Failure Schema

Failure Schema, sometimes called Failure to Achieve Schema, causes us to expect that we will fail at everything we do simply because we feel like we are a failure ourselves.

When experiencing this scheme we are critical of everything we do and highly doubt our capability to do anything. This leads to us developing low self esteem and self worth as we constantly feel we are incompetent of not intelligent enough.

People with the failure schema often describe having a critical voice inside their heads tell them they are just not good enough. This can cause them to then live below their potential which leads to hopelessness and despair. 


Typical Thoughts and Actions

  • Feeling like you have failed 
  • Constantly comparing yourself to others
  • Feeling incapable
  • Lack of self confidence
  • Often feeling unmotivated 

When faced with a challenging situation, an individual with the failure schema will react in one of three ways: surrendering, avoidance and overcompensation. Surrendering involves approaching situations in a casual way as one feels like they will already fail. Even though an individual recognizes the importance of the situation, they still may not give it their all.

Avoidance behaviours involve avoiding any significant issues in one's life. These types of behavioural patterns help individuals avoid the chance of failure. However, they also restrict individuals from experiencing fulfilling events in their lives.

Lastly, overcompensating when facing a challenge involves individuals always working alone so that no one is ever present to witness their failures. With this behaviour, one will work extremely hard to make up for any perceived loss on their part. 



Like most schemas, the failure schema is developed through pivotal influences in our childhood. Most likely an individual was surrounded by people who critiqued them constantly and made them feel as though they could not achieve anything. It is also very likely that these people are primary caregivers.

When we hear these messages so often we then move on to internalize them later on in our adulthood. This can lead to despair and potentially maladaptive coping mechanisms. As the schema can negatively impact our daily lives and relationships, it is thus important to seek help if possible. Schema Therapy at Psychology Blossom is often used to help people cope with maladaptive schemas, including the failure schema. This form of therapy can help individuals alter the mindsets and beliefs that they have learned in the past.