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The High Cost Of Being “Right”

We are taught to pursue being right. We are rewarded by families and schools for the “right” answers. Often the ideas we encounter about “right” are presented as absolutes. We can feel their inflexibility and lack of nuance, their lack of consideration for context.

What Does Being Right Mean?

When we talk about being right we are saying we are correct: our assessment, our perception, our diagnosis of a person or situation is true. If our perception is true then we are justified in acting on it.

Where does our perception of being right come from? It can come from:

  • what we are taught in our families which can be a family pattern, or way of relating including what is allowed or not
  • our school which tells us when an answer is right or not
  • our culture which tells us what is “normal” or not
  • peer groups of various kinds
  • people who share our life situation
  • people who share our identity

Being right makes our perceptions concrete and actionable. It turns some ways of showing up in the world as facts and the other ways of being become “problems.” Cultural norms are shared experience and because they are shared by many they become the perceived reality, a validation of what is OK and what is not. They become the de facto definition of “right” because why else would everyone be doing what they are doing? Because one way humans learn is through imitation, we tend to copy the strategies of others when often they are not right for us. We fit in as a result even if the fitting in is uncomfortable or not right for us. After all, our survival depends on our ability to be part of a group since none of us can survive totally on our own.

Being Right And Identity

Conformity at least when appropriate is not intrinsically wrong. What becomes an issue is the inflexibility of conformity, the demands for sameness as a kind of self-protection in a changing world.

Being right according to the norms of our culture helps us to self identify as a good person. Those who do not are often defined as problematic in some way. This is where being “right” goes off the rails because there really is not just one way of being that is OK. Nature helps us understand this with its diversity of coexisting species, both animal and plant.

Cultural norms become especially important when rites of passage are not honored because they become a substitute for the blessing and respect normally given to us by adults that acknowledges our ability and need to take our place in the world as adults. We are most likely to receive that blessing if we conform. People who do not often feel that they are not perceived as or welcome as full adults in their communities.

The Danger Of Being Right

Being right has a lot of support and you could say that seeking to be right is a habit that many of us have. Unfortunately there are ideas and social narratives around what is considered right that may not in effect be factual. It is interesting that one can be right according to social norms and narratives and still be wrong. We see that playing out in the difficulties making the necessary changes required to deal effectively with climate change.

Sometimes what is considered right comes from old ideas about how to live in times past which may have been appropriate at the time but are not now. Since humans create stories as forms of connection and self and other regulation it matters how we shape these stories, whether they reflect the truth of the present or simply a truth of a past way of living. We can do real harm to ourselves and others if we try to impose pour ideas about being right onto them without regard for their suitability. I know from my own experience how different we are. If you go to an art class where everyone is drawing an object, you will discover how differently each person approaches the task. No two people are exactly alike. Ayurveda, the highly regarded health system, acknowledges the uniqueness of each person in how their health recommendations.

Embracing Adaptability

It is fair to ask whether one can be present and also prescribe to fixed ideas about being right. One of the big dangers of being right is that it becomes a false anchor. Because the world is always changing, it is important that we adapt our perceptions to account for changing conditions. It is a requirement of healthy adaptability. The greater the attachment to being right the greater our need to deny changing conditions, which can have very negative consequences.

It is important to find ways to reconcile what is and what is changing. It is only in doing so that we can discover problem solving approaches that will really work. Doing so requires a willingness to be open to change in ourselves, others and the conditions supporting our lives. Not to do so can be harmful to ourselves and others, a kind of false security.

As a sensitive person, you are constantly introduced to a lot of information about your surroundings because of your highly active nervous system. Some of that information is known to others and other information is not. Being sensitive means that you pick on subtle nuances that may indicate changes going on. It is like being in touch with shifting sands. It can be a gift of being sensitive to find ways to offer our awareness so that we can support the adaptability of our social group and culture. We must also make sure that we are being open to the variety of information and possibilities around us in order to do the due diligence that is needed to understand changing conditions.

Being right is usually only temporary in a changing world. So we need to be able to change our awareness, opinions, and strategies as conditions change. The more we can listen to the context and changes around us the more effective and “right” we can be in our problem solving in the present to the benefit of all.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution and Sensitive Evolution Radio. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World as well as numerous courses for sensitives including The Emerging Sensitive Course using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. They can be found here. She is a long time meditator, reiki master, a student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.