my finances. It's hard to not feel like a failure when your friend comes over and asks 'when did you last clean around here?', before suggesting that you hire a cleaner which you definitely can't afford."
  • "Each time a relationship doesn't work out, I feel like a failure at love."
  • "Any time I make a mistake, the negative self-talk starts for me - telling myself again and again 'I'm a failure', 'I can't do anything right', 'I'm so stupid', etcetera."
  • "As others have said, not doing well at something or not achieving your goals. And, this is particularly true when you're constantly reminded of other people's successes (e.g. on social media)."
  • "I went to a wedding last month, and felt like a failure because I'm still single."
  • "Having to listen to your parents talk about how well their friend's son is doing in their career only a few weeks after you've lost your job."
  • "Due to lack of money, earlier this year, I had to move my family out of a home we loved and into another one that was half the size. As soon as we arrived, my youngest daughter said: 'it's so small here, I want to go back to the big house'. The feeling of failure was overwhelming."
  • "Getting divorced. There is no bigger failure in my parents' eyes."
  • "Struggling to function because of my depression. Not being the employee I want to be or the wife that I want to be. Falling behind on everything, but instead of catching up being so exhausted that I can't get out of bed. I'll probably leave my job soon because it's just too hard to cope, and then I'll feel like even more of a failure."
  • "As others have said, negatively comparing yourself with others who are doing better than you. People only post the nice stuff on social media, and logging onto Instagram was just like having countless pictures telling me 'you're not good enough! You're not fit enough! You're not making enough! There are so many things you want that you can't afford! Your life is all over the place and you're a failure!' I hardly ever go on IG anymore."

Inspiring, Motivational Quotes For When You Feel Like A Failure

Now that we've shared with you a variety of quotes about different things that make people feel like a failure, we'd like to share with you some quotes to inspire and motivate you when you feel this way. As you'll see, some of them are from famous people who you may know, whereas others are from members of The Depression Project's community.

  • "My therapist said that when I feel like a failure, it's important to make a point of reminding myself of the accomplishments I've made as well. I have a natural tendency to focus exclusively on my mistakes and ignore the good things I've done, so this helps to balance things out and make me feel a bit better."
  • "Failure is another stepping stone to greatness" - Oprah Winfrey.
  • "Just because you fail once doesn't mean you're going to fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?” - Marilyn Monroe.
  • "Failure is common. Failure is human. Everybody fails - they just may not tell you about it. I think it helps to remember this when you're negatively comparing yourself to others and thinking you're a failure as a result."
  • "I haven't failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work" - Thomas A. Edison.
  • "I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over, and over, and over again, and that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan.
  • “Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again” - Henry Ford.
  • "Just because you think that you're a failure, it doesn't mean that you are one. It's just a thought - and lots of thoughts are not true reflections of reality."
  • “There is no failure except in no longer trying" - Elbert Hubbard.
  • "I used to think of every date I went on that didn't lead to marriage as a failure, but they're not. They're necessary steps that - I hope - will lead me where I want."
  • "After another meaningless date when I was feeling really upset, a close friend said to me: 'you are not a failure in love, you're learning about who you're compatible with and what you really want in a partner, and you're on the path to meeting someone great'. That was about eight years ago now, and last month she was a bridesmaid at my wedding."
  • "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour" - Truman Capote.
  • “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm" -Winston S. Churchill.
  • “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly" - Robert F. Kennedy.
  • “Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett
  • “Failure is a bend in the road, not the end of the road. Learn from failure and keep moving forward.” Roy T. Bennett
  • “The end of a relationship is not always a failure. Sometimes all the love in the world is not enough to save something. In these cases, it is not a matter of fault from either person. Some things cannot be, it's as simple as that.” Ashly Lorenzana.
  • “I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong” - Benjamin Franklin.
  • "For me, divorce was the best decision that I could have possibly made. Given that this was the case, I do not view it as a 'failure'. It was a necessary step towards a better life for myself."
  • “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success” - Arianna Huffington.
  • “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up” - Chinese proverb.
  • “Failure is constructive feedback that tells you to try a different approach to accomplish what you want” - Idowu Koyenikan.
  • "Failure is not permanent - unless you give up. Always keep trying your best and you can succeed in the end."
  • "When you have depression, your mind is constantly lying to you - telling you things like 'you're a failure', 'you're a burden', 'no-one likes you', etcetera. But these things are NOT true."
  • "Sometimes, feeling like a failure comes from having unrealistic expectations for yourself, and holding yourself to unfair standards that you would never, ever hold anybody else to. Something my therapist has been emphasising to me is for me to treat myself with the same compassion as I would treat my best friend - and this has really helped me cope with feelings of failure. I recommend it!"
  • "I have failed at a lot of things in life, but I try not to let that define me. I try to be defined by my response to failure instead - which is always to learn what I can from it and then keep on going."
  • “You always pass failure on your way to success” - Mickey Rooney.
  • “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life" - J.K. Rowling.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Strategies To Cope With And Overcome The Negative Thought "I'm A Failure"

