Overcoming the need to always be right

Until I left the corporate world in 2012, I suffered from a terrible affliction, one that affects millions of people around the world every day, and probably every politician on the planet.

I had a terminal case of Always-Right-itis.

Being right all the time is hard work, yet I felt it my duty to share my wisdom with the world.

If someone mispronounced a word or made a grammatical error, I was right there with a correction.

If my friends didn’t know the answer to something, I could be relied on for the solution (or, if I wasn’t totally sure, I at least always had an opinion on what the answer should be).

If my staff weren’t sure of the answer to something, I had the right one for them to save them having to think about it too much when the correct answer was so blindingly obvious. Hell, I even went through a phase where I decided that the word ‘staff’ was too elitist, so told everyone who would listen that they should be using the more-PC options of ’employee’ or ‘team member’.

Having to be right all the time doesn’t win you friends. Having to be right all the time wins you a reputation for being a dick.

When I left corporate due to my ill health in 2012, I was lost. I attempted to re-educate my then nine-year-old cat to change her behaviour to be more in line with what I thought was right. That turned out to be pointless, and akin to standing in front of a brick wall and telling it to fall down. All you end up with is a hoarse throat and a still-standing brick wall. Or, in my case, a dubious cat who would stare at me like I was mad when I was instructing her on where to scratch (complete with actions and sound effects whilst I pretended to scratch on a scratching post) then proceed to scratch on the arm of the sofa anyway. I’m fairly sure that several of the greys in my now-salt-and-pepper hair have my cat’s name on them. It became clear that my ‘need’ to always be right actually stemmed from a deeper need – the need to be in control.

As I was going through depression and anxiety at the time, I felt like I had very control. My need for control began to assert itself in different ways – when I had a shower, I would use a window squeegee thing to wipe down the glass and would count out loud the number of strokes it took (two panels of glass, eight strokes each). Every now and then I would use my finger to write a random word that I had just heard or said in the air – and sometimes, I would do this in bed with my right big toe followed by my left big toe. I thought I was losing the plot, so I discussed what was happening with my therapist who assured me that this was simply a manifestation of my brain’s attempts to regain some sense of control. He did question me a bit more about my squeegee-counting habit, asking “What happens if you don’t count or if you have to count more or less actions?” to which I replied, “Nothing. It just wouldn’t be symmetrical”. Turns out I wasn’t OCD, just a control freak.

Over time, I learnt to let go of control and my brain stopped wanting to count actions or make me perform localised sky-writing with my fingers and toes. My therapist taught me to identify when my brain was kicking into ‘I need control’ mode and to simply say/think to myself, “Thank you brain – I know you’re trying to protect me, it’s OK, I’ve got this”. It was liberating. It’s a technique that I used daily and it was so effective that now I rarely find myself needing to use it, however it’s a great little ‘back-up’ technique that I keep in my pocket because it works wonders for addressing anxiety, fear, and the dreaded Always-Right-itis.

Thanks to two years of conscious effort on not feeling the need to be right all the time, I’m doing much better than I was. Sure, every now and then I’ll snicker when I pick up on a grammatical error in a magazine and I did just shout at the television the other day over a piece of lazy journalism, however that’s became the exception rather than the norm. I know for sure that I’m on the road to recovery because the other day I discovered that something I had published online contained the use of ‘to’ when it should have read ‘too’. Instead of having an internal freak-out over not being perfect, I shrugged and got on with my life. Straight after I fixed it, of course.

 

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Main Image © deviantART, Inc. Retrieved 12/9/2014. Image subject to copyright by original author.

Some e-cards image retrieved 12/9/2014.

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