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I've failed at life: When mental health ruins your ambition and kills your self-esteem

Do you believe you’re a failure at everything?

You can’t stop yourself relapsing… You can't create new healthier habits… You’ve never had a stable relationship… …You’re in a job making just enough to survive...You can't make new friends… No one celebrates you when you achieve anything… You own nothing... Nobody finds you attractive...

Honestly, it gets depressing.

And yes it is true that depending on your accomplishments to validate how worthy you are as a person will cause your self-value to become unstable like a vicious tidal wave.

But usual advice like…

"Focus on valuing who you are, not what you do" is so vague and impossible that you feel like a failure for even trying to value yourself.

That said…

The biggest problem with feeling like a failure is that it closes out all options in your mind. And once that happens, failure convinces you that there's no way around your problems. Thereby making you feel stuck.

This is why this next part is vital…

The simplest way to break out of the chain of failure in your life

You see, the truth is that you don't fail because you are a failure, you fail because life hasn’t skilled you to succeed.

And you can turn the tide of failure around using bucket loads of self-compassion whilst skilling yourself up to succeed.

But there’s a gigantic caveat…

In order to stop failing, failure needs to be used as a teacher and not as a prosecutor.

However, if you’ve been bitten by the venom of mental illness, chances are that the shame, the embarrassment and the self-criticism from your failures would overwhelm you with worry and despair.

Because success in areas where you have previously failed requires you to put massive pressure on yourself. But this pressure naturally ramps up your anxiety and depression. And this makes it hard to focus on the problems you are trying to solve.

As such, your failures dump you in a life where everything feels freaking impossible. Like you’re forever fighting a losing battle.

And that’s why in today's article I will be revealing three hidden traps that lock you in a life of failure because of your mental health struggles. And then I will share six insanely practical tips for ensuring that your failures will never define you or limit your progress in life ever again.

Ready, let’s go…

Trap 1: When positive thinking leads to failure

Imagine you had a friend, who had all your painful experiences of failure...

Would glossing over her real struggles, suggesting that she just look for the positives in her life, help her or cause her more problems?

The answer…

Encouraging your friend to live in a false positive world could cause her more problems.

Why?

Because it might actually invalidate what she was experiencing. 

It could also leave her with more evidence for why she is a failure since her reality is miles away from the positives you are suggesting. And it wouldn't do anything practical to help with the issues she is battling with.

But there's an even bigger problem to forcing positive thinking on people like this...

You see, many people wrongfully conclude that there’s a benefit to always blocking away thoughts that confirm you are failing.

Because focusing on mistakes and failures could cause you to deteriorate.

They conclude that it’s better to ignore your failures. Pretending you are okay. Because this gives you relief and enables you to keep on going with your life.

But here’s the clincher…

When you block thought about your failures out, you’ll fail to see that you are not working through your problems. Your self-worth and confidence still get imploded.

By always blocking outs thoughts about your failure,  you don't challenge them, you don't find evidence against them. And you just live with this mindset day in day out. You  indirectly accept the statements of failures in your life as true.

And the result…

Depression latches unto you like a leach.

Moving on to the second trap…

Trap 2: When self-improvement causes emotional bankruptcy

Are you afraid to be compassionate with yourself?

Because you don’t want to be that person who keeps making excuses for not pushing yourself enough. You think if you’re too soft with yourself you’ll never make it in life. So there’s always this voice in your mind saying you should be able to do better.

But here’s a question…

How long have you been trying to improve by bullying yourself like this for?

Maybe for the last 10 to 20 or so years?

Has this made you feel less of a failure?

Most likely not.  

On the contrary, this approach to life just batters your self-esteem into a pulp.

But weirdly…

Even though pushing yourself relentlessly like this does you more harm than good, you’ve stuck with doing this like your life depends on it. 

Why?

Perhaps you’re convinced that the reason things aren’t working is that you are not pushing yourself harder “in the proper way”.  

You just don’t know how to push hard enough to get good results.

Ironically…

If this is what you’re thinking, I totally agree with you.

You are pushing yourself in the wrong way.

Let me elaborate…

It’s like you’ve got two coaches…

One coach pushes you by abusing and cursing you. Making you feel bad for slacking.

But then another coach pushes by encouraging you. Telling you that he believes in you and knows you’ve got what it takes to make it. Making you feel better about yourself. And asking questions like…

“Do you need to rest? Okay rest a little bit and then start again.”

But then the other coach is thinking what are you resting for? Just get your lazy butt off the chair and try harder.

Ironically, both these coaches may succeed at encouraging you to move forward and make progress. However, one of them will damage your self-esteem.

The aggressive and negative coach could still enable you to get the medal, but this coach also succeeds at ruining you.

When you push yourself with no compassion, you are like this aggressive coach.

And sadly the outcome is that your efforts to succeed would most likely destroy you.

Now here’s the third and final trap.

Trap 3: When goal setting promotes feelings of inadequacy

Let me ask you another question.

Achieving big goals…

Or…

Achieving small goals…

Which is more important?

But before you answer…

Imagine you had a partner who ignores and undermines you whenever you achieve small things?

He tells you there’s no point praising you because small achievements aren’t good enough. And this partner only waits until you achieve massive results to praise you or recognize your efforts.

What’s going to happen in this relationship?

You’ll feel stressed all the time. You'll push yourself to keep achieving. You’ll feel bad because you are always thinking that even if you succeed it’s never going to be good enough.

So, in a way when you are pushing yourself constantly with no appreciation for your smaller achievements, this is the exact same thing going on in your mind.

Except that in this case, the undermining relationship is with yourself.

You tell yourself you don’t deserve to celebrate little things.

And since small wins are the building blocks for bigger wins, your failure to appreciate your small achievements makes your bigger goals impossible to reach.

