When Incompatibility Feels Like Failure

When my son was younger and was forced into being my stylist went shopping with me, he would often comment on the outfits I chose. He would tell me that they looked good, that they looked bad, or that they “looked okay, but not great.”

Circa 1999,wearing a dress too tight, as hirt too big and holding the hand of a boy that was just right.
Circa 1999, I’m wearing a dress that was too tight, a shirt that was too loose and holding the hand of a boy that was just right.

We’ve all done it, right? Tried on a dress, skirt, slacks, jacket, whatever, and found that no matter how much we liked the item, it just didn’t fit right. It was too tight across the shoulders, too loose in the waist, too short, too tight in the hips or just plain didn’t look as good on our bodies as it had on the hangar. Depending on the cuteness factor of the item, we might mope about it for a bit, then we put it back and move on. We didn’t fail and we didn’t feel like we did – the thing just didn’t fit.

Jobs and relationships can be just as ill-fitting; however, it’s much easier to view those instances as failures of effort or character rather than just failures of compatibility.  So what makes incompatibility feel like failure for me?

I think that it is the amount of time, energy and/or expectation I have invested in it.

I have written repeatedly about my job, about its difficulty and about how much I believe in its value proposition. I have worked ridiculously hard educating myself, meeting people, talking about what I do and how it could benefit them. I’m not getting anywhere. For weeks, I have heard the “Failure Chorus” in my head non-stop. (For those of you unfamiliar, it’s similar to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” but in a minor key and sounding more like something by James MacMillan.) My colleagues have told me time and again that the industry is not for everyone. They’ve also told me what a great personality I have (I pay them handsomely) and how I’m sure to be a success. It’s not happening and I feel like I’m failing all of their expectations as well as my own. I am having a very hard time accepting that my failure may be the result of a gaping waistband – it’s a bad fit.

During this same period of time, my romantic relationship has come apart. (At this point, the “Failure Chorus” is performed in a round, a lugubrious campfire song.) I’ve been hurting and wanting someone to blame. First I blamed him. Then, I blamed myself. Then, I went back to blaming him on account of it’s more fun than blaming myself. I’m not a complete loser who’s more trouble than she’s worth. He’s not a bad man. The shoulders are a little too tight – it’s another bad fit.

Still, I have invested a great deal of my heart into both ventures and their simultaneous demise has thrown me for a loop – or (more accurately) into a tailspin, as you might have gathered from several recent articles. Given my lifetime of negative mental recordings and the elephantine amounts of head trash I carry around, I’ve taken both failures to be the result of some deficiency in my own character rather than what they really are – poor fits. I must put them back on the rack, let them go and find things that fit.

I hate shopping.


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