I have to confess that as an Aries, for most of my life my identity was shaped around unashamedly being right, winning, and getting in the last word. Generally speaking, we like to be right as it validates our view of the world, and if we bring the ego into it, we might feel that it affirms our intelligence or excellence. The world we live in also feeds us the information that we should all aspire to be winners, and as a result we avoid rejection and failure. However, in the real world, the picture is a lot more complex. There are multiple truths and realities. The real test is our ability to acknowledge and co-exist with these different truths.
Not so long ago, I was brought face to face with my own tendency to always be right. How many times have you found yourself arguing a point just to prove that you were right and the other person was wrong? It’s an easy situation to get into, and one that most of us fall into more than we’d like to admit. It can be so easy to start off with a discussion and then before you know it you find yourself saying anything at all to prove that you were right. The very thing that you began discussing can even get lost in this desire to be right. What is it about ‘being right’ that’s so appealing? Because let’s face it – no one wants to be wrong. In fact, if you ask me, the two hardest things to say is ‘I was wrong’ and ‘I am sorry’.
The thing is, I’ve discovered that being right is often a process whereby our presuppositions give form to the underlying beliefs and attitudes, and these are in operation when we interact with other people, friends, colleagues, or working with clients. In neurolinguistic programming (NLP), it is a process whereby we take in information and we filter it through our beliefs, values, and past experiences to affirm a specific belief. However, this does not make the belief true or not, but rather it becomes the basis on which we move towards attaining or achieving a specific desire or goal.
Thus, if you think about it, being right is about proving certain beliefs based on supporting evidence of our beliefs and our experience. We might say “I know that this is right because I’ve experienced it.” Or “this fact proves the point.” However, it can also be said that our existing knowledge may also hinder our growth and empowerment. When we feel like we’re right, we become narrow minded because we close off our mind to other options. This can lead to a stubbornness that’s not really helpful in any kind of discussion. In my opinion, being right sometimes can also block our willingness to think outside of our own experiences, and to be open to new possibilities. If we are so focused on being right, then it leaves no room for other possibilities to flow in – and could bring our processing to a halt.
Plus, no one really likes a know-it-all because they can come across as arrogant, stubborn, and superior. Really – it’s actually impossible for someone to be right all of the time. And why would they even want to be? When you open yourself up to the possibility of being wrong, you free yourself up from the rigid boundaries of ‘being right’. Anything is possible when it’s okay to be wrong. When we let go of being right, we shift our attention to what matters, like expanding possibilities and creating opportunities to support our growth.
In my own journeying, I found examples whereby I held onto a particular perspective simply to prove a point. One example was with someone who always challenged my thinking about how I show up in the world. In one such conversation, I remember holding onto the perspective that the work I do should be focused on engaging and working with those who are open to transformation and who are positioned at the periphery of society. My friend challenged me to consider whether I was choosing this approach because I felt more ‘comfortable and safe’ focusing my efforts in this space, or whether it was because I truly believed it was where I could make the greater impact. I found myself holding on tightly to my belief, and recognized an unwillingness to even consider the possibilities he was opening up through our conversation. Perhaps deep down, I knew that it was not either or. That there was merit in doing work in spaces that feels somewhat unknown, with audiences yet unconvinced of what I was trying to do. I also saw that if I acknowledged this as a possibility, then it would in fact open me up to other possibilities. At the same time, I saw that these possibilities did in fact scare me a little bit. Phew!
This experience taught me to go beyond my patterns of engaging unconsciously. I was confronted with this notion that ‘I was not just defending my point because of my ego’s need to be right’. Without being aware of it – I saw that I was holding onto my ‘truth’ because of my usual habit of wanting to ‘win’ or just maintain my own perspective. When I examined the reason behind my holding onto my point, I saw that my ego was protecting me from the unknown. It was not bad that my ego was doing this, but it was quite powerful to call it out and to decide what was in the interest of my greater good. In short, I have realised that being right is a defense mechanism. It is the ego doing what it does best – protecting us from something that it considers may hurt us. In shining a light on it, I have realised that I am stronger than the fear or the ‘thing’ that the ego is trying to protect me from.
Hence, I have learnt that it is not worthwhile to hang onto the tenuous thread called ‘being right’. In fact, ‘being right’ often deprives me of experiencing myself in my fullest sense.
Some tips on how to work with the ‘need’ to be right:
#1 Practice openness
Acknowledge that it is unlikely that you would agree with everyone, nor should you try to. That doesn’t mean everyone who disagrees with us is wrong, or that we’re always right. Start by listening to the ideas and opinions of others, and listen on a deeper level, with more understanding and acceptance, and with less judgment and resistance. This is how dialogues move forward and connections deepen.
It really is possible to be passionate about what we’re trying to express without being attached to how it’s received. When we are attached to what we’re saying, and to the need to be right about it, we often end up forcing our ideas on others, or distorting our beliefs simply to gain the approval of others. Detachment gives us the freedom to communicate without the pressure of needing to be seen as right.
#3 Explore new possibilities
The need to be right is rooted deeply in the ego, and one thing our egos are not, is humble. Do some work in noting down what you would gain in holding on to being right. Similarly, note down what possibilities of growth you open yourself up to when you allow other versions of truth to co-exist with yours.