When You Feel Like You’re Failing In Every Way
Written by Stacy Karen, Contributing Writer
Have you ever felt as if you are doing everything wrong?
That the most important things are not as they should be?
Perhaps you have starred into the darkness and let the accusations fall over you.
Accusations that come from yourself.
You believe you are not the wife or mother that you should be.
Perhaps it sounded something like this:
I’m so disorganized. The house is a wreck. Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I make nutritious meals for dinner every night instead of falling back on oatmeal again?
I raise my voice too much. I don’t know what I’m doing with these kids. Why can’t I have more patience?
I’ve messed up their school work again and now they are behind; far too behind to catch up.
I’m ruining my children.
I don’t give my husband enough attention. He was out of clean socks again today. Why can’t I be more on top of things?
And on and on it goes . . .
These are some of the thoughts that have crashed over me at one time or another.
I have felt the fear of complete and utter failure, afraid that I am missing the mark in the most important areas of life. I’m quite certain that many of you have felt that you are failing, too. For some it may only be once in a while, but for others it’s a feeling you face every day.
I don’t claim to have conquered these feelings of failure, but would like to share what I have learned thus far. In addition, I have asked some dear Christian women for their advice and will be sharing that, too.
What to do when you feel like you are failing:
Build a foundation in the Word of God
God’s word is many things: a magnifying glass that shows us our faults, a letter of love from the Father, a comfort in times of trouble, a light to show us the way.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.”
One of the greatest gifts that comes from reading the Word is an understanding of how deeply we are loved by our Creator. Read Romans 8:31-39 some time. You are dearly loved my friend, dearly loved.
Why is this important?
Knowing how God sees you gives purpose to life. Knowing that the Almighty Creator cares about you and created a way for you to be with Him eternally gives you value.
This knowledge spills over into all areas of life and boosts confidence in your ability to do the right thing. The Heavenly Father is on your side.
A thorough knowledge of the Bible also helps us see life in view of eternity. Having a heavenly perspective clears away the muck, enabling us to see what is truly important. Perhaps the oatmeal dinners are not so bad after all?
If you have any doubt about what God’s word can do for you, read Psalm 19:7:14 to see the benefits and blessings that await those who study His word.
Make Bible reading a priority. Aim to get a little reading in each day. Post verses around your home for when the kids are running around and you can’t sit down to read. Leave your Bible open on the counter or coffee table and snatch some reading time here and there. Tuck a Bible in the car for times when you are waiting. Download the YouVersion app to your phone or iPod.
Find a way to make Bible reading part of your life because it will reap great rewards now and eternally.
Those who know God are not failures, they are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).
If you want things to change, prayer is the tool for you. It doesn’t get much better than direct access to the Father!
Ask for His help. Ask for forgiveness.
While you are there, don’t forget to ask for wisdom.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Write it down
Find a quiet place and write down all the areas of life in which you feel like a failure.
Next, write what succeeding would look like. How would you behave if you were doing all the things you feel you should be doing?
Finally, look back at your life and write down some achievements or successes you are proud of, no matter how “small” or insignificant they may seem (I really mean that. If you held your tongue when you wanted to scream, that qualifies as a success!)
Keep these lists handy for the following steps.
Be realistic and check your expectations
It is important to acknowledge the great challenges of being a wife and mother. It truly is a monumental task.
If we expect it to be easy, then we will feel like a failure very quickly.
There are times when I’ve felt a day in the life of a mother would be a great challenge on a reality show! Who else tries to cook dinner, or go shopping (or do any other task) while taking care of children who are spilling milk, falling down, and holding onto your leg?
Motherhood is tough and we need to acknowledge that.
When I look at all the things I want to do as a wife and mom, I realize it is impossible. You see, I am only one person.
And there are only 24 hours in a day!
Examine your thoughts of what success would look like and see if they are realistic.
Unrealistic expectations will steal your joy and make you feel like a failure every time.
Give yourself grace for the season you are in.
Prioritize your problems
So, you’ve checked your expectations, and still feel that you are falling short in some areas.
Chose ONE thing to work on.
I know when everything feels wrong, we want to fix it all in one fell swoop. Oh yes, I’ve tried to set up a new menu planning system (including new recipes), start exercising regularly, begin a new school curriculum, implement a new chore chart, and attempt a crazy Bible reading plan all at once! (And if I’m being honest, there’s probably a lot more I thought I could change in an instant).
This rarely works and most often causes burn out and more feelings of failure.
Chose to work on something that is bothering you a great deal or something that, if changed, would make a big difference in your life and life of your family.
Develop a plan of action and get to work on changing this area of your life. Once you are seeing some improvement and it feels like a habit has been formed, move to the next thing.
I know this seems like a painfully slow process for change, but this kind of change is more likely to stick than any that might come when working on ten things at once.
