I Used to Hurt Myself When I Failed

November 3, 2022 Kim Berkley

If you hurt yourself when you fail at something, know you're not alone. Other people, myself included, have struggled with this urge—and have since found better ways to cope.

Why I Hurt Myself When I Failed

For me, self-harm was always tangled up with feelings like shame and guilt. As such, self-injury was more than my emotional vent—it was also my self-inflicted punishment. By hurting myself when I failed, I felt some measure of catharsis in telling myself that this was how I should pay for the mistakes I made—a transaction that benefited no one and ultimately left me emotionally destitute.

It didn't matter what I failed at or how often. What did matter what how much importance I placed on the situation. The more I needed to succeed, the more it hurt when I failed—and the more likely it was that I would turn to self-harm for both punishment and relief.

Alternatives to Hurting Yourself When You Fail

If you hurt yourself when you fail, the solution isn't to avoid failing at all costs. We are all only human, and we all fail from time to time. Yes, it hurts, and yes, it sucks, but it can also be a chance for us to learn and grow more resilient—even if all we learn is that we can survive more than we gave ourselves credit for. It's not a lesson we like learning, but it's a useful one nevertheless.

Of course, when you're used to turning to self-harm to punish yourself for your mistakes, it can be hard to let that go and seek out healthier alternatives. I can't tell you what alternatives will work best for you, but I can tell you this: healing begins with gaining some perspective.

It's entirely possible and even likely that you are blowing your mistakes out of proportion. I know how easy it is to fall into this trap; I used to do it all the time. Even if this is not the case, self-harm is never the only solution—nor the best. Instead, try:

  • Creative exercises such as writing or art therapy can vent your feelings safely.
  • Physical movement can affect your brain chemicals and help you gain a healthier outlook; it's easier to maintain perspective when you feel better physically.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can help you challenge negative thought patterns and, ultimately, break free of them.
  • Talking to someone—ideally a medical professional or at least a trusted loved one—can help you identify distorted thoughts and see your options in a new light.
  • Mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yoga can help regulate intense emotions and find clarity in a calmer outlook.

When you feel you've failed in a major way, it can be hard to forgive yourself and move on—but that's exactly what it's going to take for you to heal. It's not something you can master right away; however, it will take time, patience, and lots of practice. The sooner you begin practicing, the sooner you will be able to improve and begin to heal. You won't feel the urge to hurt yourself when you fail forever.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, November 3). I Used to Hurt Myself When I Failed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 12 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

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