She was not the only client over the last two weeks who shared their continued realization that they were frozen in fear and guilt.
Many of us have been in a blissful ignorance that our behavior is typically fair and just and that mistakes are the exception.
Over the last few weeks, more and more of the white people I speak to are staring their mistakes in the face and finding it hard to squirm away from them.
Why are we so reluctant to admit we didn't know what to do and might make a mistake with our next move?
Biologically we are wired to connect to others to stay safe.
In fact, belonging is a key to survival.
Before our modern world developed, our survival in nature depended on our ability to stay with the dominant and successful group.
There was just one goal: stay close to stay safe.
So, if you forgot something important back at the earlier campsite you would not mention it to the leaders.
If you noticed you were hurting others—inadvertently or not—you would not mention it.
You zipped your lip for fear of being kicked out of the safe campsite for your mistake.
Admitting a mistake made you vulnerable.
Admitting a mistake threatened your survival.
We will do anything to ensure our survival.
Our body is programmed to survive and doesn’t always get the memo that we are living in a safe space.
So, it is our job to remind and teach our body that it is safe even when we make mistakes.
I want to suggest we push it even further and try to reprogram our nervous systems to see mistakes as an advantage rather than a threat.
Here is an exercise to help you feel more comfortable with mistakes.
Try this out:
- Make a list of the times when a friend or loved one came to you and admitted a mistake.
- Write down next to each event how you felt, and be specific.
- Write out a list of times when a friend or loved one did not admit a mistake.
- Write down next to each event how you felt and be specific.
When my clients try this exercise, they typically have an “aha” moment when they realize that having someone admit a mistake made them want to hug them tight and connect even more.
They notice that by being vulnerable and honest their friend made room for deeper intimacy and connection.
We all make mistakes often simply because we are human.
If we allow ourselves to admit and share our confusion and our mistakes, we open ourselves up to more connections.
Through true connection, we learn what other people need.
True connection allows us to show up on a large scale for those who are not being seen.
We need to connect so we can change the status quo.
Also, worrying about making a mistake takes up a lot of energy that we could be using to make changes and impact others.
We will all make many, many mistakes, and instead of running from that truth, can you embrace that?
CEO and Clinical Director