Do yourself a favor and read Crystal’s (Money Saving Mom) post 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Implement One Habit at A Time.
Find some accountability
It disheartens me when I muster the courage to confess a great struggle to someone and they burst into words of reassurance that I am doing just fine followed with requests to not be so hard on myself.
I know they are trying to be sweet, but . . .
The truth is there are some areas of life that I am not doing fine and I need a good friend or mentor to back me up and hold me accountable.
Finding an accountability partner is not easy, but can be done. Look for someone you respect and offer to be an accountability person for them if they desire. It doesn’t have to be time consuming and may simply involve an email once a week (or even once a month).
If there is no one available, you may even get the kids involved. If you are working on not raising your voice, let them know. They will call you on it!
Whatever arrangement, knowing someone is going to check in will help keep you on track.
Strive to find a balance
In some instances we need grace and in others we need a swift kick to get us in gear. Strive to balance your desire for improvement with recognition of what you have already achieved and grace for the time of life you are in.
You read my mind! Or else had cameras in my house this week! I’ve had a rough one and this post was my swift kick in the pants, very motivated now, thank you for sharing!
Glad it was helpful.
I didn’t have cameras in your house 🙂 But I did write a lot of what has gone on in mine! We all deal with many of the same things, don’t we?
Thank you for this beautiful post. I have found that these steps have helped for me, too. I did want to share that there was a time in my life where I felt so down, so hopeless. Nothing interested me. I could barely get myself out of bed. And I did these exact things. I prayed earnestly. I read my scriptures. I served, and went to church, and they just didn’t work. People at church kept saying I needed to just do those things more, or with a more sincere heart. I was. I was pleading multiple times a day. The reality was I had depression. For some, they hit these low points and they can pull themselves out. For some, professional help is needed. It is not shameful if you need help. It does not mean you have done something that has kindled God’s wrath. Unfortunately, these ideas are still very prevalent in the Christian world. I thankfully found a fabulous therapist, who was actually of my same faith and used the scriptures to help in our sessions. She also helped me work through my feelings and taught me the tools I needed to change the way I was thinking. I have been on antidepressants at times. They helped clear the fog of depression so that I could see clearly enough to work on changing my thought process. There is no shame in depression. One in four women have a major depressive episode a year. I wanted to share my experience because I am sure there are many women who will read this post and still feel discouraged because it isn’t working for them. There is hope. It will get better. And it does not mean you’re a failure is you need more help. Even our perfect Savior needed some support when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. As he cried out, asking is God had forsaken Him, and angel came to comfort and support. It’s okay to need more help.
Thank you so much for sharing. How brave of you to be so open with perfect strangers, at least some of us. Your words are very encouraging and, no doubt, will help those going through the same thing, as they have helped me.
Rachel, thank you so much for this comment and Stacy, thank you for this post of redirection and guidance.
You’re welcome JR, and yes, many thanks to Rachel for her input here!
Thank you for sharing this very important point, Rachel. Sometimes we do need to seek professional help. And we should not be ashamed of that. It is admiral to do what is necessary.
I’m sorry that people told you to do these things with more sincerity! I know that must have been hard to hear when you were trying your very best.
I’m glad you have shared your experience with us. Thank you so much! God bless you.
I agree 100%. Thank you for sharing. I have been experiencing some postpartum depression. I don’t think it’s gotten so bad that I need to take those steps, and hopefully it won’t, but I can understand on some level. It’s so hard not to think, “If my faith were stronger, I wouldn’t be feeling this way. I’m a Christian…I’m supposed to be joyful. I’m not supposed to be a ‘Debbie Downer.'” But, the truth of the matter is, you just are sometimes, no matter how much meditation and praying and studying God’s word you do. The apostle Paul also struggled with feelings of despair and worry sometimes. It only takes reading a couple of his epistles to see this.
I’m blessed to have a Christian clinical psychologist for a hubby. He has helped me tremendously with feelings of failure in the past. And when he hasn’t been able to comfort me, he’s wise enough to go to some ladies who can. I’m so thankful for him. The truth is that God gives us people in our lives who can help us along on our journey to heaven. Whether it’s your husband, your girlfriends, or your therapist, they are all gifts from God given to us to help us. Praise be to Him for such love!
Thank you so much for this post!! It was exactly what I needed to read this morning. I’m a first time mom who is guilty of comparing myself to other moms and feeling like a total failure and wreck. Life gets so busy and it’s hard to do those basics everyday, but I know it’s important and this reminded me that I need to put God, prayer and my scriptures first and then all else will fall into place. Life won’t be easy, but having that foundation works wonders! Thank you!!!!
You are so right, Holly! Life won’t be easy, but having a foundation works wonders. We really can’t expect to get very far without a good one.
Let’s keep building 🙂
“The truth is there are some areas of life that I am not doing fine and I need a good friend or mentor to back me up and hold me accountable.”
