In the past I’ve had real issues with admitting I am wrong or even that I simply don’t know the answer. This was rooted in some very deep seeded insecurities that I’ve spent the last several years working to overcome. It is easier for me to now say, “I don’t know enough about that to have an opinion,” or “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” It is also easier for me to admit, in light of new evidence that I was wrong or mistaken about facts or opinions I’ve previously stated. I no longer feel the need to prove myself to others and am more confident in my own abilities. And yet, there are still instances where I find it difficult to be open about my mistakes.
It is no longer fear of judgement that holds me back but still, it’s there. I realized recently that it is the things I believe most strongly about that I have a hard time with. I don’t have difficulty admitting to myself that I made a mistake and I am continuously updating and evolving my philosophies about these things. I strongly believe that when we cease to learn and grow we are doing more harm than good. So, if it’s not fear of judgement and it isn’t stubborn pride, then what could possibly be holding me back?
Then it hit me- it is fear of judgement but not of myself- of my ideals. When someone is able to stand up and say, “I based this decision on this philosophy and it turns out I was wrong,” then suddenly critics of that choice have something to cling to as they try to undermine the entire philosophy. If I strongly support a political belief and later more facts reveal that belief to be erroneous critics may try to use that as an example of why they believe my entire political stance is weak. If I handle a situation less than gracefully with my kids then those who don’t understand or outright oppose my parenting style will smugly sit back with a raised eyebrow and an, “I knew it,” expression. If I look back and think I should have helped my kids learn something before this moment in time then suddenly all of my educational choices might be called into question.
When mistakes are made or things don’t turn out the way we expect it is easy to throw up our hands and say, “This isn’t working!” But the reality is that nothing works all the time. Admitting mistakes doesn’t have to mean admitting that everything about a situation was wrong, just that one aspect could have been handled differently. What we need to ask ourselves is not if it’s working perfectly but if it’s working better than the alternative.
I have strong opinions about many things- peaceful parenting, unschooling, politics and science/skepticism just to name a few. I absolutely hate the idea that admitting a mistake might undermine any of these issues in anyone else’s eyes. I don’t need everyone to agree with me or to think all of my ideas are outstandingly brilliant but I also don’t want to be the cause of someone else turning away from something I deeply believe in. I simply can’t stand the thought that someone might be sharing a story that they knew an unschooler once and… (well, you can fill in the blank). On the other hand, being able to admit our mistakes is how we learn from them as well as how we can relate to and help others. So, from now on I’m going try a bit harder to talk about my missteps along with my victories. I hope I don’t drive anyway away as a result and more importantly I hope I’ll be able to help others better understand my position as they navigate their own.