Feeling Like A Failure Was One of My Failings

Feeling like a failure was one of my failings. Wilting flowers.

If someone is well off, has a fancy car and a five bedroomed house in a nice area, they’re considered successful. If they have fulfilled their hopes and dreams, they’re considered successful. Qualifications, careers, acquired wealth, sporting victories and acting awards can all measure a person’s success.

But when people live with chronic pain or illness, it can be difficult to find successes to be proud of. They often can’t fulfil their hopes and dreams. Very often they can’t work or lose careers and can’t make money. There are often more disappointments in life than victories.

Find Success in Small Achievements

Celebrate the small achievements. Person jumping, celebrating.

But they can still be successful. They can still have achievements. And achievements, no matter how big or small, are always worthy of celebrating.

Getting out of bed some mornings is an achievement. Managing to have a shower and dress are often achievements. Getting a full night’s sleep, brushing their teeth in the morning or eating a nourishing meal are achievements. Those are every day tasks to healthy people, but to many people with health issues, they are huge achievements.

But sometimes people have so many disappointments due to their health problems that they allow the disappointments to overshadow their achievements.

The Burden of Failures and Failings

I’ve had my own fair share of disappointments in life and classed myself as a failure. Nobody else looked at me in that way. I was the only one who perceived myself as a failure.

I remember being seventeen when a brown envelope containing my exam results fell through the letterbox. I had failed English, but passed French and German. Surely, passing French and German was worthy of celebrating? But, no, I was devastated and I allowed the disappointment of failing English to completely overshadow those successes.

As my back pain worsened when I was a teenager, I was determined to ignore it and do the normal things other teenagers do. I failed at that too – miserably. My back said, ‘Stop’ on numerous occasions. I said, ‘No.’ I ignored my pain so much, that my body couldn’t take it, and it made me pass out. I think I fainted in shops in every major town in Scotland.

I didn’t have children. Due to my back pain, I had to give up any hopes of having children. Obviously, this affected my husband too. I often thought of myself as a failure due to that. I will stress that my husband never made me feel like that.

When I worked, I struggled due to my pain. Again, I kept trying to ignore it. Then my back muscles went into spasm and I could hardly move for months. I had to give up work when I was 28. I wanted to work, but I simply couldn’t. Another fail.

I have always had many failings. I used to give myself a guilt trip due to my situation. And I had a horrible habit of putting myself down. I looked on myself as never being good enough. I was a failure. Failed exams. Failed to manage my pain. Failed to have children. Failed to continue working. I had failed.

I burdened myself with guilt and believed I was a failure.

Pause to think. Piles of pebbles, at sea.

The Importance of Pausing to Think

I needed to change my mindset. I couldn’t carry on putting the ‘failure’ label on my forehead.

Everybody can have ups and downs in life. Everyone, including people in good health. But sometimes I felt that for everything that had gone right, another three things had gone wrong. But when I took time and thought about it, I realised that I always managed to get through life’s problems.

I’ve had to pause frequently throughout my life – sometimes just to let my body rest or to catch my breath, sometimes to think things through and make tough decisions. But very often, I’ve had to pause to convince myself that I am not failure.

How I Stopped Feeling Like a Failure

I had to examine those events which had made me feel like a failure, remove the guilt and find some positives.

I had failed an exam. It wasn’t the end of the world. My knowledge was fine, it was exam nerves which failed me. I coped in life without that exam success. I decided that I couldn’t let that failure overshadow any successes.

I had tried to ignore my pain until it got the better of me.
Most people who live with chronic pain try to do that. That’s not really a failing – it just meant that I had kept trying. But I decided a long time ago that I would need to change things. I learned to listen to my pain, and do what it needed me to do. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always manage, but it’s easier to cope with my pain when I listen.

I didn’t have children. That hadn’t been an easy decision, but it was a practical one, and a joint one between myself and my husband. My back couldn’t have coped with a pregnancy and it couldn’t have coped with me raising children. I couldn’t get myself out of bed some days. I couldn’t look after myself, so I certainly couldn’t have looked after children. It had been the right decision, and I wasn’t a failure because of it.

I had to give up work. There was no reason to feel like a failure. The decision to take early retirement had actually been taken out of my hands. The decision I had to make was to accept it, which I did, and eventually my life became a bit easier.

Notice saying, Time to think success, not failure

Despite my Pain, I’ve Thrived Succeeded

I have thrived. But I think I’ve done more than thrived. I think I’ve succeeded. I enjoy life and I live happily despite my pain and there’s no price tag on happiness. I could list lots of negatives, but I am making a conscious choice not to because I prefer to look at the positives.

I learned that I wasn’t a failure and I realise that I’ve coped with whatever life has thrown at me. I have learned to recognise any achievements, no matter how small. I appreciate them and regard them as successes. I don’t beat myself up if I don’t manage to do something. I can try again tomorrow. Or the next day. And I try to never judge or put pressure on myself.

I believe that how we live our lives is more important than success from having fantastic careers or being financially well off.

True Success

In my opinion, true success has nothing to do with money or status. It’s about who you are.

It’s about being kind and compassionate and having time, patience and empathy for other people.

I hope I succeed at those things, because I believe they are qualities which really matter in life.

