What to do if You’re Feeling Like a Failure at 25
October 6, 2022 9:30 AM EST | 8 min read
People have probably asked you before what you wanted to achieve by the age of 25.
Now that you’re there, it seems like nothing on your list was accomplished, and that leaves you feeling like a failure.
Instead of being the person you saw in your five or 10-year plan, you’re not even close.
That’s unsettling, and it is natural to look around and be like, “Well, what the heck do I do now?”
Coming to terms with this may not be easy for you.
But this is more common—and normal—than you think.
Whenever you feel like a failure, remember these things:
- You are not the only one
- Nor are you helpless
- Almost no one reaches the top right away
- 25 is not even remotely old
- Don’t judge yourself based on how fulfilled you think other people are
Feeling like a failure doesn’t mean you are one
People get caught up in what they think.
However, just because you think something doesn’t make it factual.
However, the more attention and power you give these thoughts, the more your brain will believe they must be accurate.
Keep these things in mind and start shaping the next few years of your life!
1. You’re not the only one.
Believe it or not, most young people feel this way.
You will rarely find a young person who is fully satisfied with what they’ve become so far.
After all, the goals of students and aspiring young adults are often unrealistic.
If you’re feeling like a failure, it’s not because you are one.
You either need to work your way to get to your goals or change them up to more realistic ones.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your qualifications are.
You can have several degrees or better skills than many thriving people your age—but these are not the only determiners for success.
Regardless of age, most folks will feel like they’re falling behind in their personal or professional life.
Even the most popular people in the world must have felt like a failure at some point.
The famous Walt Disney, for instance, was fired from Kansas City Star in 1919 because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’
This wasn’t even the end of his failures.
After getting fired, Disney’s animation studio Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt.
But did he give up so easily?
He surely didn’t become one of the most popular individuals in the world because everything went smoothly for him.
He did it because he didn’t lose hope.
2. You are not helpless.
Fixating on the idea that there are other factors for your failure (such as unfair employment in your country or lack of finances to pay for a more ‘prestigious education’) is the worst thing you can do to yourself.
But if you boost your skills and become dedicated to pursuing your goals, nothing in this world can stop you from becoming who you are.
Only you can guide your own success.
For example, your parents or friends might use their influence to get you a nice job, but how successful you will feel will depend on what you achieve.
If you didn’t deserve it in the first place, you can still end up feeling like a failure.
Young people have it hard.
Competition is too big; it’s much harder to get a job than it used to be.
However, this doesn’t make you predestined to failure.
You simply can’t go through life thinking that you can’t change your current situation to a better one.
In fact, with many educated young people, employers started showing interest in the actual candidates and their capabilities rather than just in their educational attainment.
Take Brad Pitt, for example.
He is now known as one of the best and most gorgeous actors in the world.
But did you know he used to drive strippers in limos, dressed as a chicken for the restaurant El Pollo Loco, and moved refrigerators before he was first discovered?
His big break came when his friend invited him to an acting audition to play her lover.
The rest, they say, is history.
You never know when failures will stop, and success will begin.
Don’t give up—you are neither helpless nor hopeless.
3. You cannot reach the top right away.
People don’t become highly successful just because they set their minds to it.
If life were this way, everyone would be a success.
If you expect to reach the top right after you get your degree or send out your resume, you are up for a huge disappointment.
Even the sharpest, most talented people in the world can make a bad call and experience some kind of setback.
Things aren’t always under your control.
You are now an adult, and with it must come the persistence and strength to overcome various barriers.
When Steve Jobs was fired from the company he co-founded, he was certainly feeling like a failure.
At his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Jobs said:
“I was out – and very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.”
However, he quickly overcame this and took a step that turned out to be even better than the first one.
He was already in his 30s when he was fired, which is more than you have at the moment!
If you take the time to check the story of individuals you admire, you learn they didn’t become successful overnight.
In fact, very few of them were a success at your age.
So, think of it as the beginning of your life journey.
4. You are young.
Some people have to start fresh even after decades of hard work.
They let Michael Bloomberg go from the company Salomon Brothers where he was a partner.
With the money he got, he started his own company when he was almost double your age.
He is now the 18th richest person in the world.
Surely, the check he used to start his new business was quite hefty, but he did not get to this point easily.
The number of people who became famous before the age of 25 is so little you should definitely reconsider your expectations.
Success is a ladder – and you will have to go down a bit to climb higher afterward.
More opportunities are yet to come your way.
If you’re motivated toward completing your goals, this is just the start.
The real milestones should begin soon.
Unless you want to become an athlete fighting with age restrictions, a bit of determination and good planning will get you where you want to go.
It doesn’t really matter how old you are to overcome failures and start again.
But you have the advantage of being young, so use it!
5. You can’t know how fulfilled others actually are.
Not everyone loves their life and their job.
The truth is not always as it seems to you when you look at them.
The biggest culprit for beliefs such as ‘he has it better than me’ is social media.
People present their life in a much better light than it truly is, making others feel like they are falling back.
You are a young adult, and there will be a few people that you know who have fulfilled all their goals until this point.
All those pictures of trips and cheerful faces cannot give you the full picture of how happy others are.
You simply cannot measure your success with the success you think other people have.
I felt like this when I was 25.
Now, three years later, I know nothing is as it seems on the surface.
When I look at people I believed had it all together then; I see failures and lack of motivation.
As soon as you get to the point in your life when you truly feel fulfilled with what you’ve accomplished, you learn those you believed had it great, in fact, had it worse than you.
Even if they did better than you do now, life is not written in stone.
You can turn your entire life around—all it took me was some help with programming.
Use feeling like a failure to motivate you
I’m now a famous blogger who completed her dream of traveling the world.
It only took me three years since I was feeling like a failure.
If I kept pursuing that belief, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
These concepts may not be easy to grasp at first.
But they can help every time you feel you aren’t good enough.
Remind yourself that you aren’t the only one and that this is just the start of your journey through life.
These thoughts should keep you motivated.
Motivation and dedication are the strongest tools you have to reach your goals.
Even if you fail, life gives you a chance to try again.
Try even harder and make it even better!
Let us know your story in the comment section below.
June 24, 2019 at 6:00 PM
I’ve re-read this article so many times now. I turn 26 at the end of the year and while I’ve had multiple part-time positions, I have yet to get a full-time one. I grew up with epilepsy and even though I was cured after turning 20, I never thought about what I wanted to do for a living until after finishing college because I was just happy to be living a normal life again. It’s so hard not to be sad when you see people post about their accomplishments on social media; I feel so behind compared to almost everyone else in my age group. What worries me now is that recruiters will eventually reject me not because of my lack of experience, but because I’m too old and they expect me to have accomplished more by my age. Thanks so much for writing this!
April 29, 2019 at 5:00 AM
Thanks for writing this!
April 30, 2019 at 2:33 AM
I`m glad it helped you!
April 10, 2019 at 11:53 PM
This was very encouraging and makes me look at things from a different perspective. Thank you
April 16, 2019 at 9:37 AM
I`m glad that you found it useful! Thank you
March 30, 2019 at 9:37 AM
I honestly feel better after reading this
April 16, 2019 at 9:36 AM
Brenda, I`m happy to hear that.