When the Need to be Right Can be So Wrong (Part 4–Conclusion)

(Before reading this post, you may want to read Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the series posted November 17, 2017, November 19, 2017, and November 20, 2017, respectively)

For the rest of this piece, I’m going to use the term “right-ness” to refer to the pathological or excessive need to be “right.”    That stands in contrast to the normal and healthy drive that most human beings have at varying levels to perform well and be seen as competent and knowledgeable.  It is also normal and healthy to want your children, employees, church members, etc., to do well and to strive toward excellence.  It’s similar to the use of alcohol.  There is a healthy way to drink alcohol, and then there is problem drinking.  


Do you find that you doubt or second-guess yourself a lot? Do you have a tendency to over-explain your thought, feelings, and actions? Do you “should or should not” yourself often (Or do others “should” you?)? Do you feel like there is no tolerance in your family or organization for making “mistakes.” Do you find yourself anxious a lot? Do you get frustrated because nothing you do seems to be good enough?

If you answered yes to one or more of those question, you may be living in a “right” relationship or organization.  Often folks living in “right” relationships or organizations practice “right-ness” themselves as well.  Sometimes it’s hard to see it in yourself.  If you wonder if you are a “right” person, ask those around you for some feedback.  Or, if others are telling you that you are a “right” person, but you have dismissed their feedback, maybe it’s time to take another look under the emotional hood and do some soul-searching.

A few final words…

  • One of the simplest ways to handle being in a “right” relationship or system is to leave.  Don’t wait for “right” people to give you their blessings as you leave, because they’ll never do it.  If the “right” person is a close family member, spouse, or church family, leaving may not be the first thing to do.  If you can salvage the relationship and keep your self-respect, perhaps you could try to address the problems in the relationship first.  If the relationship is downright abusive and you are being harmed in some way, I would usually recommend that you leave, at least for a time.
  • If you are in a “right-ness” based system and have been for a long time, it might be time to reach out for support from a “non-right” friend or counselor.
  • Breaking free from a “right-ness” based system or relationship is not easy because often there is pressure on you (maybe guilt and shame) not to speak up or rock the boat.
  • When you do speak out, it might be terrifying at first to assert yourself when you are used to being a passive doormat.
  • When you confront “right-ness” expect counter-moves or blowback.  Other people around you might have liked you more when they didn’t have to take you seriously, and they may want the old you back.
  • Remember, “right’ systems are unsafe systems.
  • Stop over-explaining yourself.  It’s ok if other people don’t understand or approve of your action when you become more assertive.  If you try to get “right” people to validate you, you will be waiting a long, long time.
  • Families and organization are used to homeostasis, or forces in a system that keep everything the same.  Even if the same ol’ thing is continuously ineffective, people in systems tend to do what is familiar, even in healthy systems.  Breaking through those forces that keep things the same is difficult and requires skill, support, and persistence.
  • If you are a “right” person and regularly create conflict in your relationships, consider seeing a counselor–possibly accompanied by a spouse, partner, or close friend or family member. so you can practice new skills with them in the counseling session.




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