failure without failing


My biggest strategy for survival has always been over-accomplishment, work and achievement. When everything else in life is chaotic, I could rely on my work or study to give me a sense of identity and success. Like all coping strategies, they can be positive but if not kept in check they can become unhealthy. And for me it has moments of becoming very unhealthy.

In schema language apparently I have a strong ‘unrelenting standards’ of primarily myself but sometimes others. Whenever this has come up in therapy- to be honest, I try to brush it aside. The thought of one of my crutches giving way feels too terrifying. But like everything else these things have a way of rearing their head if left alone…

A couple of weeks ago, I ‘failed’ at something. I didn’t pass. I was not accepted. I did not meet the required standard. I was accepted on to the training of being a school inspector, after 3 full on days, I was told I didn’t meet the required standards and wouldn’t be progressing with my training.

images.jpegMy initial reaction was to laugh. I thought this was the funniest thing ever- the training had been pretty shoddy, I didn’t like the trainer and actually the thought of all the extra work it would bring in to my life for very little reimbursement, I felt like I had dodged a bullet. But that was until the shame kicked in…

And stupidly, I didn’t expect the reaction. I know I should have, but I honestly thought my initial hilarity was genuine (and maybe it was) but as I let conscious brain kick in- I crumbled. Oh the shame. I wasn’t good enough. The humiliation of having to tell people/ my staff that I hadn’t passed and my colleague had. I passed my Masters assignment but anyone can do that, this was a failure in my profession. Maybe I shouldn’t be a Head. I’ve been found out. Someone has sussed that I don’t know what I’m doing. I need to resign. I just crumbled.

Unknown.jpegI went to DBT with tears already flowing while waiting in the car outside. Penelope’s reaction… “good… I’m pleased you failed.” AND SHE MEANT IT… I was in pieces, she was  laughing! And that was exactly what I needed to hear. A lot of the work I do in therapy is opposite action and de-sensitisation therapy. And the route to being released from unrelenting standards is to feel the pain of failure and knowing that it doesn’t define me. Boy, its blooming hard! But I persist. This blog post is one step in that process.





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