Being Right: Why are We Obsessed about it?

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Just the other day I was wondering to myself, what would it be like if this world had less know-it-alls circulating the planet, and how would that directly affect life? If this world could be rid of all those dictators, religious fundamentalists and folks who think their ideas are infallible, would that be so bad?
I think it would be a relief not have to contend with people who think they know everything, and have the right to behave a certain way because they feel entitled to do so for whatever the misguided reason.
Everyone’s entitled to his or her convictions, yes, but what if those ideas differ from the person standing next to you? And more importantly, what if your thoughts and ideas are wrong, would you be okay with that? Would you be able to humble yourself, and admit your error in judgment and seek truth, or would you fight until the end to prove your point? Sadly, an obsession with ‘rightness’ is a real problem in the world today, and on every level imaginable.
Fanatics and dictators are at the extreme end of the scale, but even in our daily interactions we meet people who think they’re always right. We see it on Facebook. We see it on Twitter. We may even accuse our friends or loved ones of always wanting to be right, and, while we’re pointing fingers, we sometimes claim to be the one who’s right about the other person being obsessed with being right!
But what’s the big deal if you make a mistake now and then in daily life, and why do some people have such huge hang-ups about being wrong?
The other day I was attending a wedding rehearsal dinner that was being hosted by the in-laws to be. It turned out that one of the ladies at my table didn’t really want to be there, even though the bride-to-be was her niece. According to her, the groom’s family drank alcohol and that was against her religion. So I thought to myself, “what does their alcohol have to do with you?” When dinner was served, she refused to eat, citing the same reasons, even though all of us around her were of the same faith, and were more than engrossed with our meals because it was DIVINE, not to mention, prepared by a five-star chef. We assured her that the food didn’t contain alcohol, but she continued to hold her ground, and I couldn’t help but think that this was total nonsense and disrespectful.
As I sat there questioning her so-called dilemma, I noticed that she seemed to enjoy drawing attention to herself, while dishing out subtle doses of condescension with every nod of her disapproving head. You know… as though she had something over us. The funny thing, though, is that when dessert time rolled around, she had no problem eating it. And if you’re any connoisseur of fine desserts, you’d know that it probably had alcohol in it.
So what was all that drama about? We felt that she was wrong in her behaviour, but somehow she felt right and justified in acting the way she did. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think that was partly due to her ego, but who am I to judge?
Ego is a funny thing, isn’t it? One minute it makes you feel all high and mighty, and in an instant, it could make you look like a true fool. The way I see it, if we learned how to put our egos or ‘rightness’ aside, there’d be so many wonderful things to gain. Things like the joy of discovery, creativity and humility. Of course, in order to grasp that concept, it would depend on how big or small one’s ego is. But ego isn’t the only thing to blame for misguided ‘rightness’.
On the extreme end of the scale, some of us can’t hold ourselves accountable when we realise we’re wrong, so the easiest thing to do is to blame others. Fear often it gets in the way, especially the fear of being wrong, and for many of us that behaviour was learned early on in childhood. I remember getting ‘licks’ in school one day, not for bad behaviour, but because I couldn’t grasp the concept of time, and unfortunately I answered incorrectly when the teacher called on me. It was a turning point in my life. I felt humiliated, stupid and worthless, and I cried, not because I was wrong, but because of the ridicule I endured from that teacher and the way I was branded by my peers because of it.
You see, culturally, society has placed this stigma – intentionally or not – on us, whenever we make mistakes. So by the time we’re probably eight or nine, we’ve learnt that the way to succeed in life is to never make any. We become focused on downplaying mistakes, and, depending on the environment we’ve grown up in, we become obsessed with saying the right thing, looking the right way, and behaving the right way, or getting what we want – because we’re right. This then transfers itself to our relationships, our behaviour at work, or even during a lime with friends.
When we trust too much in the feeling of being right, we end up missing the point of being human. Some of us pay a huge price. Marriages end in divorce. We walk around with a distorted sense of self. We become difficult to work with. Lives are lost because of religious and political differences, and the list goes on.
Fact is, many children grow into adulthood never redefining what a mistake really is or what is means. As adults, we have the power to redefine ‘mistakes’ as a positive thing in children’s lives. Instead of teaching them that mistakes are embarrassing or shameful, we can show them how to identify them, correct them, and learn from them. Maybe that’s the key to breaking this obsession.

alwaysrightJust the other day I was wondering to myself, what would it be like if this world had less know-it-alls circulating the planet, and how would that directly affect life? If this world could be rid of all those dictators, religious fundamentalists and folks who think their ideas are infallible, would that be so bad? 

