It’s pretty rare to see someone hold their hands up and accept responsibility for their mistakes or poor decision making. Every day we see politicians, celebrities, and various authority figures try to deny responsibility for things that have gone wrong under their charge or for saying or doing the wrong thing in life. But why is this? Well, research has shown that there are genuine cognitive reasons that many of us are reluctant to accept that something negative has happened as a direct result of our actions or decision-making process. From a young age, we become ego-driven beings. We develop an identity for ourselves and project this to the world. Unsurprisingly, the majority of us want to project as positive an image as possible for ourselves – we want to believe that we are good people and we want others to believe that we are good people too. This, of course, has benefits for us – if we are successful in this venture, we tend to have a larger social circle, we can attract a partner more easily, and we are more likely to excel in the workplace. All in all, life will tend to be more positive for us. If we do something that makes people question whether we are actually a good person, our perception of ourselves and others perception of ourselves can alter. We want to avoid this and many of us will enter into a stage of “cognitive dissonance”. Let’s take a moment to look further into this and to find a few ways to overcome it!
What Is Cognitive Dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance sounds like it’s bound to be something relatively complicated. But this isn’t necessarily the case! It is merely the state of mental conflict that we find ourselves in when we hold two conflicting mindsets. If you have done something wrong at the same time as believing yourself to be an infallibly good person, or if someone accuses you of doing something wrong while you believe yourself to be in a good person, you hold two conflicting mindsets about yourself. On the one hand, you think that you are good, but on the other, you are telling yourself or are being told that you are bad. Our minds naturally seek straightforwardness, clarity, and consistent viewpoints. So, we will generally try to overcome cognitive dissonance by accepting that we are either a good person or that we are a bad person. The majority will opt for good and try to make this possible by denying our wrongdoing or to forget our wrongdoing. Some will try to justify their wrongdoing by likening their behavior to others and dragging everyone else’s self-image down in their minds, keeping themselves on a level with everyone else. Really, the most positive thing that you should really do is to overcome cognitive dissonance by holding your hands up to your actions, accepting that you were wrong in your actions at a given time, and to move on.
Owning Up to Your Mistakes
There are various ways to go about owning up to your mistakes – the best route to take will depend entirely on the type of mistake that you have made. If you have broken the law in some way or another, you might want to get in touch with a reliable lawyer like Muth Law, PC, who will be able to survey your situation, draw together a case, and see you hold your hands up to your wrongdoings while helping to minimise the penalties so that you can learn and move on. If you have done something negative in your relationship, you should admit this to your partner, rightly placing the ball in their court and giving them the opportunity to walk away or forgive and forget. If they choose to forgive and forget, the process can be helped by engaging in couples therapy. If you have done something wrong at work, you can inform your employer. Not only will this allow wrongs to be rectified before they snowball and trouble others, but your employer may be able to find the cause of your wrong action and alter your working environment or responsibilities so that you have a better experience in the workplace and so that it doesn’t happen again.
There really are benefits that come hand in hand with owning up to problematic actions. Here are just a few to consider.
Lifted guilt – if your actions have hurt or harmed someone else, you automatically lift a little guilt from your shoulders when you admit to it.
Less stress – concealing a wrong can result in ongoing stress in your life. Admitting to it reduces these stress levels, as you won’t be lying to yourself or anyone else anymore.
Opportunity to move forward – admitting wrongs allows you to actually work on improving a situation that you have created and to move forward in your life.
Encouraging others to do the same – if others have played a role in a negative situation, seeing you admit your wrongs can also encourage them to admit their wrongs. This can help to give everyone involved closure on a situation.
As you can see, it is extremely important that you deal with wrongdoings in as healthy and positive manner as possible. Everyone makes mistakes or makes the wrong decision every once in a while. But not everyone happens to do the right thing in response to it. Stand out from the crowd and make a difference!