Having to be right all the time is a horrendous burden. First, it is impossible to attain. And second, striving to make it so surprisingly harms your health. I suspect this tendency of mine served to set me up for the fibromyalgia I eventually developed. Thankfully I figured out how to give up on being right and reduce stress. Which helps my health.
There are two ways that clinging to the idea of “being right” can actually harm your health. One is when you impose what works for you on others. Two is when you allow dysfunctional preconceived notions (e.g. men always cheat) to bleed over into reality and become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Imposing ‘Your Way’ on Others
I remember the incident clear as a bell. I was barely 30 years old, standing in the kitchen with my then-partner. He was cutting the carrots to go into the stew I was making.
“You can’t use that knife!” I harrumphed, swooping in to grab the offending utensil out of his hands mid-slice, and replacing it with my choice of knife.
“But I prefer that one,” he said.
My partner pointed out, quite reasonably, that there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with the stack of carrot slices he’d produced with the ‘wrong’ knife. He suggested that if he were to help prepare the meal, I might have the decency to let him choose his own method.
This kind of scenario was more common than I care to admit. I knew what worked best, in matters of carrot cutting and stew-stirring and bed-making and left-hand turning and…. well, everything. I knew what worked best for me and therefore it must also be the best for others.
The Health Consequences
What does this have to do with health? I’m so glad you asked.
When you’re focusing on what others are doing that is ‘wrong’ or, more accurately, ‘different’ from the way you might do it, two things are happening.
- You’re stretching your limited personal resources quite thin. You’re setting an unattainable bar that has you striving for other people to conform to the standards of behaviour set for yourself. And the fact is, we cannot control or change another person’s behaviour, we can only change our own.
- Those limited personal resources that you’re directing toward someone else are now not available for you to be open to ways to improve your own behaviour. And it is only when we focus on ourselves, inside and out, that we can hope to reduce stress and improve our physical and mental health.
We all have experiences in our history that have hurt us. When not addressed or processed in a healthy manner, these hurts can leave us putting up emotional protection barriers that actually backfire. Whether it is “men always cheat”, or “I’m not a trustworthy person”, or “I don’t deserve to be happy”, being right about these preconceived notions leaves you finding ways to prove you are right.
How it Affects Decision-making
It will affect your decision-making: if you tell yourself that ‘men always cheat’, then you will be justified in withholding sex or treating your partner in such a way as to make it easier for them to stray. If you tell yourself you ‘don’t deserve to be happy’, then you are off the hook for making the tough decisions required to create happiness in your life.
Whatever the scenario, the result on your physical and mental health is downright suppressing. Depressing and suppressing.
How I Got Over Myself
I had some help figuring this puppy out. But here are the steps I took to stop needing to ‘be right’ all the time. And it really did help me reduce stress.
- Learned to identify and separate “my stuff” from the things other people were responsible for
- Recognized that my fibromyalgia, exacerbated by stress, was going to win if I insisted on controlling everything and everyone around me
- Understood that my way was only one way, not necessarily the only way
- Learned to enjoy letting someone else take care of things, do things their own way, and even teach me a thing or two along the way.
Give Up Being Right and Reduce Stress
There’s no glory in being right, insisting you are right, proving you are right or manipulating circumstances in order to be right. In fact, engaging in these ‘being right’ behaviours undermines mental and physical health by creating additional stress and life scenarios that can be damaging. You can take your self-care a step further by giving up on being right. You will reduce stress and improve your overall health.