“Doing right has no need for others to know you are right”
I had a troubling meeting with my boss the other day; the kind where she tells you there are some “concerns,” and you feel blind sighted. I’m pretty sure I lost all my ego strength (therapist speak for pissed) in her office. I felt totally betrayed, wronged, shamed and I thought to myself, I will prove the inaccuracies of this accusation! I wanted to be right while also hearing that I was right from other people so I wouldn’t have to feel hurt. This got me thinking about the idea of “rightness” and how it influences our happiness.
There are many articles, blogs and posts about this topic and most mention that our Achilles heel is the ego-which can convince us of things (I’m not good enough, she doesn’t like me). As a therapist, you would think that I have a good working relationship with my ego. But alas I am a mere human and often struggle with my own insecurities, sensitivities, and defensiveness (all by the way are symptoms of a bruised ego). With this boss situation, my ego was driving my need to be rightbecause it was wounded. If I was right (by virtue of others acknowledging it) then I wouldn’t feel so crappy I reasoned. I spent an embarrassing amount of time figuring out how I was going to prove this, while not acknowledging that I was feeling worse and worse.
In my mind an apology would have been all the validation I needed and poof problem gone. But the reality of this happening had a very low probability, so I was left with a choice to continue to feed into resentment, and anger (belonging to my ego), or to let it all go. After much processing (and venting to friends), I decided on a fair compromise. I could know I was “in the right” without needing to be told this by others-specifically my boss. Additionally, I challenged myself to consider the following: Will trying to take action result in effective change? Are my thoughts accurate? Am I blowing things out of proportion and essentially creating my own barrier to happiness? What level of control do I have in this situation?
In answering these questions I came to the following conclusion: there are times when it is necessary to defend rightness and it’s possible to be happy without a fight. Since realizing this, I have decided to let go of the idea that I have to be seen as right. My ego has magically healed! I feel strong and empowered knowing that I made a choice which is something I felt compelled to share.
Below are some tips that I recommend:
1. Take some space and time-Get out of your emotional mind. As time passes you will notice the charge of the incident going away
2. Ask yourself what you really want, challenge yourself to look beyond the current moment
3. Reflect on the questions above-what will you gain by being right? What will you potentially lose?
4. Visualize the future. When you look back at this moment, what do you want to remember?
5. Breathe-this helps bring you out of a hyper aroused state
6. Look at this situation as if you were an outsider. What do you notice? How would you want others to see you?
7. When deciding to respond: be intentional-act from a place of confidence and wise mind versus emotion