If you identify with 5 or more of the statements below, the chances are you have this schema.
- 1I feel like I have failed when I compare myself to my peers.
- 2I feel like I am stupid and incapable of achieving what other people can achieve.
- 3I don't have much self-confidence.
- 4I feel ashamed of where I am in my life right now.
- 5I feel I lack the basic skills I need to be successful in my life.
- 6I tend to procrastinate when I have tasks to do.
- 7I end up working much harder than other people to achieve the same results.
- 8I feel like an imposter in my work.
- 9I feel like everyone else around me is far more capable than me.
- 10I don't have any faith in my ability to succeed.
This schema is characterised by a deep belief that you are a failure when compared to other people. It could apply to any area of your life such as career, relationships, finances or to your life in general.
How it affects our lives
If you have this schema you will feel that you are fundamentally inadequate or incompetent and you might call yourself stupid, a loser, ignorant, or pathetic.
You might actually avoid trying anything at all because you assume you will fail or you could go to the other extreme and push yourself harder and harder.
If it's in relationships you might give up on them and decide to spend your life alone or if it's around careers you could end up staying in a job that is way below your potential. You will very likely procrastinate a lot and not start or finish tasks and projects because you fear that you are going to fail.
Or you might become a workaholic pushing yourself harder and harder to overcompensate for your perceived lack of talent.
But essentially this schema causes us to live well below our potential and this can leave us with feelings of hopelessness and depression.
This schema, like most schemas, is at the core of many addictive behaviours as we come to rely on certain substances to suppress or numb the painful feelings that the schema generates.
We might also use certain drugs to boost our self confidence and self esteem - two casualties of this schema.
A lot of my clients with cocaine or meth addiction have this schema and they use the drugs to help them feel better about themselves - more confident, more self-assured - albeit temporarily.
With this schema you are likely to have a strong inner critic - a voice in your head that relentlessly beats you up leaving you with deep feelings of self-loathing.
Failure schema can develop under a number of different childhood conditions.
One way this develops is when we have parents or people in our lives who ridiculed, mocked, devalued or criticised our efforts. If we're told again and again that we're no good, that what we do is just not good enough, we will internalise those messages deep in our subconscious brain and they will run like a background track to our lives.
Another way this schema takes hold is if we had attention problems due to high levels of stress.
If we had an abusive or neglectful childhood, we would have spent a lot of our childhood in a 'fight or flight' state.
Often this is labelled as adhd but usually it's the result of a heightened stress response and when we're in this state, it's very difficult to stay still, focus and concentrate.
Clients of mine who experienced this said they were labelled as 'learning disordered' and felt that they were stupid and untalented because they were unable to take in information.
A third reason for this schema is an insufficient limits and self control schema. Not being able to tolerate frustration or delay gratification prevents us from sticking with things long enough for us to experience successes and accomplishments.