Like we often say at The Depression Project, a negative thought like "I'm a failure" is just that - a negative thought - rather than a fact. And, on that note, we'd now like to share with you a free excerpt from our cognitive behavioural therapy-based journal You Are Not A Failure that includes a variety of CBT strategies to help you:

  • See for yourself that the negative thought "I'm a failure" is not true;
  • Start viewing yourself in a much more positive, self-compassionate way, and feel more worthy as a result.

As soon as you're ready, let's get started!

You Are Not A Failure

Free excerpt

CBT Strategy #1: Looking At The Evidence Which Contradicts The Negative Thought “I’m A Failure”

Like we've said, just because you have a thought, it doesn’t mean that it’s true – and in fact, particularly when you’re viewing everything through depression, anxiety and/or another mental health issue’s critical, distorted lens that’s causing you to think much more negatively than you otherwise would, many of your negative thoughts are likely going to be false.

For this reason, rather than automatically accepting a negative thought like “I’m a failure” to be true, it can be really helpful to instead implement a common cognitive behavioural therapy strategy that involves bringing awareness to the evidence which disputes it1.

Now, to see how this thought-challenging strategy works in practice, let's look at a few different examples.

Example Negative Thought #1: “I didn’t do as well in my exams as I wanted to, so that means that I’m a stupid failure, and that I’ll never get a good job after university.”

However, evidence to the contrary might be:

  • You did well enough in your high school exams to get into university, and you’ve done well in other university exams before this one – which proves that you are not a “stupid failure”.
  • Not doing as well as you wanted to in one set of exams does not define you as a failure. After all, nobody achieves their goals 100% of the time, and therefore, it’s unrealistic to think that you always will, and it’s unfair to label yourself as a failure when you don’t.
  • When you apply for jobs in the future, you’re going to be judged on so much more than just this particular set of exams – and so not doing as well as you wanted to does not mean that you’ll never get a good job.

Example Negative Thought #2: Thinking “I’m a failure” as a result of negatively comparing yourself to other people who, because of their social media posts, you feel have a “better life” than you.

However, evidence to the contrary includes, for example:

  • Social media is not an accurate reflection of people’s lives, since people usually only post their “best” moments that they want everyone else to see.
  • The comparison you’re making is extremely unfair to yourself – as you are comparing another person’s “best” moments to all of your moments (i.e. the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly” moments).
  • Like we’ll talk about much more later on in this journal, how you compare to other people is arguably a very poor way in which to evaluate how “successful” you are and/or “how well you are doing at life”. And, for this reason, even if one or more aspects of your life don’t compare favourably with those aspects of some other people’s lives, it does not mean that you’re a “failure”.

Example Negative Thought #3: “When I'm depressed I struggle to do even the simplest of things like brushing my teeth, shaving and having a shower – I’m such a failure.”