How well said!! Thank you for making me think twice before giving those types of platitiudes to the other mom’s in my life. In trying to share a kind word, I’m inadvertently sending the message that what they’re saying isn’t really meaningful. How wonderful it would be to have someone REALLY listen and respond instead of just brushing you off. Thank you so much for making me think this morning!
Lisa, thank you for taking that as it was intended 🙂 I felt a little nervous saying those words out loud!
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts this morning.
Do you have a print button somewhere? Thank you for this post.
I constantly feel like I’m failing at something. Just when it feels like I’m finally getting on top of things, it all seems to fall apart. Sometimes even my faith is a source of stress because I feel I should be a better Christian, and that I haven’t grown enough. I start creating a mental lists of should’s and ought’s regarding spiritual activities until it becomes just another source of failure in my life.
I do the same thing. I keep thinking I’ll arrive one day and have it all together! But I don’t expect that will actually happen. Not this side of heaven anyway.
Keep on keeping on 🙂
Laundry Lady, I often feel that way, too! The sweet ladies at church keep telling me it’s just not my time to do those spiritual activities right now, and that my husband and children should be my #1 priority right now, in this season of life. Although I do believe that in my head, my heart still often feels guilty for not going to visit the old people, cooking a meal for someone, or going to all of the ladies’ Bible studies, etc. I know it’s Satan working. Satan likes to make us think if we don’t do everything that we’re not doing enough for God. Such lies! God only expects what we can realistically give him at this time in our lives! So much easier said than truly believed, though!
This was for me today! Thank you!
You’re welcome, Cindy 🙂
We all have our moments of failure, and sometimes they genuinely are because we are slacking or lacking. As you said, first keeping a grasp on the fact that we are precious to God, no matter what, is a key. Taking captive our negative thoughts is important too; I don’t mean fluffy thinking that , “it’ll all work out fine,” but giving our thoughts to God A. so Satan can’t drag us further into the pits, and B. so that we are open to God’s guidance toward the clarity it will take to receive, hear or do what is needed. If we keep ourselves open and positive, even in the midst of struggle, it saves a lot of heart ache and time.
I speak from having handled things both ways. ; )
Taking our thoughts captive requires so much strength and focus! I’m still working on that! (I suppose we always will. But hopefully it gets easier with time). It really does make a difference.
Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate you sharing your point of view.
“Unrealistic expectations will steal your joy and make you feel like a failure every time. Give yourself grace for the season you are in.”
THANK YOU FOR THIS QUOTE, it put my mind at ease.
This really is something I need to work on, sometimes I get so ahead myself and start going crazy, I look at things I can do nothing about and get frazzled. Being married, pregnant and having a toddler and being only 21 years of age I feel like I should be cutting myself some slack.. there are somethings i realize are going to have to wait because of the path i chose. It’s hard to relate to others my age for the pure fact I have the mentality of a 30 year old.. it is great to see other women who are not afraid to share and express their feelings of failure.. it is truly brave of all of you.
I’ve been thinking about this post ever since I wrote it and have so much more to add now! I am convinced that our unrealistic expectations play a HUGE role in feeling like a failure. It seems that so many of us have still believe that we should do it all. And do it all well. That is just not possible.
It has also become apparent to me that taking the time to really think and pray about what true success is can make a world of difference.
We need to be careful what measuring stick we are using to gauge our successes and failures. If we are comparing ourselves to others or to a picture of perfection we have in our own mind, we will never feel good about what we are doing. When we can see that nurturing souls is more important than a clean kitchen (and I’m not saying you can’t have one without the the other. But you know what I mean . . . right?) we can breathe easier among the messes and failures and know that we are placing our energy and focus on the most important things and that we are pleasing to God.
Anyway . . .
Still thinking about this. . .
Great thoughts! One thing I like to focus on when I am am down is that my identity is in Christ. Not in any of my human roles. Thanks for the great reminder.
This was so much what I needed to read today. I especially like what you say about remembering that we are loved by God. I forget that when I am getting more and more down on myself.
Thanks for this. I have shared it on Twitter and Pinterest. And I need to come back and read it again, for myself. Take care and blessings.
I would also suggest not getting caught up in comparing yourself to other moms. Even the ones who seem to have it all together! It’s an easy trap to get caught up in, but it’s a vicious cycle that never ends and will ultimately steal your joy.
Thanks so much for the post! I immediately started crying in the first couple of paragraphs. Feeling like a failure is something I struggle with about every other day. What encouraging thoughts. It felt like you were writing a letter directly to me! 🙂
I love that you included writing down what “success” would look like–I just did that the other day! And I was pleasantly surprised to find that my definition of success was much more attainable than I thought it was: I realized that if I can finish my house chores (two a day), cook dinner, set it onto a clean table, and wash the dishes afterwards, I’ll feel like I’ve done a good job. And that’s not that hard!
