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How To Regain Self Esteem After Failure

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
Updated: June 10th, 2020


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Failure is common in our lives, but it can destroy self esteem and self confidence. Some people do not cope well with failure and can suffer self doubt as a result, others can cope well. If you are struggling with this, I will show you how to regain self esteem after failure with the following clear strategy.

Regaining self esteem and self confidence after failure is not easy, but there are simple steps you can follow. These include being self-compassionate, accepting failure as a normal part of life, learning to celebrate your successes and maintaining your confidence to succeed.

Self-esteem is a subjective psychological state. It can be low or high, depending on a variety of factors. High self-esteem can be very beneficial. Still, when your self-esteem is low, you discover that situations that generally should be easy to navigate become difficult (see Leary et al, 1995) You find yourself missing out on opportunities and falling behind on your life plan because of your low self-esteem. Learning how to regain self esteem after failure is a key to restoring your self confidence.

The Effect of Failure On Self Esteem

A significant factor that affects an individual’s self-esteem is a major failure or setback in life (as this research by Rosi et al, 2019, shows). Regaining your self esteem after failure can prove very difficult. If you are in a situation where your self-esteem is low because of a major disappointment, below are some tips to help you regain your self confidence again.

Cut Your Losses And Assess The Situation

Overcoming failure may be very painful, especially when you don’t know what you did wrong or what you could have done better. However, when you decide to cut your losses, you allow yourself room to examine the situation, determine if you need to move in a different direction, or try again using a different strategy.

This strategy gives you the power to ask the deep and important questions you may be too scared to ask. Cutting your losses is very important because it helps you grow from the failure you experienced and not let it consume you. 

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You need to make an in-depth assessment of the situation. Take responsibility for your failure; don’t blame somebody else because you are too scared to own up to your mistakes. Yes, other people’s actions may have influenced a negative result in whatever aspect of your life. However, you still have to take responsibility for the role you played and hold yourself accountable.

This doesn’t mean being harsh or mean to yourself; it just means being open and honest about your shortcomings. You will need self-compassion to do this the right way, and we will return to this later.

Don’t Expect Failure – The Law of Attraction

According to Steve Greenwood, writing on PsychCentral, most people expect to fail. Expecting to fail is a major problem, as it makes a negative outcome so much more likely. If you expect to fail, you probably will.

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Have you ever read about the Law of Attraction? What you think about and expect, you attract into your life. So, if this is true, expecting failure will make it more likely. The opposite may also be true, so why not expect to be successful, or at least be prepared to imagine succeeding. It may not work all the time, but it should make your success more likely!

Forgive Yourself

You can’t move on from a situation if you are still holding on to resentment and bitterness towards yourself. Just as you will forgive that friend who wronged you, you should also forgive yourself without holding back. By forgiving oneself and learning from one’s mistakes can one truly move on from a negative situation. Please do not beat yourself up about the failures you have experienced; people make mistakes; it is what makes us human. Overcoming failure and learning from our mistakes makes us grow as humans and builds confidence. Failure is unavoidable; you must learn how to deal with and move past failure.

Don’t Worry About Every Small Failure or Setback


Your self-esteem may remain low for a longer time if you don’t face your fears head-on. One way to do this effectively is by creating a strategy to grow and improve on yourself. Go back to the drawing board and create an alternate strategy to give you your desired results. Use what you learned from accessing your failures to recalibrate your engine and try again. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and push yourself beyond the mental limit you set for yourself.

Move On

Moving on is vital in regaining your self-esteem after a failure. Don’t get stuck in what you did wrong; keep moving on. Remember, just as one door closes in your face, it gives room for thousands more to open up. Moving on is not giving up. Moving on is not for losers, it is for the strong, and it births strength. 

It takes real strength and courage to go back to the drawing board, see that something won’t work out, then move on to something else. Never feel defeated when you decide to move on, embrace it because it is only from moving on that you can get stronger in certain situations. 

Celebrate Your Past Successes

So your self-esteem has taken a massive blow with the failures you presently faced, understand that that is perfectly normal. However, remind yourself that just because you failed at something doesn’t mean you are a failure. You can do this by celebrating your past successes. This is extremely important if you want to know how to regain self esteem after failure. 

This study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that people tend to downplay their own successes and tell themselves it was because of luck, whereas, others’ successes are normally believed to be because of ability and not because of chance. This suggests that most of us have a natural bias towards ignoring the reasons why we succeed and therefore not fully enjoying or accepting our achievements. It’s easy to see how this can affect our self confidence negatively.

An excellent exercise to try is to take out a notepad and list areas in your life where you have previously succeeded in, and the top accomplishments that you are most proud of. Then, list out the top skills that helped you achieve success in those areas, and celebrate them. Be proud of your accomplishments and skills, because as long as you have those skills, you can never be a failure.

Self-compassion: Attitude Towards Failure

Self-compassion is being kind to yourself. One way of being kind to yourself is to accept setbacks as normal features of life. Self-compassionate people do not criticize themselves for failing and are therefore less likely to avoid difficult challenges and more likely to cope positively with failure (see this article from the journal Self and Identity).

Build Your Skillset

Now is the time to build yourself up for future success by building your skillset. You have already experienced failure; nothing can change the past. However, the future is bright, and it is closer than you think. Identify those skill sets that could have helped you in your path to success and build on them.

Was your failure caused by a lack of adequate knowledge, lack of public speaking skills, lack of self-discipline? What was it? Take out a pen and paper and identify those areas where you have failed, now list out the skill set you need to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Then, beneath the skill set listed out, write down actionable plans to attaining every one of them. For example, if you are a translator, use translation services to help improve and polish your skill.

Take A Break

Just as forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, so also does taking a break does not mean letting go of responsibilities. Taking a break is simply the act of taking time off to de-stress after you have experienced significant failure. Research shows that long term stress can cause you health problems. So it is very important to take from all your stressing and worrying and simply focus on other activities that make you feel happy and whole. Surround yourself with family and friends, and activities that build your confidence and instill positive energy in you.


There you have it, some of my best tips how to regain self esteem after failure. While these tips may not necessarily have to be applied in sequential order, it is important to practice every one of these tips for the most effective result. 


  • Rosi A, Cavallini E, Gamboz N, Vecchi T, Van Vugt F T, Russo R. 2019. The Impact of Failures and Successes on Affect and Self-Esteem in Young and Older Adults. Frontiers in Psychology. Vol 10 pp.1795.
  • Steve Greenman MA. (2015). Self-Esteem: Set-up for Success or Failure. PsychCentral.
  • Feather, N. T., & Simon, J. G. (1971). Attribution of responsibility and valence of outcome in relation to initial confidence and success and failure of self and other. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology18(2), 173.
  • Neff, K. D., Hsieh, Y. P., & Dejitterat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and identity4(3), 263-287.

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