Failure (ish) – Beauty in the Breakdown Pt. 1

Last Monday I took the NCMHCE (National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam) for the second time. Last Monday I also failed it for the second time. Ouch. I know. Not only did I study literallydaily for three months—a miracle in and of itself as I am a chronic procrastinator and rarely study for stuff—BUT; I shelled out some serious cash twice to take the rugged thing. If I were going into the counseling business to make money, I would surely have pursued the licensure/testing realm of it instead of the practitioner side of it. Those people must make serious bank.  


– Winston Churchill

All of this aside, perhaps the most humiliating part of the experience is that people want to know how I did, friends and colleagues alike. These are people I admire, and who actually like me and are interested in me too—well, maybe. Talk about a tragic and shameful ego splattering all over the kitchen floor. Upon receiving the heartless print out reading “FAIL” across the top, I said some choice words loudly (sorry Mom), and bawled my eyes out all the way from that sterile, fluorescent-lit lobby in Brentwood to the dark side of the covers on my bed. Yep, I was going under. Even as I sit writing these words I realize God’s wry sense of humor, thinking back to my last blog that oozed of Self-Compassion. Self-What?  Yeah, not that day.  The screwtape sessions of my inner dialog sliced up any shred of kindness or understanding they could find.  

If you sense a bit of drama here and immediately think of those infomercials where they take a minuscule rash or burn and blow it up like a blimp to show how well their magical product works for dramatic effect, well, you might be onto something. As I’ve gotten a bit of space from that fragile state, I realize perspective gently sheds light on what is really true and important. So, if you can in any way identify with my experience, I ask you to put yourself in my shoes and think about how a similar experience of your own might have felt.  

What is failure anyway? And who holds the failure stick to determine if we pass go and proceed to Space Mountain or if we’re stuck with Grandma slowly getting dizzy on It’s a Small World? (Is it just me or was that ride strangely disturbing for anyone?). Seriously though, are we damned to failure every time we don’t meet a set of perceived expectations?  

Perhaps, if we are curious enough, we’ll find an open window letting in the light to more truth and opportunity on the other side of the fall?  

I know, I know, as my five-year-old behavior models, it is a far cry (no pun intended) to act out of a grounded self-awareness when we sit in the hot seat of our painful rejection. What I have learned is when we are triggered emotionally—just as I was after my test bomb—a fiery signal originates in the amygdala, the primal/survival part of our brain, and sends all kinds of emotions rushing through our bodies. Unfortunately, we hasten to make paralyzing self-judgments based on a surge of hormonal energy coursing through our bodies. 

Without making this an anatomy lesson I am unqualified to give, I want to leave you with some homework. For now, I want you to consider one simple word as you go about your days. Don’t overthink it or analyze it…just consider it. Your word is curiosity

What comes up for you when you notice that word? Intrigue, familiarity, enjoyment, frustration? Whatever it is…I believe it is important. Curiosity has been powerful for me this year in that it shifts me away from harsh judgment and nudges me toward empathy and openness. 

Try it on for size and let me know how it fits…