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Let’s talk about that moment when you do something wrong, when you fuck up, and someone calls you out on it.

I know the feeling when you open a message, pick up the phone, read an email… and you realize you did wrong. You messed up. You’re out of integrity.

Your stomach drops. Your chest constricts. Your palms sweat.

It HURTS. It feels like the rug is pulled out underneath you. That total "ouch" moment of being seen in all the wrong ways.

Now what?

Most of us jumps immediately to trying to justify. To point out how they are wrong, how you are right, how it's not a big deal, etc etc.

Because our brain cannot handle an incongruence between an action and a belief, it will rationalize the action. This is called cognitive dissonance.

Which is why when we usually call someone out for making a mistake, they will go into defensive mode in proportion to their belief that the behavior is tied to their identity.

For example, if the value of “honesty” is important to you, you will defend/justify/rationalize your behavior to ensure that in your mind you were honest, even when you weren’t.

This makes it hard for us to even see that we truly did make a mistake. We are walking around in sumo wrestler suits, too numb and scared to really see our limitations, bumping other people and lashing out when we do.

Does this all sound familiar?

It’s easier for us to blame others than it is for us to look at where they might be right. It’s like we’re so identified with this small sense of self that we look at anyone as a threat.

However, it is not other people’s responsibility to make sure they present you with the facts in a way that is non-threatening to your identity or your Ego. It is your responsibility to be humble in the face of your imperfection.

Mistakes are the bedrock to our growth. If we cannot be open to feedback from life, guiding us and showing us our limitations, how are we to become better, humble, compassionate people?

A Course In Miracles teaches us that in your defenselessness your safety lies. The only part that you are defending, when you defend yourself, is you Ego. Your sumo wrestler self. Your small self.

That place within you doesn’t need more defending, love. It needs more understanding.

If you allow it, that ouch moment can create a real intimacy in your life. It can help you settle into your being. It can ground you in your limitations. And that is real honesty.

Being human is a part of this life experience. Stumbling. Holding the heart of the people you hurt. Apologizing. Learning. This is just what it looks like to grow, to strengthen, to become a better person.

Do not harden to your mistakes.

So before you react, before you rally your troops to defend you, before you go into victim mode... use these three steps to support you.

Step One: Feel the pain.

Before you act, give yourself space to feel the pain, the indignation, the resistance. Let your lower self talk and get it ALL out. Write the email response from that place, but don’t send it. Feel the punch in the gut, the shame, the guilt. Give yourself the opportunity to feel these very real human emotions.

If you really don’t believe you’ve made a mistake, that the person is totally unjustified, then ask yourself, “is there any shred of truth in this?” Even the smallest bit is worth investigating and loving. This isn’t an acknowledgment that you have to be self-deprecating or admit to something you didn’t do. It is using the process of self-inquiry to get curious around what is going on, what is happening, and what your part is.

Notice I do not mean to beat yourself up, to berate yourself, to call yourself names. None of that works... it's just a way for you to not really feel the ouch. 

Step Two: Give space

See if you can breathe with the tender pain. See if you can hold the scared child within you. See if you can be a witness to the pain of the other. Don’t feel the pressure to respond until you’ve given yourself tons of love and support around this.

This may be a great time to disconnect from the problem. To go for a walk. To hold the container of this sacred experience. You do not have to respond right away. In fact, the more you can give space the more you can move into step three.

The more you can hold compassion for yourself and the fact that you were doing the best that you could, the more you will move from this experience with healing.

Step Three: Act from your higher self

Ideally, you want to act from your highest self. From a place of abundance, worthiness and trust. If an appropriate amount of time has gone by and you still haven’t been able to figure out a response from your higher self, then to the extent that you feel comfortable, share that with the other party. That you need more time. And then give yourself that.

Your higher self is deep within you, giving you guidance for how to respond. But it’s cloaked under a layer of the lower self and that is what you have to move through first. As long as you don’t feel guidance of your intuition, you are still not truly giving space to the lower self.

It is amazing at what happens when you do these steps. You start to take real self-responsibility. You start to trust in yourself. You become your own best friend. This is the process of the authentic leader.

I leave you with one more thought: If nature is perfect in its imperfection... and we are a part of nature... how can we believe we are wrong or unworthy just because of a mistake?

In light + leadership,