Rewrite the Stars

It’s not impossible.

But it feels impossible.

Tell me that it’s possible?

Ok, so I may have watched The Greatest Showman a little too much!!

But it gives me the start to a subject I want to write about and that is thinking about success.

So a distinct attribute that seems common in the profile of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is the fear of failure.

This can present in so many ways such as the inability to engage, to use avoidance tactics and even to go so far as cheating to control the ability to win.

Trying to process emotions like disappointment, failure or rejection could also be at the root of this difficulty – especially if it feels impossible to succeed.

I remember reading from a PDA adult in the PDA by PDAers book (link here) about how they started walking on their own terms, but dropped to the floor when anyone entered the room so that nobody saw them try.

Funnily enough that story resonated with me because my daughter did something very similar.

As a baby she would take steps until she saw you were there and stop what she was doing.

She wouldn’t try in front of people in case anyone saw her fall but when I left the room I knew she was moving around the furniture and taking steps unaided.

Or if you called her to come to you she would freeze and give you this death stare (we joked with family at the time that it was like Damien from Only Fools and Horses), however it must have really been a look of panic.

Photographic evidence of the Damian stare!

I’m pretty certain she could walk for four months before she ‘officially’ took her first steps.

She was so proficient at walking in fact that she started running around the same time.

It didn’t make sense – I was baffled because a child who starts to find their feet can’t suddenly run straight away.

She seemed like she was always holding back but I couldn’t understand why.

Those moments, when she seemed impassive as an infant, she was delaying the milestones that she was physically capable of hitting, due to her innate fear of failure.

This just steadily progressed the older and more socially astute she became, debilitating her from trying most ordinary things, that I know she would have no problem completing and disabling her chances of success.

Recently, I’ve noticed a huge change in so many developmental areas that it seems to have all happened simultaneously.

Talking with someone knowledgeable about this, she identified the fact that sometimes children need a few positives to happen, so that their confidence grows to simply have a go, regardless if they fail.

The stars often get written for children, who not only have a fear of failure ingrained in their psyche, but who only ever experience negative experiences.

So how do we change that from happening?

We need to find pocketfuls of success so that it gives them the reassurance to try at things regardless if they don’t succeed.

My daughter has had a go at so many new things, which she was fearing trying, that it seems like she is flooring some of the expectations we had previously.

She is now trying to read – not because I’m forcing her to do it, but because she suddenly feels able to have a go.

Last term she stood in front of strangers and completed her investment for Beavers – deeply worried if she could repeat the words publicly but tried because she felt able to have a go.

And in gymnastics and swimming she has leapt ahead of some of her peers – those that she was previously lagging behind because, again, out of nowhere she is becoming less frightened and able to have a go.

I guess the most notable change is that she has been working alongside her peers, in a classroom environment, because she has felt able to be there.

There are so many more examples that I could find where progress seems to have happened overnight but I think you will get the picture.

Having a go has paid off and it is means she is achieving so much – something that is really boosting her morale.

As a quick aside, despite these recent successes, we are still living an extremely explosive home life of late, which is important to note otherwise the recent positives wouldn’t give a true picture of what is going on.

I feel that I can’t gloss over that part as it is likely to be the same for so many other families who take the time to read these posts and would not give a true reflection of our lives.

But despite the coke-can effect that is always exploding at home, we are seeing physical and educational development improving in her capabilities, which likewise are also evolving at an even faster rate.

Things I dared to believe would be possible.

To quote the lyrics of the song from which I’ve stole for the title of this post, it seemed there were too many mountains, too many doors that she seemed unable to just walk through.

Not only is the fear of failure part of her condition but it is also the life experiences she has had that has set the stars into place.

You can’t continually exclude a child and expect that it won’t affect their self-esteem and I just hope that schools could be held more accountable for their excessive use of exclusions on SEND pupils as it truly affects lives.

Also, in our case, the family broke down because we buckled from the pressure-cooker life we were living in and from the unforgiving system that seemed to consume us.

Something, no doubt, my daughter has also internalised as personal failure adding to her bank of pessimistic memories.

However, the momentum is beginning to change.

It seems to have a cumulative effect – the positive experiences are beginning to erase some of those overwhelming negative ones.

It seems that the memories, which are beginning to store from positive moments, are now enabling my daughter to triumph.

Triumph, in areas she spent so long avoiding trying because it was inbuilt in her that she might fail.

Attempting to try comes with confidence.

And it is learnt by experiencing success.

We can rewrite the stars as parents, we just need to be constant, supportive and patient along the way to enable that to happen.


  1. Wildwood Post

    Hooray! I’m so happy for your girl and her strides. How wonderful to have great parents that get her. Congratulations! Rock on!

    1. PDA Parenting

      Ahh thank you so much for taking the time to comment, sometimes just such small steps, but in our world they are massive leaps! X

  2. Tracey

    I’m sure there will still be difficulties ahead but I’m so proud of your amazing daughter. She does have so many strengths and talents. Let’s hope there a a lot more positives to come. Love and hugs to you all, as ever you are all an inspiration to me xx

  3. gillywilly

    Thanks for sharing. It resonates with me absolutely. Although my interest in PDA is predominantly because my daughter (now 19), who exhibits many (though not all) of the characteristics, it also rings true of me also. I have always said I fear nothing except failure (and money!) – and only felt able to have a go at things that were considered difficult or outside the norm, and as such held no expectations (eg abseiling, walking on burning coals, being a life model, swimming in 5 deg C water, creating a 13′ mermaid out of chicken wire…). I cannot bear for anyone watching me having a go at things were the expectation is that I will – ‘should’ – achieve. (For what it’s worth, I was mute as a child – though can talk for England, now! – and have diagnoses of Adult ADHD and dyspraxia. But I do score highly on ASD scales, and relate to almost everything written in ‘PDA by PDAers’.)

    Good luck with your daughter – you sound like you’re doing a great job as a mother! <3

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