Extreme Esteem: Being right versus being happy

Extreme Esteem: Being right versus being happy

“He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.

– Michel de Montaigne, philosopher of the French Renaissance

“Actually, let me explain how this really works.”

My colleague shot me a sideways glance.

Our resident know-it-all was at it again. No matter what the topic, she had the answer. She was wiser, more well informed, and quite simply, right – every time, without exception. (Not in reality, but certainly in her mind.) This resulted in many fights, arguments and hard feelings.

No matter what the subject or who her opponent was, she would argue to the death that she knew best. Many work relationships and no doubt many personal ones, too, were damaged by her stance. Not surprisingly, she wanted to head up every committee and lead every management meeting. And she was frustrated by the fact that her career advancement had inexplicably stalled. Truth be known, no one wanted to work with her.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have tremendous admiration for those individuals who take a courageous stand against oppression and fight for what’s right and just. However, in my experience, most of those individuals have the awareness needed to weigh the consequences and to discern which battles to fight and when to agree to disagree. In other words, they understand the difference between being right and being happy.

Happiness can mean many things – and for some, being right is an essential part of it – but here I’m talking about being free of stress or anxiety. Often the battles will cause so much stress that it comes down to a choice between being right and being happy.

Like our resident expert, I used to believe my “right” was incontrovertible, and therefore, everyone else was simply wrong. Years ago, as an advertising manager, I demanded absolute adherence to my procedures and processes. Any deviation was unacceptable. After all, I was the manager – the most experienced person in the room – so I knew best. I was right! There was no middle ground, no possibility of compromise – no hope for a mutually beneficial outcome.

Upon reflection, I now see I was engaged in black-and-white thinking. There are thousands of shades of grey in the spectrum of black-and-white. And I realized that right versus happy wasn’t so much about right and wrong, but about an unreasonable need to be in control.

Need to be in control can also be an unconscious way of compensating for the feeling of being out of control or an unconscious fear that you don’t really know what you’re doing – a consequence of negative self-esteem. When we attempt to exert control, it can manifest in a variety of ways from the subtle and indirect – suggesting, sweet-talking, and manipulating – to the overt – threatening, intimidating, and demanding.

For the individual bent upon being right, all opposing opinions, suggestions and perspectives are wrong. The need to be right becomes overwhelming and will tend to over-ride good judgment. The end justifies the means, however extreme or inappropriate, creating stress and suffering for all those caught in its wake – and this ultimately includes the perpetrator.

Wise and aware people who don’t give up – who fight the good fight for the right reasons – are often rewarded for their perseverance and willingness to sacrifice. People with an excessive need to be right generally experience the opposite result. They win the disdain of others, and the harder they try to maintain control, the more out of control they feel. Moreover, being endlessly locked in combat becomes exhausting, leaving little energy for positive endeavours.

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? It’s a simple, yet compelling question that can unlock the door to an awareness of other possibilities. An obsessive need to be right – in other words, to control people, events and outcomes – interferes or even obstructs your ability to be happy.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Lawmakers are debating legislation to legalize single-event betting as a bill reaches final reading in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Most Read