However, evidence to the contrary would include, for example:

  • The fact that feeling exhausted is strongly associated with depression2, anxiety3PTSD3, OCD4, bipolar disorder5 and other mental health issues, and that for this reason, if you’re battling one or more of these mental health issues, it’s very understandable that you’d find it difficult to do the “little things” like taking care of your personal hygiene, for example. Therefore, you struggling to brush your teeth, shave and have a shower is due to your depression, anxiety and/or another mental health issue – not because you are a “failure”.

Example Negative Thought #4: Thinking “I’m a failure” in response to experiencing a disappointing setback (such as losing your job, for example).

However, evidence to the contrary would include, for example:

  • The fact that everybody experiences disappointing setbacks at times, and for this reason, experiencing a disappointing setback does not mean that you’re a “failure” – it means that you’re human.
  • Even if you made one or more mistakes and/or didn’t perform as well as you would like to which resulted in you experiencing a disappointing setback, it does not mean that you’re a failure and that you always will be. Rather, it literally just means that on this particular occasion, you made one or more mistakes / didn’t perform as well as you wanted to. And, if you can learn from your mistake(s) and figure out how to perform better moving forwards, then in the future, you’ll give yourself a good chance of achieving the success that you want.

CBT Strategy #2: Cognitively Reframing The Negative Thought "I'm A Failure"

When it comes to freeing yourself from the negative thought “I’m a failure”, another helpful question to ask yourself can be:

Is there a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way that I could be looking at things?

Asking yourself this question is an example of implementing another common cognitive behavioural therapy technique known as “cognitive reframing” or “cognitive restructuring”6, and the reason why it can be so helpful is because there usually is indeed a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way of viewing things!

To illustrate how cognitive reframing can work in practice, let's once again look at a handful of common examples.

Example Negative Thought #1: “I didn’t do as well in my exams as I wanted to, so that means that I’m a stupid failure, and that I’ll never get a good job after university.”

However, a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way of viewing this might be:

  • “Just because I didn’t do as well as I wanted to in my exams, it doesn’t mean that I’m a stupid failure and that I’ll never get a good job. Rather, it just means that I didn’t prepare for these exams as well as I could have, and that for all of my exams moving forwards, I need to prepare better. If I prepare better, then in the future I’ll likely do really well in my exams, and then I’ll be in a really good position to secure the job that I want.”

Example Negative Thought #2: Thinking “I’m a failure” in response to someone posting on social media about an accomplishment they’ve achieved which you haven’t.

However, a more positive, self-compassionate and accurate way of viewing this might be:

  • “There will always be people who are less accomplished than me in the world, and there will always be people who are more accomplished – that’s just the way it is. However, not achieving a goal that someone else has achieved does not make me a failure. After all, what other people are achieving or not achieving in their life isn’t actually relevant to me, and instead of being focused on them, I would be much better served by channelling that energy towards achieving my own goals that I’ve set for myself.”
  • “I did not achieve that particular goal because I have different priorities in life, and was therefore focused on achieving a different goal and/or doing something else.”
  • “If I do want to achieve the goal that this person on social media is posting about, then rather than concluding that I’m a failure for not having achieved it yet, I can look at this as a reminder that what that person has achieved is important to me, and use it as added motivation to start trying (or trying even harder) to achieve it myself.”
  • “Even though I haven’t yet achieved all of the goals that I’ve set out to achieve in my life, if I keep working hard, then I can achieve them in time.”

Example Negative Thought #3: Thinking “I’m a failure” in response to making a mistake.

However, a more positive, self-compassionate and accurate way of viewing this might be:

  • “I made a mistake just like everybody does at times, but there are also lots of things that I’ve done well and competently.”
  • “I unfortunately made a mistake that I didn’t want to make, but instead of dragging myself down and labelling myself as a ‘failure’, I’m going to build myself up by trying to learn from this mistake so that I don’t repeat it next time – at which point, I’ll give myself a pat on the back!”

