Brexit referendum? There is no shame in admitting we were wrong

We all have the power to make our own decisions - so why do we let life just happen, asks Liz Nice

We all have the power to make our own decisions - so why do we let life just happen, asks Liz Nice - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Admitting you're wrong isn't easy but, says Liz Nice, if we never went back on a decision, we would still be using pigeon dung to cure gout...

We all make mistakes.

But imagine if we lived in a world where you could never reverse them, but were forced to stick to our original decisions, no matter what.

My mother would favour this – she was always a fan of 'sticking it out' if I wanted to give up Brownies or couldn't be bothered to visit a friend I didn't much like.

But as we grow into adults (and yes, it comes to us all in the end), we learn that actually there can be great strength in coming to accept that we were wrong about something – or someone – because new information has come to light which has required us to change our perspective.


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The university course that seemed to be all singing all dancing at the open day but turned out to be a subject which made us feel like we had perennially flat feet.

The wife who shouts at us every single day for a decade in the name of helping us to 'improve'.

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The husband we thought complimented our image of ourselves perfectly but whom we no longer want to sleep with and haven't had a real conversation with in years.

The friend, who claims to be our 'best friend', but actually spends every encounter engaged in that poisonous one-upmanship old friends sometimes lapse into as a funnel for their own disappointments.

Or the job in which we keep doing our best and trying to put a brave face on it, all the while knowing that no one respects our opinion or even notices if we are there.

If we could not ever go back on a life decision, change our course, leave our unhappy marriage, find new friends or get a new job, it would feel as though we might as well curl up and die.

Sometimes, when stuck in these situations, we want to.

But eventually something will happen to change our perspective, a new friend, or love, a new opportunity, and we will find the strength to own our own life – to remember again that it actually is our life – and move forward into the hope of something better, even if we can't yet see quite what that might be.

This is how life gets its richness.

This is how we all survive.

We learn.

We no longer use maggots to cure baldness or pigeon dung in vinegar to cure gout.

We don't think we have to grow up to be a doctor just because we wore a white coat as a child. (We are crap at chemistry and find ill people annoying, thus life has taught us, even given our abysmal handwriting, that medicine was perhaps not the best career choice after all).

We don't still kiss like two washing machines doing a spin cycle.

We no longer watch Blue Peter and EastEnders because we grew up and discovered we preferred The Bodyguard and Game of Thrones instead.

New information came along so we changed our minds and pitched for something better and nobody died.

A quote I find helpful when in a less than ideal situation has always been: 'The only thing that is your fault is that you did nothing'.

Pain is always a given. Idleness in the face of pain is unforgiveable.

We know things now about Brexit that we did not know when first we voted.

As I write, the PM is due to tell us: 'Another vote... would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy that our democracy does not deliver.'

Alternatively, another vote could just be admitting that maybe we were lied to before and we want to make sure – because it's so darned important – that if we're going to do this thing, we are making an honest and informed choice.

There is no shame in admitting that we were wrong (if we were).

But there is shame in doing nothing.

I knew someone once who used to say: 'I always mess things up. I can't help myself.'

For a single human being not to recognise that their life and happiness is within their own control is a personal tragedy.

For an entire country to make the same mistake would be tragic for us all.

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