By: Elsebeth Green, LCSW
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Freedom is our most prized possession and we would do many things to maintain the right to make our own choices, worship as we will, choose our work and our hobbies, etc. Our country was founded through the struggle of desiring to be free of what many felt was the oppression of the British, while others during that time believed in a new land where people could worship and live as they chose. It must have been difficult to have brother against brother as people made those difficult choices. We appreciate this country and the freedoms we enjoy here. We exercise choice and freedoms every day.
But sometimes we actually give up freedoms that are just as important, such as the freedom to make mistakes and learn and grow from them. The freedom to experience post-traumatic growth from hard times and work through the pain and trauma that accompanies them. Sometimes we believe that our value is in being perfect, looking perfect and being popular. It can be hard to stand up for our differences and love ourselves and others in their imperfection.
Many people who have gone through abuse and neglect, divorce, severe accident or another traumatic event, will later refer to the very precious ways in which they have learned and grown from what they went through. Some of those things may have been brought on by mistakes they made, while others were from things out of their control. While they would never have asked for that trial, some have recognized an important principal: that we make the deepest strides in our life through the hardest events if we are willing to see the meaning in them. They ask themselves things like, how is this person a teacher in my life; how can I turn this ending into a beginning; how can I hold onto my faith and my connections as I go through this trial; why do I keep repeating this pattern?
We have the right to make mistakes. We can also learn from those mistakes. Everyone has a story and our story makes us who we are. Sometimes we need help to work through things and reach out to find a good therapist to talk to that can help us with the trauma with powerful techniques such as EMDR. I myself have bought what I sell because I want to learn and grow. I want to turn those lemons into lemonade, and I know that I can because that has been my experience. I find peace in holding hands with others and sharing my story with others when appropriate. To paraphrase Brene Brown’s words, I find more joy in authentic belonging than by fitting in through the stress of appearing better than I believe I am. In fact, as I share who I really am, I find a way to more whole-hearted living.
We can move into a place of learning when we get courageous, curious and compassionate about ourselves, our situation and our reactions to it. We can treat life like a classroom where our mistakes and other’s mistakes like a gift that can change us in positive ways. Brene Brown said: “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” Let’s learn and grow in this free country, the home of the brave. Perfectionism robs us of the freedom to really live, love and thrive.