Constant Failure

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

At the moment, I’m so mad at myself. It seems like everything I do just goes wrong and it’s bothering me and whenever I try to change a habit, I give up on myself so easily.

Right now, I can’t go back to college because I owe money and I decided to go to an expensive private which is an avoidable mistake. Yesterday, I failed my license test for the third time because I drove over the stop line, also easily avoidable. About a week ago, I had a job opportunity to assemble cell phones but due to failing my assessment test, I blew it.

Overall, there’s just this cycle of failure that constantly happens in my life and I can’t live with it. I feel like I’m not good enough because I can’t ever achieve anything I try and it just really bothers me. I’m 19 years old, never had a job before, overdependent on my mother, never had a girlfriend before and I always give up on myself when I try to change a negative habit.

I understand that there’s worse going on in the world but I can’t love myself when it seems like all I do is fail. Even as a kid, I was always the one that was bad at sports and learned how to ride his bike later.

I just don’t know what to do. Every piece of advice I’ve gotten hasn’t worked and I’m just really scared for myself. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I’m always just going to fail.

A: This sounds very painful. At this point, your conviction that you are going to fail is at least partly what is making you fail. When we focus on the possibility of making a mistake, it’s almost inevitable that we will do so. You need a big boost in confidence and courage so that you can start laying a foundation of successes to change your image of yourself.

Please give yourself a break. It’s not at all unusual for a 19-year-old to still be working on separation from parents, to not have a partner or to not have had a job. It’s not unusual to have a crisis of self-confidence and self-esteem at your age, either. The issue is not what has been but what you are going to do about it now.

Here are some steps you can take to make some progress.

First, you need to get more active. If you can’t find a job right away, start building a resume by volunteering. Human services never have enough help. Look into opportunities in your community and offer your services. It will give some structure to your days and a way to be useful.

Second, find people like yourself to hang with. Not everyone is an athlete. Not everyone is ready to date. Identify a cause or activity that you truly enjoy and find out where people your age are doing it. You don’t have to make instant best friends. But you do have to start hanging out with people so you can develop your social skills and start to create a support system of peers. Just working (or playing) side by side with people will help you start to feel comfortable. Some of those coworkers may evolve into friends.

Finally, understand that we rise and fall to our own expectations. If you expect to fail, you will. If you know your own strengths and play to them, you are more likely to succeed. Check out the Authentic Happiness Website at UPenn and take the Signature Strengths Questionnaire. Identify the strengths you already have. Then work with them. These are the foundation for being more successful.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Sep 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Constant Failure. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/09/26/constant-failure/