Example Negative Thought #4: Thinking “I’m a failure” in response to being put down and criticised by someone.

However, a more positive, self-compassionate and accurate way of viewing this might be:

  • “Just because someone else can’t see – or doesn’t want to acknowledge – the things that I’ve done well and competently, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t do those things or that I’m a failure.”

Example Negative Thought #5: “I’m such a failure for struggling to do something as simple as brushing my teeth and having a shower during a depressive episode.”

However, a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way of viewing this might be:

  • “Struggling to look after my personal hygiene is forgivable when I’m feeling severely depressed and am in ‘survival mode’. It’s a reflection of how severe my depression is at that moment in time – not of how capable or successful I am as a person.”

Example Negative Thought #6: “I’m such a failure for letting myself get this out of shape – I hate myself for it.”

However, a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way of viewing this might be:

  • “I forgive myself for comfort eating while battling depression’s intense and all-consuming symptoms. Just surviving was an act of courage and strength, and this is something I should be really proud of.”

CBT Strategy #3: "Placing The Shoe On The Other Foot"

Another common strategy routed in cognitive behavioural therapy1 that can help free you from the negative thought “I’m a failure” is to ask yourself:

“If a loved one was in my position, would I be thinking the same negative, critical things about them that I’m currently thinking about myself?”

Asking yourself this question can be extremely powerful, because it has the effect of distancing you from your negative thoughts and looking at them from a different, more objective angle. And, when you do this, you'll often realise that you’re being really, really hard on yourself.

CBT Strategy #4: Identifying Cognitive Distortions

“Cognitive distortions” are distorted thinking patterns that are grounded in some form of bias, and which commonly result in you viewing yourself and/or the world much more critically, judgementally and/or negatively than you otherwise would7. And, when you have the negative thought “I’m a failure”, you’re almost certainly thinking in a cognitively distorted way without even knowing it. For this reason, it’s extremely important that you identify- and bring awareness to the ways in which you may be doing so.


Because if you’re able to recognise that the negative thought “I’m a failure” is indeed a cognitive distortion – as opposed to being an accurate perception of reality – then it will suddenly become much easier for you to dismiss it and push it from your mind (or at the very least, this negative thought will likely lose some of its power over you).

Now, to help you do this, let’s identify six cognitive distortions that commonly plague people when they’re experiencing the negative thought “I’m a failure”.

"I'm A Failure" Cognitive Distortion #1: Filter Thinking

“Filter thinking” is where you filter out all of the “good” or the “positive” in a situation, and only focus on the “bad” or the “negative”. For example:

  • Filtering out all of the things you’ve accomplished, and thinking “I’m a failure” because you’re exclusively focusing on one or more things that you didn’t accomplish.
  • Filtering out all of the praise your boss gives you for a project you worked on, and instead thinking “I’m a failure” because there was one area where you made a mistake that they’d like you to fix.
  • Filtering out all of the challenging times where you kept pushing through regardless of how hard it was, and thinking "I'm a failure" because you had a breakdown one time where all of life's stressors were too heavy to carry any longer.
"I'm A Failure" Cognitive Distortion #2: Catastrophisation

Catastrophisation is when you blow something out of proportion, and conclude that things are much worse than they really are. For example, thinking “I’m a stupid failure” for not doing as well in your exams as you wanted to (which, while disappointing, does certainly not mean that you are a “stupid failure”).

