In the course of any choice-making process, whether its regarding career, relationship, health, finances – you name it, there is that underlying whisper gnawing at you taking that first step, or even the 59th step: “What if I’m WRONG?” Do you know what I’m talking about?
This past month I had a difference of opinion with an associate of mine. The conversation, as far as it went, didn’t satisfy my sense that we would be working this out in a way that would rebuild lost trust and connection. I severed the tie, I burnt the bridge and said goodbye. Then, self-doubt arose; what if I’m mistaken? What if the way I’m perceiving this is wrong? What if he comes to decide that I, Dr. Rosie, am not all that kind and compassionate stuff I seem to be?
For the majority of my life I’ve made thousands of choices in service to avoiding this question. To be wrong can feel catastrophic to that part that only has ONE interpretation of what it means to be wrong: I’ll be HUMILIATED!
Now, this part that fears humiliation is normally a very one part of each of us, who has been shamed, guilted and embarrassed. I don’t know if you remember what that feels like – that first conscious experience of being wrong, but basically, it’s unbearable and something to be avoided at all cost.
Many time I’ve stayed in relationships and in jobs, in locations etc, far too long, just to avoid the possibility that my choice may be the wrong choice and the consequences would be unbearable! At some point though, suffering the consequences of being wrong outweighed the staying; the scales were tipped and, well, I took that first step not knowing if I would survive.
Survive I did, yet, I’ve never gotten completely comfortable with making those choices that creates separation from another person. There’s always two sides to the story and distinguishing the who’s right and who’s wrong always gives me the heebie-jeebies. One of us is going to fall short in this conversation, one of us will be the bad guy, one of us will have to eat crow – you get the picture. In my first marriage, to avoid these conversations and the potential anger from my husband (fear of anger is right up there with fear of being wrong), I’d capitulate, I configured in my head how I was WRONG, I said I was sorry and the whole conversation would get dropped. I saved us both from long heated battles. That was how I avoided vulnerability. That may sound backwards, but sometimes that’s what we do.
Taking the Leap
Today, taking that leap by saying goodbye to this individual, I still feel that vulnerability to the potential consequences of being wrong about him or the circumstances. However, this time I’m willing to risk the consequences, feeling the vulnerability – actually being vulnerable to . . . .
When we make choices about what we want to do with our lives, our jobs, careers, etc, so often that questions what if I’m wrong hold us hostage.
Even now that feeling of being wrong is excruciating. I hate feeling the piercing emptiness, the blow of defeat to my ego. However, weighing this possibility against the integrity and dignity of being me, makes me step into my life with a straighter backbone, with more courage to face the possibility that I may be wrong, and if I am, I know that I’ll be learning something from the situation.
I’ve come to understand that it’s the learning that’s more valuable than maintaining safety from making mistakes.