If You’ve Ever Felt Like A Failure, You Need To Read This (Plus, 4 Ways To Build Your Confidence Again)

You'll never succeed in life if you don't learn to fail.

How To be Successful By Failing & How To Build Confidence, Self Esteem, & Self Worth getty

How often do you fail? If you're ambitious, have the desire to make an impact, and honest with yourself, then your answer should be "all the time".

Failing is the only way to grow and learn and it's necessary for true success. Yet it's difficult to fail, isn't it? 

Failure — even the thought of failing — creates internal resistance and fear. You constantly start asking yourself in a panic, "Why am I such a failure?"


That's why it's so important to learn how to build confidence in yourself after you've failed. If you can do this, you can banish that low self esteem, build your self worth, and gain self respect. 

RELATED: 6 Ways To Stop Letting Failure Hold You Back (& Why It's Actually Good For You)


Have you heard the term failing-forward? What does it mean? John C. Maxwell wrote a book about it called Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success.

The short-hand version of what the book is about is:

  • People who succeed aren't luckier or more blessed than those who don't (and they don't succeed because of background, family, or money either). The difference between those who achieve great things and those that don't is how they perceive and respond to failure.
  • Most people aren't prepared to deal with failure in a way that helps them succeed. Instead of embracing failure, it's feared. And that leads most to do whatever they can to not fail and avoid risk.
  • If you want to succeed in life and make the biggest impact, then you must make failure your friend. That means you need to accept that you'll fail (and that you'll never know when or what you'll fail at), courageously move forward despite your fears, and figure out how to deal with problems instead of actively trying to avoid them.

Why is failing-forward important?

You might believe that you prefer a life that's risk-averse and simpler than one of failure. But are you sure? Although that might make you initially feel better, it will eventually lead to a life of fear.


Failure happens, regardless of whether you accept it or not. 

When you allow yourself to be governed by risk-aversion, you're allowing your fears to control you. They don't actually go anywhere but instead grow. 

By ignoring your fears and "playing it safe", you'll be living with constant fear and will also have left your dreams behind. And that will eventually lead to regret that you didn't have the courage to go after your big dreams.

But if you accept that failure is part of life — a way to learn and grow and the best way to succeed in life — you'll actually be diminishing some of those fears because you'll no longer be allowing them to control you. That's what courage is.


Wouldn't you rather face your fears and move beyond them? Even if your fears don't disappear, it's better to act courageously than allow fear to fester within your subconscious and take control over you.

If you want to adopt a fail-forward attitude, you must understand how failure affects your mentality. There's nothing like a failure to send your self-confidence into a downward spiral.

Self-confidence is negatively impacted by failure, regardless of whether you agree with the concept of failing forward and no matter your current mindset. 

Human beings aren't wired to accept failure without any impact.

Part of adopting a fail-forward attitude means putting into place practices and strategies that are designed to continually build and maintain your self-confidence levels. 


Otherwise, your fail-forward attitude will eventually dwindle, you'll begin to fear failure, and you'll start avoiding it altogether. And we've been over why you don't want to do that.

When it comes to cultivating and maintaining your self-confidence levels when adopting a fail-forward lifestyle, there are two key areas in which to focus:

  • How to cultivate higher levels of self-confidence no matter what's going on in life.
  • How to begin feeling more self-confident after it's taken a hit due to a perceived failure.

Now that you know why failure leads to success, you can start learning how to build confidence and there are 4 ways to go about it.

1. Build new knowledge and develop your skills 

Self-confidence obviously takes a hit when you don't know something or lack the necessary skills. The easiest fix is to beef up your knowledge and/or skills where it makes sense. But there's more to it than that.


When you're focused on learning as much as possible and building new skills, you're preemptively guarding yourself against some of your biggest confidence killers: failures due to your weaknesses or lack of knowledge. 

This doesn't mean that you won't still fail, but it does help you from taking failure too personally.

If you've done all you can by striving to learn, grow, and develop then you'll be as prepared as possible. You'll have done your best. Not only does that increase self-confidence, but it allows you to not feel as badly when failures happen — regardless of the reason behind your failure. 

And it also helps create a willingness to take calculated risks and, hence, stay true to the fail-forward attitude.


2. Forgive yourself often

Research shows that being able to forgive yourself is a key driver for success. You must accept your failure fully and forgive yourself if you want to learn and grow from it. This approach will motivate you to improve, hence aiding in your success.

Here's the thing: you must be able to learn from your mistakes if you want to adopt a fail-forward attitude. And part of learning from your mistakes includes letting go so that you can move on. It doesn't help to obsess over your mistakes. You can't move on if you're unable to forgive yourself for any perceived wrong that aided in your failure.

So, how do you forgive yourself? It's all about being compassionate to yourself — as you would be with someone you care about.  