Do You Think You Are A Failure?

If you ever think of yourself as a failure, please, pause for a minute and think again, because you are not.

You are not a failure. Don't let disappointments define you. Find positives. Small achievements matter. Person celebrating.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please leave me a comment below or catch up with me on Facebook or Twitter.

Please click the buttons below to share my post on your social media pages.

Thank you to Sheryl from A Chronic Voice for inspiring this post. Sheryl has a blog link up every month. This month, she gave the following prompts :
Failing ~ Succeeding ~ Pausing ~ Deciding ~ Thriving
Please take a look at other entries which can be found here.


38 thoughts on “Feeling Like A Failure Was One of My Failings

  1. Trish

    Thinking of yourself as a failure is like an addictive and corrosive drug and it’s a hard battle weaning yourself off and learning to think of success in new, healthier, ways. You’ve obviously learned to do that – well done. Such an encouraging post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Guilt is a big one for me, too. And feeling as though I’ve failed at life, fallen too far behind and have nothing to show for it. Getting to grips with acceptance, which you mention with your decision to give up work, is one part of overcoming these feelings, and giving ourselves a break. Celebrating the small achievements is also so important, and a change of perspective can help with that when looking at all of these things, from achievements to success and guilt and failure. Great use of the prompts, loved this post!!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Caz. I know so many people get bogged down with these feelings of guilt and being failures. We can’t help having these health problems, so we shouldn’t feel guilty and we are certainly not failures. Sometimes it’s easier to say though.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emma, I’m so sorry you feel like this. But you’re not a failure. You can’t help having health problems. I am sure your kids love you for who you are. Kids normally understand a lot more than we give them credit for. Take care and don’t give yourself a hard time.


  3. Sara Coburn

    Dear Liz, I have struggled in a similar way to you with back and neck pain and TN. You are right we strive harder to achieve our goals. So many times have I ignored pain then have been unwell for days. I am retired now and life is slower and I am loving gardening on good days and at last I am being kind to myself. I have time to chat to people and try to help them as well. I wish I had been kinder to myself and other people other than continuous trying to achieve through pain. Thank you for your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, being retired and living in the slow lane isn’t always so bad. Having time to be kind to ourselves is probably the most important part. Thanks for leaving me a comment, Sara.


  4. lforsythe7040

    You make a great point about shaping how you look at things. If you look at small things as achievements, you will be happier no matter whether you have a chronic illness or not. However, society places so much emphasis on big achievements that we often forget to focus on the small things that are accomplishments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. erica3639

      I loved reading this post because it is all about mindset. Every victory, no matter how big or small is still a victory and worth celebrating. You’re clearly ahead of so many people with your experiences and wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it was Maya Angelou who said, “if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” When I’ve been in really rough situations, particularly ones I can’t change – I try to change the way I think and feel about it. I may not live with chronic pain, but I live with bipolar and that has it’s own unchangable issues. But I really believe attitude really makes a difference. Encouraging post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That a really good saying. I think people with any type of health issue, whether physical or mental health, have to deal with so many issues. And yes, positive attitude can help get us through.


  6. You just made a great point, success has nothing to do with money its all about who we are. Feeling like a failure has happened to me sometimes back and I was burying myself alive in depression because the more I stressed myself about the situation, the more my brain went to sleep and I couldn’t generate any meaningful solution to what was going on. http://www.thecozyme.com

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can see how not being able to work especially could make such an impact on how we see ourselves as success or failures. I think being able to focus on our individual creativity could help us feel more successful as well. Whether it be art or another form of creating I think that could make a big impact and give us something to be proud of!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done Liz, in spite of your chronic pain, I’m so glad that you’ve been strong enough to view successes and not failures.Finding successes in everything we do builds up a stronger character. Most people get into that rut of failure and are not able to come out of it. I also have noticed that when one complains of failures all the time, people tend to avoid them or do not take their actual problem seriously.


  9. Luna s

    This is a big one for me as well and last year I went through a bad depression spell, feelings about this issue only got worse during that time. I have been working on getting better though and not always thinking about the negatives in everything, mostly myself.


  10. As a lifelong, chronic pain sufferer, I can totally relate to much of what you say. I’ve had to force myself to press through much discomfort in order to feel better and there were days I wanted to give up; still do. It truly is amazing how an active body and a powerful mind can overcome daily pain. I’m happy you share and educate people about your experiences with chronic pain. You have a lovely website!


  11. The overwhelming sense of failure is quite hard to stomach in and bouncing back can be pretty hard. Motivation to succeed comes from something positive and it’s hard to move forward when you feel like a failure. Very insightful post!


  12. I admire your honesty. Success looks different for different people, but it’s hard not to judge ourselves against other people’s standards. Celebrate the little things!


  13. Pingback: Ill Health Retirement After Years of Struggling to Work – Despite Pain

  14. this post was so good. it touched on a subject that is very hard to talk about because it is so overwhelming for me. bless you for writing about it with such honesty, grace and insight.


  15. Kippi O'Hern

    Beautifully written post about failure. We all struggle with failure and comparing our shortcomings with someone else’s successes. We are all on our own path and I agree that the being kind to other is true success. Happy Spring, Kippi #kippiathome


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