Why Can’t I Do Anything Right? 13 Things You CAN Do

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I had a habit of beating myself up for even the smallest mistake. I would get angry and ask myself “What's wrong with me. Why cant I do anything right?” There was a lingering sense of incompetence that made me feel terrible about myself.

Do you frequently ask yourself the same questions or judge yourself harshly when you mess up? Psychologists refer to it as negative self-talk, and you're not the only one having this inner dialogue.

Thinking you're inadequate or incapable of succeeding at anything can take a toll on your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Perhaps you started second-guessing yourself or obsessing about possible mistakes made at work. This type of self-monitoring can lead to worry, fear, anxiety, procrastination, and low productivity.

You don't deserve to live this way, and that's why I've taken the time to explain what's causing you to feel like a failure. I'll also provide a toolbox of 13 tips to shift your mindset and overcome negative self-talk.

Why Do I Feel as If I Can't Do Anything Right?   

Telling yourself you can't perform effectively is a type of negative self-talk. A pattern of ridiculing yourself is largely due to self-doubt, which is rooted in low self-esteem.

Self-esteem relates to your opinions of yourself and is measured on a scale that tests your views on things such as self-adequacy, self-respect, and self-worthiness. More positive opinions (or feelings) than negative ones are markers of healthy self-esteem and better life experiences.

On the other hand, low self-esteem has wide-reaching adverse effects on your work, relationships, success, and overall quality of life.

Here are other reasons for thinking you keep messing up:

  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of judgment
  • Subconscious programming, e.g., growing up with parents who were overly critical about your performance
  • Stressful life events that caused you to feel like a failure, e.g., divorce or poor academic performance
  • Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder

13 Things to Do When You Feel Like You Just Can’t Do Anything Right

Let's go straight into 13 strategies for breaking free from the I-can't-do-it-right mindset.

#1. Recognize that limiting beliefs shaped your self-image

Limiting beliefs are negative thoughts about yourself that distort your self-image. They're usually not true but you believe them anyway. In this case, it's believing you're incapable of doing anything with success.

Interestingly, the more you use self-limiting language, the more it seems true. It's like a self-fulling prophesy and it works to sabotage your goals and dreams. Not only that, negative beliefs about yourself wear down your self-esteem.

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Thinking you're inadequate or incapable of succeeding at anything can take a toll on your sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

Beliefs that cast doubt on your potential might be rooted in your childhood experiences or limitations people placed on you. Perhaps your parent or teacher repeatedly told you, “You're stupid. You can't do anything right.”

These harsh, unkind words are devastating and can crush your self-esteem.

After hearing these criticisms repeatedly throughout your life, you may start believing they are true. Saying. “I can't do anything right,” is like retelling yourself that story. Stop and ask yourself, “Is my belief true?”

#2. Reject the negative labels

Regularly saying “I can't do anything right” is attaching a negative label to yourself. It's no different from self-sabotaging statements we mutter to ourselves, such as, “I'm so stupid,” or “I'm a loser.” When you accept these self-imposed labels, you may notice you keep making more mistakes or act in ways that undermine your success.

Your opinions and perceptions about your ability to perform and succeed can take root in your subconscious mind. The next time you're performing certain tasks, those false perceptions about yourself may surface in your awareness.

Before you know it, you're riddled with self-doubting thoughts, and an inner voice that whispers, “You know you're not good at this.”

Challenge your inner critical voice right away. You can use a counteracting statement such as, “This is an easy task. I'm really good at this.”

#3. Take full credit for the things you've done right

This tip ought to hush your inner critic for a while. I'd like you to think about the times you've succeeded. Ask yourself, “What are some things I’ve done well?”

I promise you, there are numerous, so grab a pen and paper or a bullet journal and make a list. As you create your list, you may soon recall all those times you performed well on various work, school, or household projects, haven't you? Need more paper?

Sometimes the real issue isn't that you screw things up, but more so doubting how well you performed. Individuals with a perfectionist mentality, for example, struggle to accept they've completed the task to the best of their ability.

There's usually a lingering feeling they could've done more. Feeling this way creates self-doubt and often leads to self-defeating behaviors.

#4. Use positive statements to affirm your abilities

Affirmations are phrases or statements used to encourage yourself, build self-confidence, and change negative thinking patterns. Experts call it retraining your brain, subconscious reprogramming, or shifting your mindset.

Reciting positive affirmations has been scientifically proven as an effective strategy for counteracting negative self-talk. It works, whether you use them as a daily mantra or during moments of self-doubt.

I've used affirmations to reframe the narrative of my inner critic. Every time it says, “You can't” I say, “You bet, I can and I will!” Try saying your I CAN statements with passion and conviction so that your inner critic knows you mean business.

#5. Develop a habit of self-praise

When was the last time you said, ‘I'm proud of myself,” or patted yourself on the back and said, “Well done!” During my early childhood, I used to hear people say, “Self-praise is no recommendation.” I think it caused me to feel bad for recognizing my accomplishments or sharing them with others.

I challenged that statement and began congratulating myself a lot more. I even mail congratulations cards to myself. The point is that frequent self-praise, in a humble way, can help to improve your self-esteem. I'm not saying you should brag and boast to others.

The idea is more about quietly giving yourself the acknowledgment you deserve. Be your own cheerleader by recognizing your efforts and accomplishments. Celebrate yourself, instead of waiting for others to praise you.

#6. Increase self-appreciation

Praising yourself might seem challenging if there's a lack of self-appreciation. Fortunately, you can work on getting better at it. Self-appreciation means acknowledging your positive qualities without being arrogant, overconfident, or belittling others.

Dr. Kristin Neff says self-appreciation is similar to self-compassion. Neff is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the founder of Compassion.org. According to Neff, it's okay to celebrate our admirable qualities in healthy ways.

