How to Stay Optimistic When You Feel Like a Failure

Michelle Overman, Author
Updated on June 13, 2021

Have you tried incredibly hard at something, yet nothing seems to come of it? It’s a terrible feeling. That’s because trying your hardest means you care, and when you care about a goal or endeavor and don’t succeed, you end up feeling hurt and defeated. So when you commit all our energies to something that does not advance, be it a relationship, a project at work or anything else you truly care about, it’s easy to feel like a failure and give up.

tired man working at computer

Tips for Reigniting Your Optimism

At some point, most people have held themselves back from fully tackling a challenge due to a fear of failure. Other times, a lack of progress can make you feel like you’re already a failure, causing you to quit. Although relentless optimism is difficult, we all need to embrace this trait from time to time. But how do you do that?

Re-write Your Narrative to Be Positive, Not Negative

A narrative is the meaning we create around certain situations. After trying and failing repeatedly, it’s easy for the narrative to become something like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never make it.” When you rewrite the narrative, you gain a better message to focus on and a less painful idea to ruminate on. A new narrative might be something like, “Even though I’ve fallen many times, I still get up. I won’t be down for long. I am resilient.” Your new narrative can provide difficult moments with meaning that keeps you going even when the going is tough.

Acknowledge the Part of You That Wants to Give Up

Don’t ignore the voice in your head that’s afraid or wants to give up. Fear of failure is very real and valid given the situation. Confronting the fear validates your feelings. Ignoring how we feel can create other problems and other anxieties beneath the surface. Acknowledging weakness can be the first step in moving forward.

Rediscover Your Passion for Your Goals

Remember what is important to you and why you were working towards your goals to begin with. Find the passion again by going back to the beginning. Does it still mean the same to us now? We can remind ourselves of what we love and why we love it. Passion is an incredible motivator.

Find Someone Be a Part of Your Motivation

If there is someone in your life that helps you feel more accountable, or that motivates you to succeed, ask them to get involved. Set small milestones with them, and routinely measure your progress. Also, be sure to notify them immediately whenever you reach a major milestone or suffer a setback. This can help increase your motivation to stay on target, as you will work harder to avoid disappointing this person, and feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they cheer you on.

Take Care of Your Health and Well-Being

When all your mental energies are focused on a particular goal or project, it’s easy to forget about taking care of your physical and mental health. Poor eating and sleeping habits, coupled with the stress and anxiety that come with feeling like you’re failing at something important, can often makes things much worse. Not only does this result in a whole new set of problems, it can also further lower your motivation to continue pushing forward.


When you are feeling like a failure, you need to take active steps to regain your optimism before it leads you to quit whatever it is you are doing. While it’s not easy, you can overcome these feeling and improve your motivation and outlook. The right attitude is often the difference between success and failure. So before you decide to give up, do your best to work on building up your optimism with the tips listed above, sometimes success is closer that you think and just requires you the have patience and perseverance to see things through.

Michelle Overman, Author

Michelle is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families.

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