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  • Carey PW

When I Fail


Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

One of my favorite qualities is my empathy. I am not afraid to approach the emotions of other people. In fact, I embrace it. There is nothing more beautiful to me than sitting and feeling with another person. In those moments, I can feel the person’s emotions flowing into me. Their sadness hangs heavy on my shoulders, and their pain is felt in the tightening sensation of my heart. Sometimes, these phenomena continue for hours or even days later. These experiences help me feel connected to others, and this is when I feel like I have succeeded with someone.


But sometimes, I feel like I fail people. Of course, this is not necessarily true, but inside, I feel like I failed them. That feeling is accompanied with helplessness. Consequently, I end up questioning myself, my values, and my choices. I see myself as a helper.


So who am I if I can’t help?


Failure is a thread that is interwoven throughout the daily tasks of my life. As I am writing this blog, a heavy overwhelming sense of failure looms. So what triggers this feeling?


I have worked in education since 2004, and from the first year, I knew that there were many factors outside my control. To make it in this field, I have had to learn to accept this. But then I grade students’ papers, and they’re not citing. Their sentences are incomplete. Others didn’t turn the paper in. They didn’t follow the assignment instructions. They never asked for help.


Why didn’t they reach out to me? Why can’t I teach them how to write? Why am I so ineffective?


I feel that by enforcing deadlines and standards that I am preparing my students either for work or for continuing their education. Am I being too hard? I have heard some people refer to me as a hard teacher. I used to consider this a compliment because I always valued setting high standards for my students. But after 18 years, I’m questioning myself.


Is it the student who failed? Or did I fail him/her/them?


Sometimes, I am just exhausted from the battle.


I started counseling in 2020. Working with clients has been more rewarding than I ever imagined. I savor the precious moments that I can share an emotional, authentic connection with clients. I see clients improve. I see clients find joy. Even better, I see them find their confidence. But then there’s the times that I don’t know what to say. Times when I question if anything I do is helping. When clients experience crisis, I don’t know if I am doing enough. I don’t need to save them. I just want to support them effectively, and I want it to be genuine.


I don’t need anyone to remind me that I can’t be fully responsible for others. I know this. I don’t need someone to suggest that I change this or that. I don’t need fixing. The failure part of me motivates me to continue striving for better. At the same time, I hate being the failure part of me. But life isn’t always about perpetual positive feeling states.


How would I know success without failure?


I set high standards for myself, which has contributed to a great deal of success in my life but has also tormented me significantly. I struggle to find the balance sometimes. I hope that others can connect with the failure part of themselves as they read this article. Because if I need anything, I just need to know that I am not alone.

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