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Self-esteem relates to your opinions of yourself and is measured on a scale that tests your views on things such as self-adequacy, self-respect, and self-worthiness.

However, many of us have trouble feeling positive about ourselves out of fear, including the fear of being perceived as vain by others.

As you walk this thin line of self-appreciation without offending others, you should begin to feel your confidence level going up. Your perception and language towards yourself will evolve until you no longer say, “Why can't I do anything right?”

#7. Reprogram the way you think

The subconscious mind stores many of the negative beliefs about ourselves and is one reason why we blurt them out without thinking. Reprogramming the subconscious, or shifting your mindset, can help to counteract habitual negative thinking and speech.

One way to achieve this is by testing the validity and truth of self-defeating thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is it true I can't do anything right?”

By now, you should have a list of things you've done right and can use it as evidence to rebut the unhealthy thinking pattern. At best, this strategy is bound to keep your inner critic in check.

Once you've invalidated the unhealthy thought, you can shift your focus back to your task feeling a lot more confident.

World-famous life coach Tony Robbins says you'll know this strategy is working if you’re becoming more self-aware, better at controlling your emotions, and better at stopping negative self-talk.

#8. Set achievable goals

One sure way to frustrate yourself or feel inadequate is by setting impractical goals. I can understand why you or anyone else would feel incapable in the circumstance. While it's okay to push yourself, setting goals that are outside your reach only set you up for failure.

Increase performance, success, and personal satisfaction with goals that are specific, well-defined, and attainable. Identify whether you have the required knowledge, education, skillset, and resources to accomplish them before you set out to do so.

Starting out with a confident and positive mindset also helps increase performance and productivity.

In his Psychology Today article, 7 tips for Setting Achievable Goals, Dr. Shahram Heshmat Ph.D., wrote, “Dropping the frustrating goals allows one to avoid achieving the impossible, and use one’s limited effort and time more effectively.”

#9. Put aside unrealistic expectations

Unrealistic expectations are described as unreasonable, unfair, or impossible. Sometimes the expectation involves people whose actions you cannot control, such as a change in their behavior.

Like impractical goals, unrealistic expectations set you up for frustration and failure. In this case, the unrealistic expectation is expecting to always do everything right. Falling short of what's expected may cause you to have negative emotions and responses.

Perhaps you'll launch into exaggerated speech and say things such as “You see. I never do anything right,” or “I always fail.” It's unfair to you to draw these negative conclusions that can prevent you from living a happy and successful life.

Unrealistic expectations, such as, “I can never make mistakes,” are inflexible. They don't factor in that circumstances may change, and therefore aren't doable in many cases.

#10. Practice mindfulness

If you've put yourself down frequently throughout life for not doing things right, chances are this represents your default way of thinking. Psychologists refer to this as Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT) or routinized thoughts. ANTs are instantaneous and habitual and occur in the subconscious mind. They also affect mood and behavior.

Mindfulness is an effective mindtool used by people and recommended in therapy for promoting healthy thinking patterns. I love practicing mindfulness techniques, especially because they help me catch myself in the moment and avoid self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.

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Mindfulness is an effective mindtool used by people and recommended in therapy for promoting healthy thinking patterns.

If you've never heard about or tried mindfulness before, this powerful mental technique encourages greater self-awareness. With daily practice, you'll get better at spotting self-defeating thoughts and dismissing them before they affect your mood or interfere with performance.

#11. Let go of things outside of your control

Control is rooted in the fear of getting an outcome you didn't bargain for. However, many things are out of your control, which decreases the chance of getting things done the way you or others expect you to. Does this mean you're going to avoid doing them?

They might be tasks that are necessary, such as a job project, school assignment, or a home improvement project. Leaving them undone may attract consequences you may not wish to face.

Therefore, acknowledging where your ability to control the outcome ends allows you to continue the task without expecting perfection. Let go of your attachment to the outcome and enjoy the process.

You may learn things about yourself that can help increase your ability to achieve your goals.

#12. Enlist the help of a mental health professional

Self-esteem impacts your well-being in a big way. Psychologists have established that low self-esteem is linked to habitual negative self-talk and self-sabotaging behaviors. Individuals with low self-esteem often feel ashamed or inadequate and habitually doubt themselves.

Luckily, self-esteem isn't static. It increases and decreases based on life events. Your mental health professional can provide you with tools for boosting how you feel about yourself.

Strategies may include challenging negative thought patterns, including the tendency to exaggerate your flaws. Overhauling your mindset will take time, but it can be achieved.

Therapy may also involve building awareness around your emotions, and showing yourself kindness and compassion. Self-help apps for increasing self-confidence are available and can be used as a supplemental strategy.

If you struggle with anxiety or depression related to feelings of inadequacy, your therapist can help address these challenges during your treatment sessions.

#13. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes

There's no such thing as a perfect person. Even after going through therapy to shift your belief system and improve self-esteem, you'll continue to miss the mark, just like everyone else.

Be gentle with yourself. Show self-compassion by accepting that it's human to err the same way you try to comfort others when they're having a difficult time or failed at something.

Dr. Neff summed it up quite eloquently when she wrote, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

Final Thoughts on Why Can't I Do Anything Right?

Healthy self-esteem is key to having a positive self-image. It will give you the confidence you need to maximize your potential throughout life. It may not come as easy for some than for others, but it can be learned by following the tips we’ve discussed in this article.

Hopefully, you'll leave here with a deeper understanding of why you doubt yourself and how to overcome the “I Can’t Do Anything Right” Mindset. Looking for more inspiration? 11 Steps to Be More Proud of Yourself is another empowering article that's worth a read.

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