“You’re never going to amount to anything, you dropped out of school like your parents. Try getting a job mopping a floor or something…” –Anonymous adult
“Why waste your time looking at them (college brochures), wouldn’t it make more sense to go get an application from (local gas station) instead? They always need someone to pump gas…”- Guidance Counselor.
“Ok, so you’re in college now but you’ll never graduate, people like you come and go all the time but NEVER make it. Why waste your time. We need people to work at (international fast food chain). Just accept what you are…” – “Mentor.”
“I wish you luck because frankly, I doubt you’ll make it six months”- City Economic Development Director.
So often we talk to folks who are feeling beaten down and defeated. Sometimes they are defeated due to a series of bad choices but other times they are defeated due to lack of support or lack of knowledge of options available to them. It’s one thing when lack of encouragement comes from random people but when it comes from folks who are supposed to be experts, it can have an ever damning effect. The quotes above were all offered to this writer over the course of time. Thankfully they did not bring defeat but one has to wonder how life might have been had I listened to the experts and simply given up.
It’s easy to discount a person who is statistically speaking, just another statistic. It’s easy to be negative when you see someone that has been dealt another bad blow but how have we as clinicians assisted someone by simply giving more negativity to a negative situation? Each one of the above comments could have been given in a more constructive manner. Perhaps if they had said something akin to “You’ve told me that both your parents dropped out of school and that they struggle every day to pay the rent and buy groceries. If you want a life that is different, wouldn’t it make more sense to go back to school or learn a trade? If you’re interested I can tell you how to do It.” or “You know, you can look at the college brochures but you need to also think about how your grades today are going to affect your chances of getting into many of them. Why don’t we set up a time to talk, go over some of your choices and help design a plan to get your grades up and build your student resume to help increase the likelihood of getting accepted?”
A few kind words of encouragement can and often do make a great deal of difference. For some of our clients having someone that believes in them is different; it may even be the first time that they have ever experienced it. By eliminating the unknown and replacing it with the knowledge that they are not alone and that there is at least one other person that believes in them we have possibly lit a fire that will start them on a journey of discovery and growth.
While some folks have limitations that may impact their abilities, we can nourish them and encourage them to explore areas that heretofore may have been ignored or seen as impossible. For this writer it happened when someone pointed out that poor people could get loans for education. Until then I thought that only the rich could get an education. This little nugget of information lead to many degrees and a successful career of helping others. It cost the person who shared it nothing while it gave me a new hope and direction in life.
The same goes for those of you who are considering opening a private practice or not for profit. Around the time that I was finishing my contribution on the second counseling text that I have contributed to (this one was on designing a private practice) I approached the city economic development director with my vision of the not for profit I had founded. I had hoped that it would lead to city contacts and possible funding but instead it lead to another in a line of rejections. Little did he know that I had learned long ago to ignore the negativity and pressed on. Without the support of the town I along with key members of my family set about opening a program that focused on people not profits and quality of care over quantity. Starting with seven thousand dollars in the form of a personal loan, it has grown to two locations (one that is a therapeutic farm that eventually will have about 7500 square ft of programming space in its main building).
Eventually the town did offer funds, which we declined and relocated to another town instead. Though I’ve often wondered what the program may have looked like had the expert shown interest at the beginning, I truly believe our destiny was to add a program in another town anyway.
So as you contemplate change, listen to what the experts have to say but only own what is yours. Experts are not always correct and only you know what you can accomplish if you really want to, have your mind and heart set to do and are not afraid to act. Do your homework but seek out that dream. Trust me, I’m and expert in the area. ;)
"Doc Warren" Corson III is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.docwarren.org).