Why Do I Feel Like a Failure to My Parents? (How to Stop It?)

Children need validation from their parents, there’s no doubt about that.

You have some sort of attachment with your parents. You use this bond as a litmus test for essentially everything you handle in life—every decision, every disappointment, every victory.

If that’s the case, then why do you feel like a failure to your parents? The parents who raised you and who were supposed to teach you how to “succeed” in the first place?

Below I discuss the reasons for that. I also talk about what you can do to stop feeling that way.

why do i feel like a failure to my parents

Why do I feel like a failure to my parents? (10 Reasons)

1. You have not achieved “success” yet (the success you have defined for yourself).

You might say this is common sense. But you might think that not having attained success yet outright means failure, which, of course, is false.

Perhaps the path you’ve chosen is the one less traveled and therefore requires a bit more time. Or maybe you’re still learning and haven’t reached some level of mastery yet. Or your indicators for success aren’t there yet (say, money).

It’s easy to feel like a failure even though in reality you’re simply working your way towards your goals.

2. You may be neglecting some mental health issues.

You may feel discouraged because you seem unable to achieve your goals, but in reality you may have some mental health condition, and this is the reason for your incidental cycle of unproductivity.

I’ve read about people getting depressed because they felt unable to manage their life until they discovered they have ADHD. They then were able to handle it because they could pinpoint what exactly they’re struggling with and get the proper treatment for it.

Related: My Parents Make Me Feel Bad about Myself (10 Tips!)

3. Your parents saw failure as debilitating and this view affected how you perceived intelligence.

What your parents showed you, you learned to be true. This includes the appreciation of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Research shows that parents who see failure as debilitating tend to focus on their children’s performance and ability rather than on their children’s learning. In turn, these children tend to believe that intelligence is fixed rather than malleable.

Failure is unsurprisingly normal in life. Nobody can absolutely stop it. What matters more is how you deal with it and pick yourself back up.

Below is how your parents actually failed to teach you how to thrive. You may be feeling incompetent or unable to handle even your daily routine. But that, at the root of it, is because you were not taught by the people who were supposed to be responsible enough to raise you right in the first place.

4. You did not have to work for anything because your parents gave and did everything for you.

It’s a blessing if your parents can give you everything; I’m not objecting to that.

However, it’s a different story if they did give everything to you.

If the latter is true, then you were unintentionally robbed of the opportunity to learn, which is far more helpful than being gifted with all the good stuff in life without having to work for them. If you want to go meta, I would argue that the best skill you can ever have is the ability to learn how to learn.

Related: How to Be Good Enough for Your Parents (Maybe Not What You Think)

5. Your parents did not teach you personal responsibility.

You take personal responsibility if you:

  • Acknowledge the fact that no one else will be there for you except yourself
  • Own the consequences of your actions (and inactions)
  • Acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them, and make amends
  • Choose to become a better person every day

As a result you find it hard to focus on any time- and energy-consuming undertaking.

6. Your parents constantly and unreasonably pressured you instead of learning more about your strengths and weaknesses and then supporting you based on them.

They likely imposed impossible expectations upon you. Attaining them is outside your budding skills and capabilities.

You could never reach the satisfaction of achieving smaller goals because you thought they were nothing compared to the unimaginable expectations you were striving for.

You got used to the feeling of being let down and it just stuck.

7. Your parents always talked down to you.

There’s no good reason for parents to talk down to their children.

However, your parents likely learned that for whatever “good” end they were trying to achieve, talking down should work.

It’s an ego problem. They think that since they have “figured it out,” you must, too—without their help. It didn’t matter if you were asking for some wisdom, confiding your problems, or just pursuing a weird hobby.

To be constantly talked down meant that nothing you said, did, or felt mattered. If that’s the case, why even dream big?

Related: Nothing I Do Is Good Enough for My Parents (What to Do)

8. Your parents treated you differently from your siblings—and in a bad way.

Good enough parents would never allow you to feel you’re being treated differently. I don’t believe in any “(insert ordinal number here)-child syndrome” or whatnot. Sometimes it only becomes an alibi for a parent’s unresolved issues.

