What to do When Others Want You to Fail

Life is hard. Becoming the person you want to be is difficult. Rising up at work can be arduous. Learning a new skill sometimes feels impossible. All things of worth in life take hard work and determination. But something fewer of us are prepared for are the obstacles other people pose in our life journey. How do we deal with discouraging people? Even worse, what do we do about people who want us to fail?

how to deal with people who want you to fail

There will be people you encounter in your life that do not want you to succeed. You’ve likely experienced this before. It could have been at work or even in school. These types of people either directly or indirectly shake your confidence. I’ll explore what to do when others want us to fail. I find that there is a spectrum these toxic people fall on.

The Extreme Naysayer (Troll)

On one end you have the overtly malicious roadblock of a person. They intentionally set out to disrupt people’s success. They’ll make hurtful comments. They criticize without offering anything constructive. They’re the trolls of the real world.

These people are easy for us to tune out. They’re so outlandish and rude that we can easily identify their cruel intentions. We can often even laugh at it.

An extreme person like this expresses their insecurity to the world loudly. I can’t imagine the type of issues they have that make them so nasty and malicious.

The Subtle Discourager

On the other end of the toxic spectrum is the much more subtle attacker. They may not even be fully aware of their actions, but for some sense of insecurity their actions can harm our confidence. They may not consciously want others to fail, but subconsciously they encourage doubt. 

They plant seeds of doubt with backhanded compliments such as “You sure do a great job of making everyone else look bad.” Or they argue with every suggestion or answer you give, only to distract you. These types, in my opinion, are the most dangerous kind because they are harder to detect, which makes them far more convincing.

These types are far more common than the outwardly maleficent troll. Their actions are more normalized and therefore they camouflage well in their environment.

Because they are not so outlandish, they attract friends. they can easily infect a group of people by turning them against others. Their action are contagious in workplaces and school settings.

What do we do if our friends want us to fail?

Life is so much more difficult if these negative influences exist in your friend group. If your “friends” pose a threat to your success, it is imperative that you re-evaluate who your true friends are. A friend should never actively or passively hope for another’s failure.

Confrontation is so hard, especially if your are an introvert like me. If you feel someone is discouraging you, consider talking to them about it before just cutting them out. I like to make lists, so before I have any major conversation with someone I’ll write out everything on my brain. From there I’ll trim down my list to my main concerns and go over the dialogue in my head. Once I feel more comfortable with what I’m about to say (which by the way I will never feel 100 percent comfortable with) I’ll initiate a conversation.

I’m the type of person to give people the benefit of the doubt. They may not be aware how their actions affect you. You could possibly present a moment of growth for them. It will be awkward at first, but if they want to be a friend, in the end they will try to do what’s best for you.

If they don’t listen or don’t care, cut them out. It’s hard at first to cut people out, but in the end it is worth it. You deserve it.

How to deal with Family who wants you to fail?

Toxic family members really complicate matters. For many, family structure makes it increasingly difficult to cut them out. This is especially true if they are in the immediate family.

You become stuck between loving them because they are family, and struggling because their actions and words seek to shake your confidence.

I suggest as much as possible limiting your exposure, at least until you are in a mental space to block out their comments while being around them. Holidays and family gatherings can be the exception. However, don’t forget that it’s ultimately your life so you don’t need to explain yourself if you need to separate from unhealthy people.

It’s your life, not theirs

In the moment it’s hard to remember, but your path is your path. Don’t let people discourage you. Every chapter of your life will have these people unfortunately. Make sure to minimize contact. This is your journey. Not theirs.

Their commentary is meaningless without your endorsement.

What if you are obstructing other’s paths to success?

What do you do if  you want others to fail? Consider how you treat your friends. Ask yourself, do I discourage my friends, family, or peers either consciously or unconsciously? Do my remarks hinder their path or do I support them and encourage their growth?

If you are holding people back, evaluate why you may be doing so. Often from our own insecurities we act in ways that we aren’t proud of.

If this is you in any form, don’t fret. You can always learn and grow. As long as you can identify your faults and make the steps to improve. Instead of focusing on other people’s lives, keep yourself on track by keeping your mind on yours.

We can still look to others for inspiration, but do not envy their success. We can’t know the difficulties they faced to get to where they are now.


To wrap it up with a neat little bow: There will be people who root against your success at every chapter in your life. It’s hard to deal with people who want us to fail. Pay these type of people no mind, though. It’s your journey, not theirs. Limit your contact with them to only what is absolutely necessary. Stay strong in yourself. Their passive aggressive and even aggressive comments come from deeply rooted insecurity. Have empathy for them, because whatever makes them act that way must be really tough to deal with. 

Stay true to you. Create your path to success.

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