Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.
I posted this quote on Instagram a few days ago and the response has been amazing (seen by over 2,000 people, with almost 200 likes). Maya Angelou’s timeless words of wisdom will always make people pause and take notice. But I can’t help but wonder if there is more to it. Why does this quote resonate so deeply?
We live in a time where anything we could ever want to know is at our fingertips. Siri or Alexa are standing-by to all our questions. Google can pull up any article, book or video in milliseconds. We have more information than we know what to do with.
Not knowing is not an option, we expect to know everything.
This idea is reinforced culturally in very subtle ways. Telling a white lie is better than admitting “I don’t know”. Mistakes are to be avoided. Being “right” is an accomplishment you fight for so you can leverage it as a source of power. If you fall short in any of these ways, you blame yourself.
Parents have it the worst. There is no shortage of resources created to help you be a “better” parent. But despite them all, we’re led to believe being a good parent should come naturally. As if our experience being a child gave us all we needed to know about raising one. Parenthood is humbling because no matter how much you learn; a new moment can leave you feeling like you know nothing.
We preach to our kids to “learn from your mistakes”. Are we taking our own advice or are we beating ourselves up inside our heads? We give ourselves very little room for error. How many times have you told yourself, “I should have known better,” or “How could I have let that happen?”
The quote starts with the word forgive. It’s hard to forgive others, but it’s even harder to forgive ourselves. It’s easy to get stuck in a moment, replaying our error, but how were you supposed to know it would turn out that way? You’ve never been in that moment, at that time, in that space before. You would never expect a third grader to ace a fifth-grade math test, sure they’ve learned math before, but that doesn’t mean they are ready for every kind of math. So why would we expect that of ourselves?
We logically know we are always learning and growing. But when we waste time dwelling on things that have already happened, we can get stuck instead of moving forward. Every day is a reminder that yesterday’s experience is the foundation for today’s decisions.
I haven’t written anything in this post that should come as a surprise to any of you reading it. It is all common knowledge, yet in the moment it escapes us. These wonderful words from Maya Angelou ring true with so many because it is so easy to forget. Be gentle with yourself. Open yourself up to new experiences. Say “I don’t know”. Find joy in learning. And above all, forgive yourself always.
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Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.