Here are a few tips for self-forgiveness:

  • Create a ritual to follow every time you need to forgive yourself. This will make it easier to get started and help to make it a habit.
  • Start by identifying what needs to be forgiven and why you need to forgive yourself.
  • Don't get stuck in the story or allow yourself to devolve into negative self-talk. Once you identify what you're forgiving and why, quickly and move on.
  • Ask yourself how you would advise your best friend in the same situation — and then take your own advice.

3. Manage your inner critic

Everyone has an inner critic, even people who are perceived by others as successful. 

Your inner critic is the voice inside your head that says things like:

  • "I've really messed this up again. I can't do anything right."
  • "I didn't perform well on that project, so I shouldn't take on another one like that."
  • "I'm not as smart as everyone else and have just been lucky. One day, everyone will figure that out and expose me as a fraud."

This negative self-talk is a symptom of self-doubt and limits your ability to believe in yourself and your abilities. It's preventing you from achieving your full potential. 

In my experience of coaching high-performers, I've found that it manifests in 2 primary ways:

  • Grinding over decisions to ensure everything turns out "just right" or "perfectly"
  • Second-guessing past decisions

The good news is that you can manage — even prevent — negative self-talk through simple mindset practices. The key is to focus on cultivating a growth-oriented, mentally resilient mindset. 

To start cultivating and strengthening the right mindset, utilize the following 3 simple practices every day:

  • Practice gratitude: Find 3 things every day to be grateful for and write them down.
  • Self-affirmations: Self-affirm your capabilities realistically and specifically.
  • Practice kindness: Be kind, give a compliment, and/or express your appreciation to someone every day (this can be to a family member, friend, co-worker, or even a stranger).

RELATED: How To Make Professional Failure Work To Your Advantage

4. Face and manage your fears

The funny thing about fear is that it grows and takes control when you do nothing about it yet diminishes to something manageable (and sometimes disappears) when you face it. So, the question is: how do you face your fears?


Here's how to get started in facing and managing your fears:

  • Name your fear: This is simple, yet powerful. Name what it is that you fear and be specific.
  • Identify how your fear is limiting you: This will show you that there might be something to fear on the other side too (hence, giving you some courage to do something different and make a needed change).
  • Challenge your fear: Ask whether it's really likely to happen the way that you fear it? How likely is it? How bad would it even be should it happen? This has a way of making you realize that your fear has grown out of proportion to what's realistically likely to happen. And it will also help your mind start coming up with solutions. You'll no longer be a victim, but a strategist.

Still feeling skeptical of your self-confidence after a perceived failure?

You can take building your confidence and self esteem 4 steps further.


1. Provide context

You're not defined by the outcome of your actions, but by your behavior and your values. Context is about reminding yourself that you aren’t the sum of your failures (or even your successes). When providing context, proactively remind yourself that:

  • You’re not truly failing so long as you’ve learned something.
  • You can incorporate what you learn into future actions, which will ultimately lead to better and more success.
  • You aren't the sum of your achievements, but instead the sum of your behavior and values.
  • You've failed before and you were able to learn from it, let go, and move forward. You're still here and fine and will be tomorrow despite this failure.

2. Take responsibility to proactively learn from your failure

Once you’ve provided context, it’s time to see what can be learned from your failure. It’s not enough to remind yourself that you can learn (you must proactively do it).

Get started by asking questions that get to the heart of why you failed, what could have been done differently, and how you can incorporate what you’re learning into future actions. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What could you have done differently or planned around?
  • Do you need to correct a mistake or apologize for something? If so, how?
  • What have you learned that will make you better prepared and stronger in the future?
  • How will you incorporate what you've learned into future actions?

3. Let go and move on

Once you’ve provided context and analyzed what can be learned, it’s time to let go and allow yourself a break from it all. The last thing you want to do is to obsess over and over-analyze what went wrong. That tends to lead to incorrect conclusions and can batter your self-confidence further (the opposite of what you’re aiming to do).


To help you with this, surround yourself with supportive people you trust who can help you to move on.  Do something you enjoy and that's unrelated to whatever it was that you failed at. This will help you to break free and move on.

4. Reflect on past failures that led to success

Although this step might seem similar to Step 1, it's slightly different. Look to specific times when you've failed that led to later successes. Ask yourself what you learned from it and then how that helped you to succeed later on.

This process will further remind you of why you believe in failing-forward while helping you feel more confident in your next steps.

RELATED: Smart Ways Strong Women Turn Failure Into Success


Heather Moulder is an executive coach, attorney, and founder of Course Correction Coaching. She helps women who are successful on paper yet feel exhausted and unfulfilled by their high-stress lifestyle to overcome overwhelm and self-doubt and achieve success on their own terms without sacrificing or settling.  Connect with Heather for free strategies and tips on how to create a life that's both meaningful and enjoyable so that you can feel energized by your life instead of drained by it.

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