At I Choose Change, we encourage change that lasts a lifetime. That’s why every month, we’ll take a closer look at the issues that affect you and your family. Earlier this month, we focused on resolutions and starting over. For the rest of January, we’ll delve into doing the right thing and justice. I Choose Change serves all of Allen, Plano, McKinney, Wylie, Lucas, Sachse and Fairview, and we offer online and email counseling across the globe. Contact us here for more information. Contact us here.
Greg McKeown in his book Existentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, said: “There should be no shame in admitting to a mistake; after all, we really are only admitting that we are now wiser than we once were.”
So then, why do we find it so hard to admit we are wrong?
The Self-Esteem Problem
One study found in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that those who refused to apologize after making a mistake had higher self-esteem, were more in control and experience feelings of personal power. An apology, in a way, is giving up power to the other person. It’s unfortunate that many of us have been raised in situations where we were afraid of making mistakes, of failing, and of not being apologized to when we were hurt by someone who was supposed to care for us. Maybe they never apologized to anyone they hurt, but instead blamed the person who was hurt for being hurt. In older generations the problem can be acute since in the past, adults rarely apologized to children, even when clearly in the wrong. This causes children to grow up with the idea that a strong person doesn’t apologize and lose face.
Even when these people report higher self-esteem, it’s not based on anything more than their idea that by apologizing they are losing power and prestige when they do. However, the drawback is that this behavior puts stresses on their relationships. When someone has been hurt, they want an apology without reserves or preconditions. The more they don’t get it, the more they will pull away.
The Shame Problem
When we are in the wrong, the best thing is to admit it right away, apologize, and promise to do better. When people can’t admit they’re wrong, and won’t apologize, it’s because deep-down they often feel ashamed of their mistake. They’ve been shamed and hurt for making mistakes, and being in the wrong makes them angry.
So then, how can a person admit they are wrong without shame? David Sack in Psychology Today offers five steps to silence shame.
1st Step: Bring Shame Into the Light
Hidden shame is like an untreated infection. It begins to define a person. A story that is buried remains our story. But when we talk about it and own it, we are able to create a new ending.
2nd Step: Untangle Your Feelings
Do an analysis of your feelings. Are your feeling realistic response? Are you angry at being called out? Or are you upset with making a mistake? Why?
3rd: Disconnect Who You Are From What You Do
Separate what you do from who you are. Allowing others to shame you gives them power over your happiness and defeats your creativity and innovation. It inhibits your response and exploration of relationships. In short, shame is a toxic control tool.
4th: Be Aware of Your Triggers
Shame attacks us where we are most vulnerable, and gives our insecurities fertile ground to take root. These insecurities can be triggers for anger, lashing out, hurting others.
5th: Connect With Others
Shame seeks to isolate us from others. When you break the bonds of love and attachment, of community and family, you can feel above it all, but at the same time alone and ashamed. Reaching out and connecting is part of what makes us human.
How does this all stack up to help us admit we are wrong and avoid the shame? In short, shame is a toxic feeling. The goal is to be rid of shame and accept being wrong if warranted. When you can admit to being wrong, apologize, and change your behavior, you break the power that shame has on you. a local Allen based therapist is a an available and close to home way to start working on the patterns of feelings that you’ve learned, and making a connection with yourself.