Living with a mental health condition like depression may make you feel as though you can’t do anything right. Fighting feelings of sadness, exhaustion, and worthlessness, makes it hard to find the energy to do much else. Feeling unmotivated to complete tasks that you used to enjoy or that seem easy may make you feel like a failure. Others’ past judgments and frustration with your lack of motivation or follow-through may add to this feeling. And you may even start to believe “I can’t do anything right!” But this feeling does not define you. Though changing this belief may be difficult, it is possible.
Why do I feel this way?
Things others have said
Sometimes the people in our lives—parents, friends, family, loved ones, teachers, coaches, coworkers, supervisors, and others—can reinforce this belief with their words, actions, and behaviors. They express their frustration, disappointment, and anger with us. They use phrases like “Why can’t you just” or “I don’t understand why,” or “You always…” that only make us feel worse. And we may feel that since we failed in their eyes or disappointed them, then we must be a failure and we can’t do anything right.
It’s difficult to overcome this feeling when we feel like we have no one to turn to. Or we don’t have support. Too often it’s our loved ones who make us feel this way. We may feel disconnected and isolated because we can’t go to the ones who we love most. But there are places that you can turn to when you need to talk. Consider talking to someone you trust, joining an in-person or online support group, or speaking with a mental health professional. These options can help provide a more positive and supportive perspective.
How we feel about ourselves
Sometimes our negative beliefs about ourselves feel impossible to escape. When it feels that things are constantly going wrong, we may feel like it’s our fault. When we don’t feel motivated or are struggling to get out of bed, we become disappointed in ourselves. We may even become frustrated and angry with ourselves. And we begin to believe that there’s something wrong with us and ask ourselves questions like: Why can’t I do simple things? Why am I such a disappointment? Why am I making the same mistakes? These thoughts we have about ourselves may even echo the things that others have said to us in the past. But we have the power to overcome these thoughts. It may not feel like it right now, but we do.
“Failing” is learning
Our negative beliefs are shaped by our experiences. But that doesn’t mean that our negative thoughts are true. The truth is that sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves. We all fail sometimes, but this doesn’t mean that we’re failures or that we can’t do anything right. Failing helps us learn from our mistakes. And teaches us how to do better in the future.
Maybe today, you struggled to complete a chore like doing the dishes or maybe you just couldn’t get out of bed. That’s OK. Not being able to do it today, doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do it tomorrow or the next day, or even forever.
Failing is a part of life. It is painful, and it is a necessary experience for learning. For example, someone learning to walk again after experiencing a leg injury, will fall many times before they finally succeed. Though the falls may be frustrating, they help the person learn to stand, balance, and eventually walk. It’s a similar idea when thinking about experiencing depression. The steps to recovery take time—they are small and gradual at first and you may fail, but you will make it through. The feeling of failure will pass eventually, and what we learned from the failure may be a lesson that moves us forward.
Everyone feels like a failure at some point. When we move past this feeling, we are able to learn and heal. If negative feelings like this are affecting your daily life, consider taking our depression test. You may also want to check out this activity on overcoming thoughts.