Without planning to, I just completed a personal experiment about the effects of overreacting and worrying about things that never come to pass. A couple of weeks ago, I made a rather harsh statement before a group of people and although true and needful, it was hurtful and probably should not have been said. Immediately, I regretted my decision to speak up.
To relieve the pressure I had imposed on myself, I began a blog post using the following quote…
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett
The post was never completed, but my actions continued to eat away at me for the following week. Each time I faced the people who heard my speech, all I wanted to do was hide. I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, secretly despising me for the accusations I had made. It was awful. I wanted to erase the past, but couldn’t.
Because I couldn’t, I decided to make amends in the only way I could find. My attempt to do so felt somewhat promising, but I still believed that my reputation had been ruined for good.
Moving ahead to today, two weeks after my objectionable speech…
I wanted to write a post this morning, but didn’t know which topic to choose. So for inspiration I checked my draft folder and what did I find? This one, about ruined reputations.
To my great relief, I can’t publish it now.
It’s interesting and somewhat comical how things can change so much in just a matter of days. Two weeks ago, I was tempted with the thought of moving (which is something we’ve been considering anyway) just to escape the hatred from others I was convinced that I had brought upon myself. Today, with life mostly back to normal, I realize how silly that thought was. Talk about overreacting.
I’ve learned a few things during this unintentional experiment of mine:
- Most people don’t like to hear the truth, even when it’s necessary for growth and improvement.
- If you’re going to make an important speech it is best to rehearse it first, to ensure that your thoughts are expressed correctly. Not only will this prevent you from offending others unintentionally, it will also help the audience to be more receptive to your message.
- If you’re having second thoughts about sharing an opinion, it would be wise to think again.
- You can’t run away from your problems, especially when the problems reside within you.
- A strong person stays to face the music. Only the weak run.
- If you’re facing a dilemma, whether self-imposed or brought on by others, take a deep breath, relax and give it time. It will likely fix itself.
- While we’re beating ourselves up and living in a cloud of regret and self-condemnation, everyone else has long forgotten and moved on.
Although our reputation can be ruined in a matter of five minutes and we should be very careful to preserve it, in most cases it will remain intact. This is especially true if we realize our error and make a sincere effort to rectify it.
We all mess up, but what’s done is done. There’s no need in beating ourselves up for what we can’t change. All we can do is try our best to make things right, and then wait.
One question I normally ask myself when problems arise is, “Will this matter five years from now?” Most often, the answer is no. So, why stress about it? Do your best to fix it, let it go and allow time to do the rest.