You Cannot Do Your Life Wrong — Lionesses of Africa

by Safiyyah Boolay-Jappie

I give thanks to all the teachers that came to me in the form of my mistakes.

Say after me: ‘You cannot do your life wrong!’

This is a truly tough one. For ALL of us! Especially if you’ve become addicted to self-deprecation and self-persecution. One of the biggest inhibitors of self-love and personal power is shame. The online dictionary defines shame as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”. No doubt, Shame is a powerful emotion that can cause us to feel defective, unacceptable, even damaged beyond repair.

Unlike guilt, shame has no upside. No benefit. No value to add. 

  • When you feel shame, you’re feeling that your whole self is wrong.

  • When you feel guilty, you’re making a judgment that something you’ve done is wrong.

From the day you’re are born you start the process of learning to feel okay or not okay, accepted or not accepted, in your world. Your self-esteem and worthiness was shaped by your daily experiences of being praised or criticized, lovingly disciplined or punished, taken care of or neglected. Through exposure to hostile or abusive environments you can easily get the message that you’re undeserving, inadequate, and inferior. In other words, that you should feel ashamed.

Over time, intense feelings of shame can take hold of a person’s self-image and create low self-esteem. Feelings of shame often stem from what other people think. You may become super-sensitive to what feels like criticism, even if it isn’t, and may feel rejected by others. Inside, you feel powerlessness, self-contempt and even worthlessness. Serious problems occur when shame gets deeply woven into a person’s self-image and sense of self-worth.

What does this have to do with Mistakes? 

Well, believe it or not, mistakes are the product of the best choices you could make in any particular context. A version of you that came before the version you are now, saw the ‘mistaken action’ as the only or the best viable option. Mistake making is such a fundamental part of the human process and the learning process. When mistake making becomes conflated with shame instead of growth, they become painful burdens to bear, instead of the teachers and the venerable gate-keepers to our wisdom. 

The difference between learning from our mistakes or being entombed in shame by them is our perspective. Today’s prompt is about guiding you to discover the mistakes that drown you in shame. Choose a new perspective. One that serves you. One that honours the past version of you and that allows the current version of you to benefit from experience. Releasing the past version of you from shame, not only allows you to learn from her; it also allows this present version of you to be released from shame. 

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