How to Move Past Failure and Believe in Yourself

Do you need to move past failure? I do.

When I was a kid, I believed I could do anything. I thought I could be famous like the Spice Girls. I ran around the yard and mixed potions out of collected rainwater while dreaming of being a scientist–or a witch. Both were viable options. When I experimented with my own apple cinnamon muffin recipe when I was nine, I fully believed I could run my own bakery in the future. When I started skateboarding at thirteen I imagined going pro. Never mind the fact that I wasn’t athletic and had a VERY low pain tolerance. (I’ve still got a scar on my hip from a graceful belly flop onto a sidewalk…)

I dreamed about all of the different lives I could choose for myself. At that age, I didn’t see obstacles. I didn’t see limitations. Fortunately, I just saw things that I enjoyed doing and visions for what life would look like if I pursued them. I believed in myself, and everything I did as a kid filled me with a lot of satisfaction even though I never reached my dreams.

Believing in yourself is the most important thing you can do to move past failure.

You could say I failed at every one of those adolescent dreams if you look at the definition of failure as a lack of success. You could even say that I’m failing at my current dreams depending on how you look at it. In fact, a few recent failures prompted me to write this post.

Due to those recent failures, I found myself looking at “real” job listings online, because maybe I should explore non-creative career options. Happily, that lasted all of ten minutes before I started giving myself this pep talk and turned it into a blog post.

As a kid, I loved the process of everything I was doing. I needed to get back to that. Success doesn’t matter.

And Failure is Temporary

Many of us fear failure as if it defines us or is a permanent state, but I define failure as accepting an unexpected outcome without further action. So right now, if put art aside and got a job working for someone else, giving up this whole creative pursuit of mine–that would be failure.

You’re going to fail many times in life. A lack of success happens over and over again. The important thing is what you do after each failure and how you convince yourself to keep moving forward. And that’s where believing in yourself comes in.

Three reasons why you need to believe in yourself:

When I was a kid, I didn’t second guess any of my dreams or worry about my ability to succeed. I just did things until the real world smacked me in the face. Because belief.

  1. Belief fuels you to continue moving forward.
  2. Belief makes the present moment more enjoyable and worthwhile.
  3. Belief turns failure into opportunity.

Belief is a catalyst. If you believe you can do something, you are pushed to pursue it. You don’t focus on the possibility of failure, you focus on the dream. You are charged up by the pursuit of a possibility. It doesn’t really matter what exactly you believe you can accomplish, and it doesn’t matter if you ever reach your end goal. Just believing that the future will look the way you want can make every mundane and arduous task ahead of you seem more enjoyable. Believing in yourself assigns you a purpose. It makes everything you do have meaning.

What can happen when you don’t believe in yourself?

  1. You don’t move forward (because what’s the point, right?)
  2. You abandon your dreams before you even try to reach them.
  3. You don’t enjoy the present moment.

If belief in yourself is a catalyst that moves you forward, a lack of belief can hold you right where you are.

How to believe in yourself right now and move past failure:

I spent a long time not believing in myself. I lost the thirteen-year-old skater punk, and the nine-year-old baker and felt stuck for a long time. For the last three years, I have been rewiring my brain and have worked hard at reclaiming my joy in the process of dreaming. Here’s how:

1. Challenge your negative confirmation bias.

For a long time, I was looking for proof that I sucked. Proof I couldn’t succeed. Total confirmation bias on my part. I believed I couldn’t succeed, so I found evidence that supported that belief everywhere I looked. I had to turn off this thought pattern. The first step was recognizing when my brain latched onto a negative belief, and then saying “whoa there, Kelly. You don’t have to think this thought,” or “why are you searching for jobs that you know won’t fulfill you, you big dummy?”

Recognize when you are following this thought pattern and stop it in its tracks. Over time, you can replace this with a positive thought pattern and train your confirmation bias to work in your favor.

If I tell you to notice the color red, you’ll start picking it out in the environment around you. If I tell you to see all the areas where you are succeeding, you’ll do the same. Don’t tell your brain to see all of your failures. Tell it to notice where you are succeeding. (And don’t give me some “but I’m failing at everything!” sob story. You’re not.)

2. Realize you don’t need proof to believe in yourself.

You don’t need to know you will succeed to believe you can succeed. Knowing and believing are two different things. Belief needs no evidence.


You don’t need anyone to tell you what you’re capable or incapable of doing. Though, if you meet someone who excitedly encourages you to do the things you love and makes you feel like you can take on any obstacle in your way, keep them around. Those people are the best. Just don’t depend on them to replace your inner belief.

3. Do what a person who believes would do.

Remember when I said a lack of belief holds you back and belief moves you forward? Belief may be a catalyst, but you can still move forward without consciously believing in yourself. It just takes a little more work.

Our brains are big and powerful, but sometimes our conscious mind is a little slow to pick up on the benefits of positive habits. You don’t have to think “I can do it!” or put sticky notes on your mirror with affirmations or be one of those people who oozes positivity. You can start by simply taking the same step that a person who does believe in themselves would take. It’s a little “fake it ’til you make it”, but I stand by it.

If you want to run a marathon, but don’t believe you can, what would people who believe in themselves do? Get out of bed early and run? Do that.

What would a painter who believes they can make a living from their art do? Find the person doing what you want to do and mimic their actions. Let their belief carry you until yours develops.

4. Take power away from “success”.

Success isn’t everything. One way to prevent the sting of failure is to take the power away from success. Don’t hold tightly to your expectations. For example, if you want to learn how to draw hyper-realistic portraits, start by learning the basics. Break your goal down into the smallest tasks you can and build incremental success. Don’t expect to achieve your main goal right away.

Sharpen a pencil. Get out a pad of paper. Find a reference photo. Put the pencil to paper. Draw a single line. Draw another line. Shade over here. Shade over there. Don’t psych yourself out by thinking you have to draw technically perfect portraits right away, or even at all. Focus on the actions you can complete right now and don’t focus on your expectation for the end.

Recognize each completed task as success. Sharpen a pencil=Success. Draw a line=success.

I’m moving past my own failures.

Alright, I’m feeling sufficiently pepped, and all job-hunting browser tabs have been closed. I hope you enjoyed this post and found a little encouragement to believe in yourself as well! What’s the worst that could happen?

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2 Replies to “How to Move Past Failure and Believe in Yourself”

  1. I love this! Every week I get your emails in my inbox and I’m like “I’ll read it, I’ll read it,” But this time I actually did and I’m so glad! It got me all fired up and ready to believe in myself!

    1. Oh yay!! I’m so glad too!! Also, I have a folder in my inbox labeled “Emails I’ll Never Read” that is full of random email lists I have subscribed to and totally intend on reading some day–but likely won’t. So I get it 😉

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