The need to be right

Lately I keep thinking about how I have this overpowering need to be right. I’ve come to see that arguing my point all the time is not working for me. It’s not convincing anyone that I am right. It makes me feel self-righteous, which is sort of fun but not the same as feeling like I had a real conversation with someone.

I’ve been exploring what is underneath this drive to be right all the time. Is it fear of not being able to communicate and be heard? Is it a distrust of my skills at hanging on to my own point of view in a more complex conversation? Is it just conditioning of being a philosophy major and having a dad who studied debate and law?

Is anyone else thinking about this? I’d love a conversation about it.


I’m sure some of it is seeking community validation for your own morals. And some of it is actually trying to convince others of your sincerely-held beliefs. When I argue about my views for prisons, it’s because I really want to change people’s minds, for the better treatment of those prisoners.

Another reason I find for wanting to be right is that I actually want to figure out what I believe. A common challenge is to explain a concept as if you were talking to a five-year-old, and some of my deepest-held beliefs are things I find difficult to put into text at all, so I relish the opportunity to figure out how I would explain what I believe.

But, for myself, I think the deepest, darkest reason of why I do it is because I’m afraid I’m wrong. If I stop defending my point of view, as ridiculous as it seems to type it out, it’s as if I’m admitting that my beliefs don’t hold up to scrutiny, which means that I have to re-evaluate everything based upon that point of view: actions, plans, and other related beliefs, and that’s a difficult step to take.


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to refine my position. I still want to be right, but I try not to automatically assume that I’m already there. I remind myself that I have much to learn in my own pet topics, and everything to learn in every other topic.

Plus, even when I’m right, I’m trying to minimize the urge to convince other people of my rightness. I have, historically, been somewhat insufferable. I don’t wanna be that anymore.


I think that one of the signs of maturity is in trying to find where ‘right’ lies, and to move yourself there, rather than planting yourself in one place and declaring where you are to be ‘right.’

One of the problems with religion, as I see it, is that it doesn’t tend to instill into its adherents this kind of reflection upon your own beliefs, instead taking for granted that what you have been taught is ‘right’ is the literal Word-of-God definition, and should not be questioned.


For me, it’s an overpowering need to know I’m not delusional.

It’s sort of like the anecdote about Galileo muttering “and yet it moves” after officially recanting on heliocentrism. I’ve endured a lot of gaslighting in my life, which has led to further embarrassment later on when I say something based on the gaslighting and it’s utterly wrong. (The Stone Roses were not a heavy metal band; Sarah didn’t think I was rude so I didn’t need to apologise to her; not only am I not actually bad at paying my bills on time, I’m actually pretty diligent about it.)

When I was a teenager a relative pointed out a Molly Ringwald article to me. Ringwald said in it that she used to think she knew everything, but now she realised she didn’t.

I replied I didn’t think I knew everything, but I wanted credit for what I did know.

That’s followed me into adulthood. I’m wrong about lots of stuff. Lots of stuff. But getting dismissed when I know I’m right – not morally, not philosophically, but factually right (the file’s on the network drive. In this language the 0,0 point is at the top left of the viewport, not the bottom right.) – drives me batty.


I’ve always tried to be mindful that I don’t know everything.

But years ago, I realized when I knew I was right about something, I could come down with a righteous fury that would leave the person either knowing I was right or a plot of scorched earth.

I’ve had to mellow after realizing I strayed into the “Well, Actually…” territory far too often and especially over things that did not matter.

Although, this weekend I was mulling it over after I let something my spouse said that was incorrect just slide by. I used to correct her on “everything” and it was a point of contention. But, still today now that I see this article, there is part of me that wants to go back and say, “Hey, you know that thing you said yesterday, yeah, you were not correct”

Being “right” at work is easier as I can usually point to something specific that backs me up. But last week, there was some discussion on what was the correct Site Codes for some new sites we were on boarding and the PM had old data and I just about took their head off. Had to go back and apologize and I still feel bad about that.


Oh yes. There are so many things that seem obvious to me that clearly most of humanity doesn’t seem to agree with. It bugs me, especially when “most of humanity” includes good friends or close relatives.

