I wear a spangled skin of hate,
A sheath of strong and cold bravado.
It’s not the girl I really am
But earthquakes brew within my core
And so I know that acting is
The only way to swim through pain.
Sticking to this rule of thumb
Will always mean I glide through life
And dodge the ache of failing you.
I sat in a Year 10 class today and it shocked me quite deeply. It was a lower set class and we were looking at poetry in their anthologies so I knew that it would be a bit of an uphill slog. The teacher told me that we would be lucky to get each of them to write a paragraph in the hour and a half that we had available.
Still, I sat down and watched while still holding onto a little bit of hope. It was snatched away from me within about five minutes.
I was seated next to a 15 year old girl who in her own words said “I only have one brain cell in my head so I won’t be able to do this.” At first this would have really angered me and made me think she was just lazy, but as I carried on watching the lesson, my opinion changed.
This young girl was fairly obsessed with the way she looked and she put on a voice that made her sound about five. And I realised that it was really all an act. She had learnt that she was ‘thick’ and would never amount to much and putting on this persona protected her from the pain she would feel if she actually showed that she cared and then failed.
And when I started to see this, my heart broke for her. I wondered who had told her that she only had one brain cell; whether it was a teacher or a parent? If anything, it made me angry at the people who had conditioned her to feel this. I could see past her bad behaviour, and what I saw was a really horrible back story.
I then started to think about all of the times that I may have done the same thing. It’s always done subconsciously, as I think was the case with this girl. I just sometimes feel safer, destroying my chances rather than watch myself try properly and fail.
I thought of all those times that I’d gotten myself stressed and signed off from work, and every time that I had handed in my notice because I thought that my boss hated me. Who knows where I would be if I hadn’t self sabotaged every time things got tough?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be in class with that girl again, but I hope that somebody steps in one day soon and tells her that she has lots to offer the world. She doesn’t need to hide behind that ditzy persona because she can take on the world, just like everyone else.
4 thoughts on “i’m scared that i won’t be able to do it…..so i’ll put on an act so that it’s ok to fail”
Negative conditioning leading to self-destruction of one’s aims and of owning opportunities. It makes awful sense. When I’ve worked with teens and said good things to or about them, I often found that this was the only encouragement they received. Which is not to say what a good boy am I but to say we have them for a little while. Who’s been ruining them, big time? I’m glad and relieved you’re perceiving so much about younger people, and I imagine what you see can happen at most ages.
As usual, I could identify… though more with the girl. My mother perpetually put me down (I was slow, I was thick, I was retarded). Imagine my surprise when, without trying, I flew through the 11+ (yes, I am that old). My mother in disbelief went to see the headmaster. And that was my turning point. Thereafter, everything she’d said, or would say, I took as a lie.
It’s weird how the fear of failing stays with you as an adult. I wrote recently about my struggle to set goals, even as (or perhaps especially as) an adult, because not achieving a goal sounds like failing, and failing sounds scary
Failing is so scary but so necessary!