By Lisa Caplan

I often hear from my clients that they have let themselves down or have failed, and don’t want to try again because they might fail again. Reframing how we look at “failure” helps us feel better about ourselves and be more successful. If you are afraid to fail, then you might as well give up before you even begin, because the only people who don’t make mistakes are those who don’t do anything. How you handle mistakes is more important, and it only becomes a “failure” if you stop trying until you succeed. Taking risk and believing in yourself will not only help build your self-esteem, but can also lead to success in life.

To help you put this in perspective, here are a few extremely successful people who failed before they became successful:

  • Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He continued to fail several more times before he was successful.
  • Oprah Winfrey was publicly fired from her first television job as an anchor in Baltimore for getting “too emotionally invested in her stories.”

And the list goes on and on.

Steps To Being Successful And Feeling Good About Yourself

  1. Ask yourself what you want in life. If you don’t ask yourself this question, then you won’t know what steps to take to get there. Break it down. Look at short and long-term goals. Come up with steps you need to get there. Do not overwhelm yourself; pick one goal and then determine what is your first step.
  2. Live with intent. Don’t just get caught up in life. Make sure you know why you are doing what you are doing. Actively ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
  3. See the forest through the trees. Ask yourself, what is the big picture? What are you trying to accomplish? If you know what you want to accomplish, then you can build a plan and develop steps to help you accomplish your goal.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. How we speak to ourselves has a huge impact on our self-worth and therefore our courage to try new things. Think of how you would speak to a friend trying to accomplish something new. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say, “you will never succeed”, “you’re not smart enough,” or “you will just fail again.” If you speak to your friends like this, you wouldn’t have too many friends. Often, this is how we speak to ourselves. We can be very harsh and critical, and this is very damaging. So, the next time you are “talking” to yourself think, “how would I talk to a friend?”
  5. Be prepared to fail. Failing is how you learn; improve and then move forward differently. Look at failing as part of the process, and not as something negative.
  6. Don’t forget about self-care. Self-care is important in every aspect of your life. If you aren’t taking care of yourself it will catch up with you and you won’t be able to take care of anything or anyone else. Self-care can include: exercise, eating healthy, decompressing, healthy sleep habits, family time, etc.
  7. Take a healthy risk. Playing it safe usually won’t get you too far. Take a risk and put yourself out there. Discuss your ideas with people you trust, do your research and go for it.
  8. Get an objective perspective. Call your Lawyer Assistance Program to discuss your idea, stay grounded and decrease your stress.

For assistance, please contact the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling. We have a network of counselors throughout Maryland. Jim Quinn, Lawyer Assistance Director, (443) 703-3041,; Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, Associate Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program, (443) 703-3042, 24/7 Toll Free 1(888) 388-5459.


Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C has over 20 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and trauma.