Fear of Failure: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bombing

This week has been a series of small failures in the work I do with the young adults in our transition program.

Me: Good morning, John.  How’s it going?

John: Just shut up.

 Me: I am trying to understand you, Jack.

Jack: Well you don’t, so try harder.

Jim: I really see no need for this session, or for talking to you.  I’m out.

Me: Oh.

These moments of rejection and criticism are hard for me.  I feel ineffectual, defeated, useless and dismissed.  The work I do with individuals with ASDs centers around building authentic connections with those for whom establishing a trusting, reciprocal relationship is challenging.   Connectedness is my barometer for success and by all measures, this week was a failure for me. 

 As I reached out to the guys in our program, they resoundingly said, “No thanks.” 

Much as I hate to admit it, this is not an uncommon occurrence.  The process of learning to trust, to connect, and to accept oneself is a lifelong one for us all, made all the more difficult for those with developmental disabilities.  For every earnest gesture of goodwill and camaraderie accepted and possibly even returned, there are countless attempts that are ignored, misinterpreted or simply unwanted.  It is a success rate similar to baseball batters and struggling comics.

So what keeps the batter coming back to the plate, the comic back to the stage, or in my case, the counselor coming back to the couch?  I believe that in every case it is the hope for greatness – for that transcendent moment when everything seems to fall into alignment – the triple to deep right or the audience in hysterics.  For me, that hope comes from knowing that one failed attempt does not make my work or me a failure.  For me, those moments are the unbelievably liberating feeling of being in sync with another, of sharing time, if only a minute, and sharing space, if only a glance, and feeling absolutely understood and understanding.   

 I had such a moment only a few hours ago, and it has transformed my week.  I will, of course, bomb again in my attempts to connect, many, many times over.  But the beauty of that moment, and others like it, has eased my fear of failure and reluctance to try.  With hope comes confidence that my efforts have meaning and that success is only one good “good morning” away.


One Comment on “Fear of Failure: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bombing

  1. A headmaster I know uses the baseball analogy regularly to help parents put a “bad” experience into perspective. “It’s just one inning,” he might say about a challenging experience of a student with a teacher. “A great hitter still gets out 7 out of 10 times,” he might say. I think the process of learning to accept failure, setback, frustration, and “not knowing” is a lifelong process. As Beth implies, the triple to deep right can be a transcendent moment–but what allows us to appreciate those moments is being able to tolerate life when those moments aren’t happening. Thanks for this post.

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