Thoughts on Failure from a Psychotherapist

Header photo by Ian Kim
Written by Casey Lepper

Failure is a powerful word that carries so much weight in our society. Understandably, there is a lot of fear around it because it's invariably tied to one's own value. In my psychotherapy practice, I hear many narratives about perceived failings: a relationship falling apart, losing a job, not getting a desired promotion to name a few. He or she will think, “I failed at saving my marriage, I failed at making my parents proud because I didn't get this perfect job or I am a failure because my income isn't high enough.” Sometimes I know failure is being felt without it being explicitly stated. The person in front of me will have their shoulders rolled forward, head slightly tilted down communicating pain, sadness and shortcoming.

Failure is a tricky thing to help clients move through because the essence of failure, the word itself, sends the message of inability. It's almost always thought about with a stain of fear, lack or defeat. Some words have such a strong negative association that just thinking it can cause a contracting reaction in the body. So, my approach is to first remove that word all together and then support in creating a different thought around the situation. For example, instead of looking at the failure- consider the underlying lesson, the opportunity for growth. When we get stuck on what didn’t go right, we miss out on the buried treasure that’s always there waiting to be discovered.

I truly believe that we all have the choice to see what has happened to us as a gift or as an opportunity to feel sorry for ourselves. Choosing the latter often enough inevitably leads to an internalized belief of inadequacy. You will fall under the narrative of not being good enough, feeling victimized by the world around you and being weighed down with powerlessness. Alternatively, when you see everything in life as a treat, a seed of potential- you will find yourself growing taller, stronger and brighter. You will be empowered to change the story, to see with new eyes that which is in front of you. When we change the way we see things, the things we see change. It happens from the inside out.

We will never be able to control what happens in the outside world. Trying to generally creates some degree of anxiety, frustration, depression and anger. It takes so much precious energy. Instead what you can control is that which happens within you. Take your focus and direct it to the inner world. This is where true empowerment lies.

It comes down to a personal decision to step slightly outside of your perspective so you can see things differently. To see everything as rigged in your favor.

From my view, failure is a matter of perspective and if we attach to it, we to some degree attach to inadequacy. Changing the words we use around a situation and reframing the thoughts we have about it is a simple and powerful way to move your narrative in a positive direction. Look at the opportunity instead of the failing. Think about the lesson you can learn from the situation. See it as a presented challenge so you can feel your strength and resiliency. Understand that it may be life trying to move you in another direction. And finally, know that you have everything within you to sail the stormy sea without being lost in it. The answer and power is not outside of you. Everything you need is already within- all you have to do is make the choice to believe it.


Casey Lepper is a licensed psychotherapist, certified spiritual healer and meditation teacher. Passionate about helping people step towards their highest potential, her work focuses on identifying and surrendering all limiting beliefs and conditions, freeing one to exponentially expand and evolve. She believes integrating psychology and spirituality helps nurture deeper healing, more positive thinking and greater personal empowerment. That by aligning Mind Body and Spirit, we are able to step into our extraordinary selves and unlimited potential. 

Chelsea Francis