Last week, I made one of those really big errors, mistakes, blunders whatever you want to call the moment when you make such a big mistake that you are red in the face, full of shame and just all around mortified. Yes, those kind of mistakes. I had what sounded like a very nice potential client call me up and interview me to see if I was the right fit. It was a really good interview insofar as the person asked really good questions--really thoughtful. About a week later I got a call from the potential client requesting an appointment. I was really excited and eager to begin work with this person, who, incidentally, had never been in therapy before. It was a big deal.
Fast forward to last Friday and I am in my car about to go out when I see a text asking where I was. The person was at my office, text was at 2:00 (the appointment time) and it was 2:12! I pulled over and texted immediately. No response. I left a voice message, full of apology and asked for a call back. No response. I drove to the office (there at 2:20) and hoped that the client was there. Empty. I left one more message, and said I was happy to give a complimentary appointment but completely understood if the person was not comfortable seeing me. I think (though honestly I cannot be certain), that I even said I would be happy to give a referral. No response.
I have no idea what happened. Did I fail to put the appointment in my calendar? Did technology fail me (which it has in the past, by the way)? I don't know. What I do know is that I failed this person, and I am very sorry for it. So now what? Is this post just a confessional? No. The point is this. We have all failed. We will fail again. I think I have done this once before in 25 years and I sincerely hope I never do again, but if I do I have a choice to make. I can go into toxic shame ("Oh I'm so awful, I am the worst, I've ruined this person's life"--grandiosity for sure!--"I should just stop doing this...") or I can own what I did, try to make amends and then move on and learn from my failing. Was I shaken up? Most definitely. But I did what I could to repair it, I didn't get to have a happy ending and make it up to this person, but I did my part and I had to let it go.
So many of my younger clients are absolutely paralyzed by the fear of failing, of disappointing someone, of trying something new or difficult, or of being vulnerable and getting hurt. I get it. But here's the thing. You WILL make mistakes, and sometimes you will fail miserably. But, if you don't try, if you don't put yourself out there, if you don't push yourself you will not really live. You will be safe, but you will wither. Does failing, or disappointing, or getting hurt, or taking a risk and it didn't work out--does it hurt? So much! But you fail, you pick yourself up, you take responsibility for your part and yours alone, and you get right back up and try again. And, after all is said and done, you really, really do have to let it go.