Pasha worked for an old-line, conservative computer company. Safe and predictable, her career path had been laid out and well-documented through the succession planning process.
Although she knew about the fast-moving tech world but didn’t think she would ever be a part of it. She was comfortably settled on a career track and had no real complaints.
One day, out of the blue, she received an invitation to look into an opportunity that made her pant. It both thrilled and terrified her.
She was being recruited to co-lead a promising start-up software company. While leaving the psychological safety of the familiar was a risk, she was wise enough to know that staying was also a risk. Ultimately, she chose the excitement of being at the leading edge of her field and where she might create something new.
By the time I met her, she was living with a lot of emotional pain. The dot-com bubble had burst. Pasha, like many others, lost nearly everything. She couldn’t forgive herself for making such a gross mistake. She felt deep guilt for jeopardizing her family’s financial security and for losing traction in her once stable career. “I’ll never take that kind of risk again. Never!”
This kind of distortion imprisons and holds so many people hostage. Yet, like Pasha, each of us has the authority to free ourselves the moment we become self-compassionate enough to see our past without negative judgments.
As Pasha learned, not forgiving herself kept the negative aspects of the experience alive. Yet, what she really wanted was to remember her three years of productive, high-energy days, filled with excitement and creativity. “That,” I said, “would be a good use of your clout. You’re the authority in your life.”
Not forgiving ourselves keeps us stuck in a story. Identifying with a particular version of history binds us to crippling blame, guilt, shame and anger. It causes self-doubt and paralyzing inaction. To be the authority in your life:
- Forgive yourself for what may feel like a mistake. Mine the situation for its lessons and move on.
- Seek advice if you desire, but don’t look to others to know what is best for you.
- When you receive feedback, grab the gold nuggets and leave the rest where you found it.