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Recovering from a fall
Falling down is embarrassing, or worse.
Our mistakes often lead to shame, so understanding
the emotional consequences of shame is an
important first step in recovering from a fall.
If you take the right steps to recover from a fall you can turn your mistakes into your greatest asset and driver of growth
However, such are the social pressures on you today that when you fall down your initial reaction may well be to cover it up, hide it and move on as fast as possible. Admitting your mistakes in public as a prerequisite for recovering from a fall is usually way off the agenda.
I’ve made many mistakes in my life, two of them being particularly serious with far reaching consequences. You might have already heard me talk about one of those – which coincidentally concerns money – in the video on my personal website.
The other, which was far more serious and painful, happened when I was much younger. It knocked my integrity for six and as I didn’t deal with it well and it left me in limbo, wasting my life for a quarter of a century. Its a powerful story that hurts and teaches in a way that few others do so I only tell it to subscribing members of the Living Money community.
Avoiding the pain from a fall
Mistakes cause pain and we often do everything we can to avoid that pain, shame being uppermost with anger and fear not far behind.
So understanding the emotional consequences of shame is an important first step in recovering from your fall or failure. What do you really mean when you say you are ashamed of something you did?
Author and shame researcher Brené Brown offers this definition (Daring Greatly, p69). ‘Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.’ Human beings are ‘hard-wired for connection’ so anything that breaks that connection, such as a shameful failure, really hurts and your instinct is to do what you can to avoid that break.
Strategies for recovering from a fall
‘Never apologise, never explain’ as a strategy is common, especially amongst institutions, government and professions. Its not particularly productive strategy for recovering from a fall because it builds walls and destroys trust. It certainly does not provide a pathway to personal growth. And in this digital age it doesn’t hold out for long
Deflecting pain by abrogating responsibility and blaming others is another common strategy. Our society and institutions often become the fall guys for our personal mistakes. It is striking that the recent rise in knife crime in London is being laid at the door of the Government for not providing sufficient funds to police the capital. Lets face it, though; if you plunge a knife into a fellow human being then you alone are responsible for the act.
Blaming others is more common amongst individuals and smaller organisations. However it always takes two to tango and this strategy is flawed because it avoids taking personal responsibility for your contribution to your mistakes and leaves little scope for personal growth.
The true value of your mistakes
I’ve used both these strategies before, especially after that first incident in my young life. Years later, I understand how damaging they were to me, far more so than the incident itself. I attempted to bury the painful emotions and discovered that you can’t just do that. When you bury the pain, you also bury the joy and life becomes a desert.
When I made a mess of my finances in the early ‘90s I started the same way, then gradually moved to a different strategy, one of accepting and living with the pain, exploring my story and the emotions it generates, and taking positive action to rectify the situation. Above all I opened myself up to learning and growing from my story. In opening up and diving into the pain I found myself more powerful, creative and able to take positive action.
Using this last strategy has made me understand the true value of my mistakes and their power to transform and grow. We will always make mistakes. Learning how to turn them from a liability to an asset is our greatest challenge and our fastest route to recovering from a fall and achieving personal growth.
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