One of the most difficult things to do in life is to admit that you are wrong. The only thing more difficult than admitting it to yourself, is admitting it to everyone else. At the point that you admit it, you must own it (and all of the fallout from it). In so doing, you are taking the first step toward ensuring it no longer owns you.
Here’s a funny story that prompted me to write this article:
There were a few of us at a Christmas Party last December discussing music. We started throwing out 80’s and 90’s music trivia. I asked a question about Loverboy and Nirvana that stumped everyone. Being a bit unsure of myself after getting some questioning looks from the guys, I Googled the answer on my way home…It turns out I was completely wrong.
Here’s the rub: I had heard this misinformation on a VH-1 “Where are they Now” show a few days prior. I believed it to be true. I went out into the world repeating it as though it were an undeniable fact. What should I do?
When presented with information that contradicts your understanding of something, you have an important choice to make: You can choose to ignore this new information and hope that no one calls you out on it, or change the way you see the world.
This example is trivial, but instructional. While seemingly insignificant, my response to this incident reflects how I will likely respond to other situations where I encounter bad information.
I spent several years of my life powerless to get out from under the crushing weight of guilt. This guilt was the result of mistakes I had made that destroyed my life and threatened to ruin the lives of those around me. We’re talking big stuff here: I lost my business, had my bank accounts garnished, nearly lost my house and found myself indebted to the IRS for nearly half a million dollars. Because I refused to accept MY part in this, my credibility with business partners dissolved and my marriage fell apart.
It was not until I had lost my money, my family, my reputation and my self-respect that I began reconsidering the situation. What happened was the result of my own actions and not a fiendish plan by the universe to destroy me. Moreover, I began to consider how my denial was not one big denial but the accumulation of miniature denials that were reinforced daily.
The patches of denial I used to cover up my shortcomings became a quilt. I stitched these patches together each time I repeated them. But this security blanket was actually a straight-jacket. The comfort it provided was illusory in the way that you feel warm the moment you wet the bed.
Casting off this wet blanket exposed me to the cold reality that I was all alone in this mythology I had created. Moving forward would require that I accept what I had spent years denying. What’s more, I would need to adopt a personal policy of daily accountability.
Every day is a test of my resolve to maintain this policy. I still find myself struggling at times when I am tired or stressed. But I am aware of the triggers and I make it a point to call myself out whenever I feel I am stretching the truth of a situation.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my ladybird for helping me face my fears. Together, we share in each other’s adventure and take comfort in not having to be perfect. We learn and grow together through our successes and setbacks. It draws me closer to her knowing that she accepts me, warts and all.
Looking back, I am proud of the way I handled the trivia matter. The Monday following the party I returned to work, stood up in front of the group and announced to everyone that I was wrong. This was a great reminder to maintain a constant vigil against self deception.
Isn’t it hard to believe that Nirvana never had a #1 song?