WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN? by Dr. Valerie Allen
When considering change, always consider the worst thing that could happen. Rarely are any of our decisions life threatening or irrevocable. What if you do create a disaster? You may feel foolish, embarrassed, guilty, worried, or angry. You imagine a catastrophe and perceive negative, life-long repercussions. This is the worst moment of my life! It’s all over for me now. I’ll never be able to face these people again. I’ll definitely lose my job over this. My family will never forgive me.
Are you really that important? Are your actions so powerful they will alter the course of history? Unlikely. Will it alter the course of your life? Perhaps. If there is a serious negative outcome because of your poor decision or bad behavior, take responsibility, make amends, and learn something about yourself. Unburden yourself from guilt. Understand you are human, forgive yourself, and move on with your life.
The More We Learn, the Better We Do
Every day, we are faced with decisions, big and small. Should you cook or go out to eat? Should you paint the walls tan or blue? Should you stop on the way home to buy milk? Should you stay in school or not? Should you go to college? Should you join the military or seek employment? Should you get married or have a child?
There are things you did or didn’t do which moved you in one direction or another in life. At the fork in the road, you went right or left, and that decision, and all that followed, led you to where you are today.
Without the ability to see into the future, we make decisions in real time, and we usually make good decisions. Unfortunately, we have no control over all the variables which may affect the outcome. We learn from our decisions, good and bad, and the more we learn, the better we do.
Negativity is Beating You Up
We often berate ourselves after the fact. We tear ourselves apart for making a bad decision, or using poor judgment. This is akin to the Monday morning quarterback. After the event, when we have time to review, reconsider, and take in new information, we realize we should have made a different decision. However, we make decisions based on what we know at the time, not on what happens later.
We are quick to spotlight our shortcomings in these situations. We now beat ourselves up and not just about the immediate situation, but we recall other past failures.
Remember when you lost the spelling bee in third grade? Remember when you fell off your bike and ripped your new pants? What about that first date disaster? What went on during that confusing job interview? How about those unkind remarks you made that were overhead by the target of your gossip?
Ah, you are such a bad, mean, inconsiderate person! If you don’t believe it, just listen to yourself. You are tearing yourself apart with feelings of shame, blame, and guilt. You have become punitive, belittling yourself. You are lowering your self-esteem and undermining your confidence.
Why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you so harsh? Why do you demean yourself? The key word is YOU. You are doing this to yourself. If others spoke to you like this, or treated you this way, understandably you would be upset. You would be insulted and not consider this person among your friends. Are you a good friend to yourself?
You do not need to feel bad about or disappointed in yourself. Accept responsibility for your decisions and the consequences. This is a growth experience. Keep it in perspective and it will lead to better decision making the next time. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. When you set up a negative scenario of self-criticism, you are not your friend. You are sending a message to yourself and others that you are a worthless person. You have become your enemy.
This is an edited excerpt from a book by Dr. Valerie Allen, Beyond the Inkblots: Confusion to Harmony. Amazon.com/dp/1478146117
Dr. Valerie Allen is a licensed school psychologist and board certified case manager. She has taught students from elementary school through graduate studies in the fields of education and mental health. She is also a popular author of children’s books, short stories, fiction, and non-fiction. Amazon.com/author/valerieallen