Hopefully, you can see clearly why these three traps could keep you feeling perpetually stuck in life.

Now, I will walk you through the six tips to bullet-proof yourself from a snowballing life of failures.

Tip 1: Gain the superior ground by spying on your failure

In war, the country with the best knowledge of the enemy's battle infrastructure wins the battle. In the same way, understanding why you are failing gives you the best chance to succeed.

So spend time exploring your failures. Not for evidence to judge yourself negatively. But with objectivity and with a curious and investigative mind. Looking for all the cracks you can exploit to give yourself the winning hand.

However, remember not to set up camp behind enemy lines.

If you keep looking only at the tedious journey, and the ugly mistakes, you will forever feel like a heavy prison chain is hanging around your neck.

Tip 2: Define your winning battle plan

You need a target…

A dream to aim for.

Why?

To make the hard work feel like it is worth doing. And the more you dream about those positive possibilities, the more you will feel enabled to move towards it.

The reality is that without a good knowledge of what you are targeting, you'll never hit any targets. So defining your goals this way will give you the best idea of what to plan for.

However, you might be holding back because you’re convinced that your particular problem cannot be planned for.

For example, if you've never had a long-term relationship, you might think you can't set a goal to find a lovely intimate relationship. Because you can't force someone to be with you and you can't find someone compatible by planning for it.

But aren't there some things within your control? Goals you could achieve which you aren't currently noticing.

You could choose to just wait until chance favours you and you meet someone who you fall in love with and they reciprocate that love.

But this then becomes a problem because...

One, you haven't prepared yourself properly for relationships.

Two, you have not spent any time learning to understand the opposite sex

And three, you haven't learnt to pinpoint narcissists, so you get landed with someone who’s devoid of a kind and compassionate soul.

The truth...

Getting yourself ready to meet someone is an important goal within your control.

Similarly, any other difficulty you have to face will have goals that you can work towards. A goal that’s within your control.

Tip 3: Baby steps are your biggest guns (Use them)

Warning!

Carrying massive goals on your head can result in brain trauma.

Whilst trying to succeed in life, you've still got to build brain muscles to cope with anxiety and depression. This means that you are naturally fragile and too much pressure would break you down.

The beautiful solution though is to break everything down into small manageable chunks.

Baby steps are your superpower.

Why?

In my 20+ years of working in mental health practice, my experience is that...

Baby steps help people to break through their fears, obstacles, and failures faster than anything else out there.

However, don't be fooled into thinking that you are weak for having to do things in baby steps. Ask any truly successful person and you will find that they follow the similar pattern of chunking everything down into baby steps to.

Tip 4: Throw a party when you hit the baby targets

Celebrating each little win gives you momentum.

Each celebration provides you with energy to get through the next hurdle. And failure to celebrate them turns your life into a prison camp.

So throw a colourful party by praising yourself when you achieve anything small. Share your achievement with people who encourage your growth. And avoid people who will downplay your achievements like the plague.

Keep your small wins written in a log so that whenever feelings of despondency hit you, you can pull out your list and throw a party all over again.

This helps to keep your life rosy and happy as you battle through the obstacles you will come across.

Tip 5: Take a compassionate shower when you hit roadblocks

Reframe your roadblocks as opportunities for growth

Taking breaks is a sign of strength and wisdom. Because it not only protects you from breaking yourself. It also helps you step back to see a clearer picture of the problem

So shower yourself with loads of compassion and focus on something else for a while.

But beware...

Become too self-compassionate and you could end up treading water, stuck in one place forever.

So remember that the road to success is a journey. A journey that requires you to take detours. So you can rest and regain your energy to continue. If you never come back to continue, you'll never get to the finish line.

Tip 6: Gain success ideas from veterans of failure

The journey to success is often painful and lonely.

So, when you get frustrated, connect with people who can relate to you and appreciate your pains and your gains.

People who have been through struggle themselves are the best because they understand. And they can give you a clear perspective that opens your mind to new solutions.

The more you know you are not alone in failure, and the more normal failure feels to you, the more failure will stop threatening you.

The result...

Failure loses its power to hold you back in life.

How to build your failure defeating machine

Whenever you feel like you’re stuck trying to claw your way back out of the darkness of failure.

Remember that failure is not your destination.

The road to succeed with these difficulties is a journey of ups and downs.

You win some and lose some. But what makes you really lose ultimately is your mental chatter. What you tell yourself about what you are experiencing

And yes, it’s hard to always remember this.

In fact, it's daunting to remember all the things you have to do to keep yourself afloat.

I know this because I have felt the cruel pangs of multiple failures before myself.

But it’s totally worth it.

Because when you get that job and find yourself enjoying it without anxiety or stress. When you win that relationship of your dreams with someone who really cares for you. When you drive to that home you’ve been dreaming of owning with a happy family waiting for you. When you fit into that beautiful outfit you have been losing weight for. Or when you can finally sustain a stable mental wellbeign.

How wonderful would that be!

But remember…

Burying your failures from view will surprise you with mental health handicaps. In the same way overexposing yourself to your failures will send you into a tailspin of trauma.

To overcome feeling like a failure, you’ve got to create a balance between exposing yourself to your failures and burying thoughts of your failures away.

Without that balance, you will grind to a halt. You will feel stuck in life. You will feel like nothing is working.

And to achieve this balance, all you have to do is…

Spy on your failures to gain the upper hand.

Define your winning plan so you have a clear purpose in life.

Break everything down into chunks to protect your sanity.

Throw a party when you hit your baby targets to give you forward momentum.

Shower yourself with compassion when you hit roadblocks.

Seek out gems of success from veterans of failure so you remain resilient enough to carry on.

And then rinse and repeat till you become a Jedi master over every single failure in your life.

 

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa
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