Mr. Always Right and The Underrated Joy of Being Wrong

I saw a fridge magnet several years ago. It was roughly along the lines of not knowing when you married Mr. Right that their first name was always. Fridge magnets marketed at women aside, it does have a point. We all like to be right or at least feel like we’re right most of the time.

Why do we have such a fear of being wrong or of not having the right answers? Perhaps in hunter gatherer times we didn’t want the tribe to evict us for not being useful – “oh they’re poisonous berries…damn…wish I’d known earlier.”No one likes to be wrong when they’re a child. It’s embarrassing to get something wrong and no one likes to feel stupid. I’m sure everyone had the experience of putting their hand up to answer a question in school and shouting out the wrong answer. The default response is to usually keep your hand down, at least for a while, because you’re in a crowd and one wrong answer is embarrassing …but two?!…people may talk. Being wrong as an adult feels even worse. Professionally we’re often paid to get things right in some way or another. Personally we want our spouses and families to feel we’re dependable, that we can be trusted to get things done right. Our egos and confidence are usually reliant on external feedback – if other people think we’re intelligent then it must be true – of course! Of all the insults you can aim at a person, why is it that one word that isn’t profanity can get people really angry and upset – the word – “stupid!” It won’t rank high on lists of dangerous words to say to other people but insulting other people’s intelligence is a sure fire way to risk their dislike.

If we’re made to feel stupid or actually get called stupid – we’re put back into school again – we won’t want to put our hand back up. The problem is when you shy away from being wrong or sweep it under the carpet to hide it from the view of others – we hide it from our own view. We’re all wrong from time to time no matter how smart we are or think we are. If we feel compelled to always be right or appear to be right – how can we ever learn? How can we ever improve? On top of that how can others trust us if they know that we won’t ever admit when we make mistakes?

Being wrong takes vulnerability – it risks damaging the polished illusion of perfection we try to sell to the world and ourselves. You’re not perfect, nor should you wish to be – you’re perfectly imperfect. If we can admit that we’re wrong or that we’ve made mistakes – we’re free to look at how we can do things better – how we can be better. But if you’re always right – how can you ever get better than that?