Are You Actually a Failure?

I feel like a failure.

This happens to all of us at one time or another, and it’s happening to me right now.

In fact, it’s a little voice that constantly nags at me behind every thought and feeling and that poisons everything I do: “You’re a failure, Michelle. You can’t do it. You’re a failure.”

Over and over again.

And half of me believes it. Half of me knows it’s not true, but it is difficult to summon up the arguments against the powerful evidence offered to me by the voice.

When I hear what it says, it takes all my mental acumen to come up with something to put it down.

Every time the voice speaks, my emotional self wants to say, “Yes, you’re right.” However, I think it is time we brought a little reason into the argument and addressed these issues.

The Conversation

The Voice: You are just a stay-at-home mom. You don’t do anything productive, and you aren’t contributing to the family’s finances.

Emotional Me: That’s so true.

Rational Me: There is no such thing as “just” as stay-at-home mom. I keep house; I do the laundry; I cook the meals; I keep the budget. I may not add to the family’s income, but I do save us the money of childcare, and with the extra time I have, I am able to think of ways to be frugal which would not come to me were I busy with my working-mom life. Above all, I am able to give my son a childhood close to his mother, so I can lavish all my love on him all the time.

The Voice: Hm. Well, it’s still true that you don’t have a career and that you want one. You like to pretend you’re a work-at-home mom, but you aren’t really. The amount of paid work you get is minimal, and spending all your free time on work that only may make money down the road doesn’t count. Work isn’t real unless you get paid for it.

Emotional Me: Sigh. I know.

Rational Me: I may not have a career right now, at least not a visible one. However, I am building up my skills. I’m learning to write better and faster. I’m getting experience editing. I’m exposing myself to all kinds of new things. I may not be getting paid for most of this, but I am working on my career. I am indeed working.

The Voice: Still, you know what? You can’t get a job. You have tried different flexible career paths, but none of them has worked out. You didn’t get the writing job. You didn’t get the online teaching job. You haven’t gotten much freelance work. There’s just no hope for you. You aren’t good enough.

Emotional Me: I’m a failure.

Rational Me: So those jobs just weren’t meant to be. Okay. Maybe I’m not in the right season of life for them. But I’m not giving up. I’m still going to be looking. And in the meantime, as I have already said, I’m working on honing my skills. There will be something one day.

The Voice: Even if there is, you’re afraid. You’re afraid to commit to anything which will give anyone else control over you. And you can’t overcome that fear, so you’ll always be stuck as you are.

Emotional Me: Whimper.

Rational Me: I am afraid, but I know what I am afraid of. That gives me a handle on the fear so that I can work on overcoming it. I can get past that fear, because since I know about it, I can analyze it, think about it, and address it. If I weren’t facing my fear, that would be a problem. But I am facing it, so in the end I will win.


I think this was a good exercise for me. It seems the bottom line is that emotions can’t be allowed to have the upper hand. They are never a reliable source of truth. Instead, reason needs to be king.

I don’t imagine that I am alone in this emotional mess. Do you feel like a failure? If you do, know that you are not.

I can say that without knowing you, because no one who is alive is truly a failure; if you are alive, you can act, and you can work on your life. There’s always something good about everybody–often more good than we think there is.

How do you handle things when the feeling of failure comes upon you? What do you do to the voice that’s putting you down? I’m sure there are lots of good ways we can help each other out. Let me know your techniques in the comments below!

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