It simply does not make sense. I can’t think of ways to justify this behavior except that your parents are most probably toxic.

Everything starts at home and unfortunately that includes any kind of “value” you perceive yourself with based on how your parents treated you.

9. You focused on surviving your dysfunctional home.

Surviving is not thriving. Surviving is staying afloat so you could breathe. It’s being able to read a hostile parent so they didn’t hit you. It’s suppressing all those emotions so that you were safer than if you expressed them.

Focusing on survival meant you had no opportunity to learn basic stuff, which would help you thrive later in your adulthood.

You could not set goals and test yourself to your limits, and thus become better. You consumed your mental and emotional energies on the wrong things, leaving you with nothing for actual life.

10. You internalized everything you learned in your toxic home.

Internalizing all the wrong things your parents showed you made you feel that they were your fault.

You were just a clueless and impressionable young child. You wanted to please your parents. You wanted home to feel right. Even if you were out and about with your friends or schoolmates, you just wanted it to feel right.

But you felt rebellious. Nothing felt right. And that’s because all the wrong beliefs and wisdom were now ingrained in you. You felt you were “born to fail.”

Related: Why Am I Never Good Enough for My Parents?

How do I stop feeling like a failure to my parents?

1. Talk to your parents about it.

There’s nothing wrong—or there shouldn’t be, at least—in telling your parents what’s bugging you in the relationship.

Perhaps you got it wrong—your parents actually love you and are trying their best but the message is not getting through.

Or there might be some sort of projection going on on your part for whatever reason.

2. Realize that no two people exactly started out the same in life.

Thus it makes no sense to compare yourself with others—especially with “normal” people if you hail from a dysfunctional family. You have to accept this reality because it is how you can start moving on in such a way that’s tailored to your circumstances. Nothing’s wrong with that.

It may be harder than it should be, but at least you are doing it right and you’re not denying what is.

3. (If you’re still living with your parents) Aim for personal independence.

Plan out your exit—don’t blindly take the leap.

Sure, there are advantages to living with your folks, especially in a shaky economy. But having a job and being able to totally support yourself can boost your self-esteem.

Being independent can be tiring and taxing and lonely. But those are only the cost of running your life on your own terms.

Related: My Parents Make Me Feel Worthless (14 Lessons to Contemplate)

4. You need to shut down your toxic parents’ voice in your head.

A huge part of self-care and self-preservation. You need to change the way you talk to yourself, and sometimes you don’t realize that the self-talk you’re allowing is from messages your parents have instilled in you. You grew up with them; that was only bound to happen.

It takes practice and time, but you can definitely treat yourself much better!

5. Ask yourself, “If my parents were out of the picture, how would I carry my life out?”

Yes, you need some validation and approval from your parents—but what if you simply can not have or never had them? (If that’s true, then I bet you’ve suffered worse than that.)

You have to stop seeking what doesn’t exist. It will save you time and heartache. Gets rid of the drama, too.

You can start anew. You know what you want and need. And I’m pretty sure you’re smart enough. Take it slow, but take charge of your life.

6. Use that feeling to your advantage. Use it as fuel.

This is particularly for if your toxic parents are deliberately making sure you feel like a failure. And it’s not easy.

Harnessing this tragedy allows for a few things:

  • You can grow a thick skin so that your toxic parents, or similar kind of people, can’t hurt you anymore
  • You can learn to focus more on things that matter, and disregard those that aren’t helpful at all
  • You can learn how to take care of yourself better
  • You can treat this simply as a difficult obstacle that coming through it makes you a much better person
  • You can get to know yourself more so that you can make adjustments that will suit you well

There’s an upside to it. It’s not all that bad. You were unfortunately dealt with difficult parents. But the good news is you have control over your mind. Don’t forget this. You can be more powerful than you think.

Photo by Евгений Новиков on Unsplash

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