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  • Writer's picturepamradtkerussell

Changing Perspective: Think That You Might Be Wrong

A while back, little handmade signs popped up around New Orleans that said “Think That You Might Be Wrong.”

“Yes!” I thought self-righteously when I saw the signs tacked up on a telephone pole, “maybe THOSE people might finally begin to think THEY could be wrong.”

I, of course, never thought I was the one who was wrong.

But recently, in a group chat with colleagues, a younger coworker questioned a belief about journalism I have held sacrosanct for 30 years. I started to rush in to tell her she was wrong, but then it hit me—maybe she wasn’t wrong, maybe I was.

It was a punch in the gut to be stripped of the notion that one of my beliefs, around which I structured my career, could be wrong.

This isn’t the first time I realized my belief system is wrong. I traveled to Vietnam in 2018. The number of temples to other gods, the countless people crossing streets as cars whizzed past, the groups of people doing tai chi around a lake in the mornings, these sights were all so different than daily life in then U.S. It shook me to the core.

I realized the Western way— the way most of us in the United States were raised —isn‘t the only way to do things, and it possibly isn’t even the best way.

I started questioning a lot of things then. I realized my beliefs weren’t necessarily built on a foundation of fact, but on what society has taught me as fact, that things such as marriage, home ownership, children, a stable career, are above all, most important.

And happiness, joy, community, friendships, the common good, are secondary and superfluous.

The trip led me to start dismantling my long held beliefs, which ultimately led to a dismantling of my life.

Interactions like the recent one with my younger colleague, though, laid bare that I am still holding onto a lot of what I thought was right, and I still have a lot more work to do.

Our tendency, as humans, is to protect our egos, to not change and refuse to admit that we might be wrong. It’s why we are defensive when someone questions our beliefs—the things we know for sure.

So, I’m grateful, in midlife, to be able to quash my ego enough to realize that, sometimes…. a lot of times… I might be wrong.

Giving up my old beliefs gives me a sense of hope for the future. Because if I can do it, maybe others can too. And maybe, if we can strip away the old “right” things, we can make room for systems and beliefs that don’t just work for the few, but for everyone.

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