I think it would be a relief not have to contend with people who think they know everything, and have the right to behave a certain way because they feel entitled to do so for whatever the misguided reason. 

Everyone’s entitled to his or her convictions, yes, but what if those ideas differ from the person standing next to you? And more importantly, what if your thoughts and ideas are wrong, would you be okay with that? Would you be able to humble yourself, and admit your error in judgment and seek truth, or would you fight until the end to prove your point? Sadly, an obsession with ‘rightness’ is a real problem in the world today, and on every level imaginable.


Fanatics and dictators are at the extreme end of the scale, but even in our daily interactions we meet people who think they’re always right. We see it on Facebook. We see it on Twitter. We may even accuse our friends or loved ones of always wanting to be right, and, while we’re pointing fingers, we sometimes claim to be the one who’s right about the other person being obsessed with being right!

But what’s the big deal if you make a mistake now and then in daily life, and why do some people have such huge hang-ups about being wrong?  

The other day I was attending a wedding rehearsal dinner that was being hosted by the in-laws to be. It turned out that one of the ladies at my table didn’t really want to be there, even though the bride-to-be was her niece. According to her, the groom’s family drank alcohol and that was against her religion. So I thought to myself, “what does their alcohol have to do with you?” When dinner was served, she refused to eat, citing the same reasons, even though all of us around her were of the same faith, and were more than engrossed with our meals because it was DIVINE, not to mention, prepared by a five-star chef. We assured her that the food didn’t contain alcohol, but she continued to hold her ground, and I couldn’t help but think that this was total nonsense and disrespectful.  

As I sat there questioning her so-called dilemma, I noticed that she seemed to enjoy drawing attention to herself, while dishing out subtle doses of condescension with every nod of her disapproving head. You know… as though she had something over us. The funny thing, though, is that when dessert time rolled around, she had no problem eating it. And if you’re any connoisseur of fine desserts, you’d know that it probably had alcohol in it. 

So what was all that drama about? We felt that she was wrong in her behaviour, but somehow she felt right and justified in acting the way she did. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think that was partly due to her ego, but who am I to judge?

Ego is a funny thing, isn’t it? One minute it makes you feel all high and mighty, and in an instant, it could make you look like a true fool. The way I see it, if we learned how to put our egos or ‘rightness’ aside, there’d be so many wonderful things to gain. Things like the joy of discovery, creativity and humility. Of course, in order to grasp that concept, it would depend on how big or small one’s ego is. But ego isn’t the only thing to blame for misguided ‘rightness’. 

On the extreme end of the scale, some of us can’t hold ourselves accountable when we realise we’re wrong, so the easiest thing to do is to blame others. Fear often it gets in the way, especially the fear of being wrong, and for many of us that behaviour was learned early on in childhood. I remember getting ‘licks’ in school one day, not for bad behaviour, but because I couldn’t grasp the concept of time, and unfortunately I answered incorrectly when the teacher called on me. It was a turning point in my life. I felt humiliated, stupid and worthless, and I cried, not because I was wrong, but because of the ridicule I endured from that teacher and the way I was branded by my peers because of it. 

You see, culturally, society has placed this stigma – intentionally or not – on us, whenever we make mistakes. So by the time we’re probably eight or nine, we’ve learnt that the way to succeed in life is to never make any. We become focused on downplaying mistakes, and, depending on the environment we’ve grown up in, we become obsessed with saying the right thing, looking the right way, and behaving the right way, or getting what we want – because we’re right. This then transfers itself to our relationships, our behaviour at work, or even during a lime with friends. 

When we trust too much in the feeling of being right, we end up missing the point of being human. Some of us pay a huge price. Marriages end in divorce. We walk around with a distorted sense of self. We become difficult to work with. Lives are lost because of religious and political differences, and the list goes on.

Fact is, many children grow into adulthood never redefining what a mistake really is or what is means. As adults, we have the power to redefine ‘mistakes’ as a positive thing in children’s lives. Instead of teaching them that mistakes are embarrassing or shameful, we can show them how to identify them, correct them, and learn from them. Maybe that’s the key to breaking this obsession.

 

Check out the rest of this week’s issue (16/05/11; Issue 57):

Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!

Bahia Amarsingh

Bahia Amarsingh is a budding short story writer, who is about to publish her first book entitled, "It's Okay To Be Me". After attending the University of Central Oklahoma (US), she worked in healthcare in the US, for six years, and then settled with her husband in Dallas to raise their kids. This Trini now serves on the School Board in her community, and continues to juggle her time between work, family and her passion for reading and writing.

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