"I'm A Failure" Cognitive Distortion #3: Personalisation

“Personalisation” is where you take personal responsibility for things that aren’t in your control, that have nothing to do with you, and/or that aren’t your fault. In particular, an example of personalisation would be thinking “I’m a failure” in response to being put down and criticised by someone – when in actuality, that person’s criticism may say absolutely nothing about you, your capabilities or your worth as a person, and instead be a reflection of them. This can be the case when, for example:

  • The person criticising you may have low self-esteem and/or be jealous of you – and therefore criticises you and tries to tear you down in a hurtful, careless, misguided attempt to lift themselves up.
  • The person criticising you may be unhappy with something in their own life, and is consequently taking their anger, frustration and/or misery out on you.
  • Another person’s criticism may reflect their own values about whatever it is they’re criticising you about, but not necessarily yours. For example, your parents may value status and money, but you may value doing a (less prestigious and lower-paying) job that you enjoy. As a result, your parents may constantly criticise you for “not having a good job”, “failing to reach your potential”, “lacking ambition”, “not being as successful as their friends’ children are”, and “letting them down after all the sacrifices they made for you”.
  • Similarly, another person’s criticism may simply reflect their own rigid, closed-minded views of the world, as opposed to your capabilities or worth as a person. For example, your parents criticising you for being unmarried could be a reflection of their rigid, closed-minded belief that “you MUST be married by age X – otherwise you’re failing at life!”
  • Another person’s criticism may also reflect the fact that they don’t understand depression, anxiety and/or another mental health issue very well at all. An example of this would be someone criticising you for being “useless” or a “disappointment to them” because you spent most of the weekend in bed – without understanding that depression can make you feel completely, utterly and debilitatingly exhausted, and that for this reason, it can at times be extremely natural to spend much more time in bed than you otherwise would when you have depression.
  • Another person’s criticism may also just reflect the reality that they’re simply a very critical person in general – not just of you, but of other people, and also of themselves.
"I'm A Failure" Cognitive Distortion #4: Labelling

Labelling involves branding yourself as something based on limited information or evidence. In practice, this could take the form of, for example:

  • Labelling yourself as a “failure” after not achieving your goals on a handful of occasions. In this case, while you may be able to say that you failed at achieving your goals on those particular occasions, it would be an overgeneralisation to brand yourself as someone who is a “failure”. After all, what’s to say that you can’t achieve your goals in the future?
  • Similarly, another example would be labelling yourself as a “failure” due to experiencing a disappointing setback (such as losing your job or your business going bankrupt). In these scenarios, while you may be able to say that you made some mistakes that you wish you hadn’t made and/or that you didn’t perform as well as you had wanted to, it would once again be an overgeneralisation to declare yourself a “failure”. After all, like we’ve previously mentioned, if you can learn from your mistake(s) and figure out how to perform better moving forwards, then in the future, you give yourself a good chance of achieving the success that you want.
"I'm A Failure" Cognitive Distortion #5: Minimisation

Minimisation can involve downplaying or ignoring the presence of external factors that contributed to what it is that you’re feeling negative about. For example:

  • Thinking “I’m a failure” for not doing your chores, neglecting your personal hygiene and staying in bed all day – but completely discounting / ignoring the fact that you were deep in a depressive episode, and consequently feeling absolutely exhausted.
  • Thinking “I'm a failure” for not being able to work as effectively as your co-workers, while completely minimising the fact you’re your depression / anxiety / another mental health issue is significantly compromising your ability to function.
"I'm A Failure" Cognitive Distortion #6: Black-Or-White Thinking

Black-or-white thinking is where you view something as either one extreme or the other – such as either a “success” or a “failure” – instead of having a more balanced, accurate perspective. A common example of this would be thinking “I’m a failure” in response to falling just a little bit short of achieving a goal that you’d set for yourself – like getting 80% in an exam instead of your desired goal of 85%, or ranking second in your sales team at work as opposed to first. In cases such as these, a much more balanced, accurate perspective may be: “While it’s disappointing that I didn’t achieve my goal – and while I’ll do everything in my power to try to achieve it moving forwards – objectively speaking, I still did a pretty good job.”

End of free excerpt

We really hope you've found this free excerpt from our You Are Not A Failure journal as well as all of the quotes we shared with you at the start of this blog post helpful!

All our love,

The Depression Project Team.


P.S. If you'd like more help dealing with the negative thought "I'm a failure", then click the button below to learn more about the journal that you just read a free sample from!