Now those are my goals for each day, and I can choose whether or not to start other projects based on whether I think I can get those done. Having a concrete “definition of success” has been very helpful to me.
thank you. i have felt it lately big time.
Thank you for this post. I was just praying about some of the things you were talking about. What seems to help me is to write lists then pray things go smoothly so I can get things done. If they don’t get done, I try to evaluate my day and even write down. what did I do, accomplish that day… If laundry didn’t get done because I decided to spend the day outside playing w/ the kids, it’s ok because this is what they’ll remember… or if i got sidetracked doing some other chores, when i make my list I can see where my time went. And then I feel good, that I was actually was productive, or feel like I used my time wisely even if all my lists aren’t complete. And if my child needed extra time that day and I didn’t get to my list, it’s ok, cause they are more important.
When my kids were small and when I felt discouraged, I found it encouraging to take a break from making a daily to do list and instead make a running I DID IT LIST. All day long I would write down what I did, from changing diapers to washing dishes to food prep. I was amazed at the end of the day to see all the little things I do that I don’t see as progress, but in the world of motherhood they most certainly are.
YES…when I rattle off what I have done it is much better….YOU ARE RIGHT!
Excellent post. Thanks for sharing it.
I Loooove how God uses you! I love the tips and earthiness of your posts but haven’t read lately. I was looking over my blog reader after I JUST posted about struggling to enjoy vacation as a mama and how two angels lifted me right on up! God is especially awesome when he goes shopping with you, fyi! HOW FUNNY.
Thank you for the reminder to put scripture up around the house. I have You Version but skip my readings. At least posting some will get it in front of my eyeballs. Eureka+Duh. Thanks God, for the SMACK!
I’ve been dealing with many of the same issues. My hubby and I had a talk the other day and I finally told him just how hard it was during a deployment (in which you can’t really be honest with your husband because you could put them at extra risk if they aren’t mentally tough). I told him some of the issues I struggled with, my state of mind and all the ugliness I exhibited getting through the separation. He told me that success at times is just surviving and getting through it with everyone safe, fed and healthy. I’ve continued beating myself up over that year of a tough situation and never would have thought there was an ounce of success anywhere in it. I needed those words from my husband, but even more I need them daily from my creator. With Him honesty is always o.k. – thankfully !!!!
Thank you for this. I really needed to hear this today.
Wow! God just totally used you to speak to me. I really needed this post. Thank you!
I suspect every woman isn’t capable of home schooling, having a large family, etc. I would have had a breakdown, too, if I had tried to do all that.
What?!?! I’m not the only one who serves oatmeal for supper sometimes?! Thanks for that! I appreciated this article… especially the part about having realistic expectations. My husband and I own a farm and the work piles up. Recently I was feeling so overwhelmed and so I wrote down everything I have to do. Turns out I had more on my to-do list than was humanly possible! No wonder I was feeling overwhelmed. Figuring out what needed to be done by me, what could be delegated to someone else and what shortcuts I could take really helped reduce the work load!
Oh goodness, you’re not the only one who serves oatmeal for supper in a pinch! 🙂
I am so grateful for this article. My husband and I have been married a little over a year and we are expecting our first child in October. Being a new-ish wife and soon-to-be mother has put so many pressures on my day to day tasks. I’m constantly in a sour mood because I feel I’m not meeting the expectations that I set for myself. The real problem is I’m searching for value in my tasks rather than in the fact that I am loved by Christ. Your article was a great reminder and I will certainly use it to change my perspective.
Thank you for this post and the comments shared.
“If we expect it to be easy, then we will feel like a failure very quickly.”
I think I wish life were easier, I suppose we all do.
Thank you for sharing this post!!! There have been MANY days where I feel like a ‘failure as a mom’ … but I know that it is just the devil trying to poke at me where my insecurities are the weakest.
I will be saving and sharing. THank you!
Even though i am not a mother, this post brought me comfort. Today has been a poopy day and i simply googled why do i feel like i am failing at everything. Im currently struggling socially and emotionally at school and i have a lot of work to do. But i havent been keeping up with my regular bible reading due to the stress but this encourages me to pray and ask God to help me. Thank you for this post.
Thank you for this. It has lots of information that has been greatly needed in my life for a while 🙂
I am so grateful I stumbled across this. I needed these reminders so bad. It is 2am the day before Thanksgiving (which we are hosting) and I woke up to find that I needed to pump (was late doing it because I am exhausted after not sleeping more than 4 straight hours for the last 3.5 months), had not brushed my teeth or washed my face both of which feel gross, and we have still not taken the picture I need to order our Christmas cards. It feels like everyone else got the instruction manual except me. This is such practical, timeless advice and just what I need in this moment. Thank you! I’m now off to read the verses you recommended.