Case in point: I have a good friend who’s a die-hard conservative. We don’t agree on many things, but when he defends voter ID requirements because “people who can’t be bothered to follow the rules shouldn’t be voting” it just drives me crazy. It seems to me that goes against basic democracy, at least how it’s so supposed to work nowadays (not back in the “good” old property owners only days).


How long you been married, moose?

How long you wanna stay married?

Don’t listen to that part of you.


To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup
Whenever you’re wrong admit it
Whenever you’re right shut up.

—Ogden Nash*

*A male chauvinist if there ever was one.


Going on 28 years. I know when to shut up.


This is a lot of what I think mine is. I said something to my mom about this and she talked about how I was always like this as a little kid even, and it makes me think that I developed it as a reaction against being in an environment where I was constantly being talked out of my point of view, or having it invalidated, and that being RIGHT served me well to hold onto my sense of self.

But now I think it’s not serving me well and I wonder how to evolve to another style of being.

What else is there? What does it look like?

When I have this conversation with people online, they always go to the Nazis, as if they were to actually speak to a racist or a Nazi like a real person with valid needs that they would be sucked into their way of thinking and end up giving a sieg heil instead of saying hello.


I think there’s something to that. I never need to be right more than when discussing things related to my profession with non-experts. When you experience insecurity and invalidation in your day-to-day, how can you not be sensitive to it in other realms?

This morning, I was thinking about this thread. Then a guy started mansplaining to me on facebook about Matt Damon and Me Too, et al. And I thought to myself, “Self, you know what would be nice? If this fuck got none of my time.” And I unfriended him. Maybe just acknowledging that we have that need, but that it doesn’t have to drive us is enough to get rolling towards more inner peace.


This is kind of what I was thinking to say, too.

I’ve come to realize that my own lifelong learning process goes better when I waste the least amount of mental and physical time with people who don’t want to hear me or believe me.

Better to keep learning, and exchange information with others who find it interesting to learn something new, or think about things a different way.

This means I’m a lot quieter these days, whether it’s work- or family-related. And I find ways to only interact for short periods of time, when there are other people around to cover the fact that I’m not engaging.


Not too long ago at the other place, I was informed that “I can’t be told anything, because I act like I know everything.” Which I find interesting given that:

A) the source of that comment is a pretentious ass who seeks the attention I command without even trying.

B) I learn new stuff from members on both sites all the time, whether I verbally acknowledge it or not.


Yes, YES! So much this. I wasted a lot of time with people who wouldn’t listen, didn’t want to listen, or would automatically dismiss my point of view/opinion/stance, even if a known fact - “it’s dark at night” - because it was coming from me. Or as I like to call it, ‘rewriting history’. It took a long time to learn to walk away from people like that. I think @Melizmatic calls them something like ‘energy suckers’ and I no longer have the time, energy, patience or will to deal with that shit. Just because you (I) believe something different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Of course, that goes in all directions.

I don’t think holding on to a particular belief, stance or fact is necessarily about being right. A lot of the time it’s about believing in yourself or what you know is true - “it is indeed dark at night. And sometimes under other circumstances too”. Although as @nimelennar said, it’s nice to be validated, and as @gadgetgirl said, it’s good to know you’re not delusional!


Oh, and I don’t think holding true to your beliefs or knowledge denotes rigidity or unwillingness to learn, either. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. You (I) incorporate that info/knowledge/belief and move along. It’s always good to learn!


Energy leeches or psychic vampires; there’s been quite a few interesting articles on the subject over the last decade, at least.

Kudos to recognizing that you have neither the time nor the inclination to put up with folks who only bring you down.


I would rather convince other people that I’m right then to convince them of my rightness, if that makes any sense. It’s more that I know that there is a right answer and I know it, rather than wanting to be right to satisfy my own ego.

Yes, this.

Not true. I’ve spoken to more of them than are worth speaking to. They are not redeemable. Sometimes in life you just have to cut bait.


Energy leeches: that’s the one! I was so close with energy suckers :roll_eyes:

And thanks! Fuck that timewasting bullshit.


Yes,that’s a useful distinction.