Saturday, 9 April 2011

Letting go of the need to be right

Have you ever found yourself passionately involved in an argument about something that doesn't really matter at all and yet you will not give up your point of view? Say you're arguing about who's turn it is to do the dishes, or why dogs bark more at night, or whether the Queen of England is the richest women in the world. The outcome of the argument has very little bearing on your life, or on the lives of others, and yet you somehow cannot back down. You are determined to prove that you are right and the other person is wrong!

Many wonderful relationships have been ruined because of the inability to let go of the need to be right. In the moment we feel so completely justified in our position that we somehow convince ourselves that we are prepared to sacrifice both our own happiness and the happiness of our friend in order to prove it. At the same time we close ourselves off from learning anything new because to do so would require us to let go of our solidified perspective on the world and to open up to other ideas and viewpoints.

Why do we feel this need to be right? One reason is that our self-esteem is so fragile that we associate being wrong with not being good enough. Even if we know deep down that we are mistaken we can sometimes go into denial and continue arguing til we're blue in the face. The irony of this is that by being so stubborn we often cause others to lose respect for us.

If we have attached our self-esteem to being right it can be difficult to let go of it. One thing that can be helpful is to remember how vast and mysterious the universe really is and to acknowledge that our understanding of it can only ever be partial. That goes for all of us; we're all in the same boat here! Therefore even if you do not know, or are mistaken, this is only to be expected. It does not mean that you are stupid, and it does not mean that you are not good enough.

Another thing that is helpful in letting go of being right is to cultivate mindfulness. When we are mindful we tend to be more aware of what we are about to say before we say it. Thus we tend to avoid getting involved in pointless arguments in the first place. We are also more likely to notice when we are getting attached to our point of view. You'll come to a point where you think, 'Hang on. Does this really matter? What am I getting so worked up about?' It then becomes much easier to acknowledge the other person's perspective and move on to more meaningful discussion.

Cultivating mindfulness also gives you a different view of yourself in relationship to the world. As you watch your thoughts in meditation you find that 'the observer', the part of you that watches the thoughts as they flow through your mind, is unconcerned with your day-to-day anxieties and insecurities. This self doesn't have poor self-esteem, in fact this self doesn't need to be esteemed. All those thoughts in your head that tell you you're not good enough, they're just obscuring this deeper self. When you become connected to this deeper self you become pure peace, and being good enough or pretty enough or smart enough just doesn't matter any more.

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