My Fear of Being Wrong

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

social conciousness

Let’s chalk this up to: lessons I thought I already learned but oh! look! here I am having to learn them all over again!

I am terrified of being wrong.

I’m not in love with the idea of being right; I really get very little satisfaction at this point in my life from the act of winning an argument or scoring imaginary points. Being right holds little appeal for me.

But being wrong carries with it a world’s weight of shame. I anticipate mocking and tongue-clucking, both disappointment and smug satisfaction from those who watch from the sidelines of my life. Although I know the reality of how little time anyone else in the world devotes to my rightness or wrongness, I get tangled up in the fear and misperception of the importance of my success or failure.

The truth is that no one else cares if I’m wrong.

The truth is that almost nothing is permanently wrong and almost everything is temporary, the best we can do right now.

But those simple truths are so easy to lose sight of amidst an inherent fear of looking foolish.

That fear can keep me stuck, stuck in truly foolish places, like holding on to a closet full of clothes that I’m actually not wearing and refusing to buy new ones to replace some I gave away – because doing so would be admitting I was wrong in choosing what stayed and what went.

Or staying in friendships that don’t work. Or jobs that aren’t a good fit. Or in any number of situations that are clearly wrong if looked at carefully, and so are best to not be scrutinized if at all possible. Because isn’t being stuck better than being wrong?

No, no it is not.

The truth is that being wrong is almost never that big of a damn deal at all.

Are you afraid of being wrong?

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  1. Poppy's Mom says:

    I recently took the contents of a plastic tote to the Salvation Army. The tote was filled with clothes two sizes too small for me that I brought with me when we moved from Florida 5 years ago. They were two sizes too small for me for five years before I moved from Florida. Yet I could not admit that the diet I went on to get to that size (oh so briefly) was not repeatable. I did not want to be the “wrong” size or admit I had spent a fair amount of money for something I could not use. Instead I tortured myself with that tote of unwearable clothes.

  2. debmactx says:

    This spoke to me in a deep dark place. I am horrified of being wrong. Horrified of wrong choices and the judgement that comes with those choices, so instead of pursuing my own happiness, I stay stuck right where I am to avoid admitting I made wrong choices….I’m scared.

  3. cagey says:

    I am often paralyzed by the fear of being wrong. But, I did let a friendship go WAY past its expiration date until it exploded into a firebomb. I hope I learned my lesson from that. I hope.

  4. Every. Single. Day.
    It’s why I keep quiet and in the background.

  5. Hockeymandad says:

    Totally. Completely. 100%.

  6. I’m more afraid of being invisible. So if I have to be wrong, I’m going to be wrong REALLY LOUDLY.

  7. Melissa says:

    In high school, I was on a quiz show on the local PBS station. I was so afraid of giving the wrong answer and looking stupid, that I didn’t ONCE buzz in to answer. In my head, I would think “I’m pretty sure the answer is X. No one else is getting it though, so it must be wrong.” It was always right. So, to save myself from answering incorrectly and looking dumb, I never once answered a question and looked… yeah, pretty dumb I’d say!

    My husband will ask me random questions sometimes, about sports or history or who sings this song on the radio. He knows the answer, he’s just quizzing me. God, I hate that. I get that same knot in my chest like on that stupid quiz show. I should probably just tell him, huh? =)

  8. MonsteRawr says:

    If I start walking somewhere and realize that I’m actually going the wrong way, but I know someone is watching me, I will continue walking the same direction, then take a long, convoluted path to get to where I actually want to go. All because I don’t want them to know that I went the wrong direction.

    But what actually terrifies me more than being wrong is messing up or failing. I recently realized that I would rather train for a marathon than study for a very difficult professional certification test because failing the marathon wouldn’t be as personally devastating as failing the test. Which is why for a year I’ve avoided starting to study for the test, and even now that I have started I’m only semi-convinced that I’m not going to suck at this thing.

    Messed up, huh?

  9. Val Joiner says:

    Yet another Miss Britt post to put me in an introspective mood…in a good way. For a long time I feared being wrong. No, I felt I wasn’t allowed to be wrong. Ever. But like you, that was a construct of my own, not truly what others expected. Once I let go of that, the sense of relief and freedom resulted in a huge change in my stress-level and outlook on life. It freed my writing to be more honest and authentic. In fact, it allowed me to write openly instead of writing only for myself, hiding. It has also allowed me to pursue new paths that I wouldn’t have considered before….the whole “it’s better to be stuck than wrong” bit. No, no indeed.

    Admitting mistakes has given me more confidence about the things I’ve gotten right. And more credibility because I’m are no longer dismissed as a know-it-all who doesn’t understand other people’s plights and mistakes. Someone who’s never admitted to messing up isn’t likely to be a good friend.

    In general since relaxing about being wrong, I find that most people are very forgiving. Most people recognize that we all make mistakes. Aren’t we usually forgiving of theirs? Then why are we so hard on ourselves? While there are some people who judge harshly, that’s really not the majority of people, maybe just the most vocal ones…and the ones who’s opinions are the least valuable. I think the biggest thing is to make sure you aren’t your most vocal critic and live out loud….mistakes and all.

    • Miss Britt says:

      ” Aren’t we usually forgiving of theirs? Then why are we so hard on ourselves? While there are some people who judge harshly, that’s really not the majority of people, maybe just the most vocal ones…and the ones who’s opinions are the least valuable.”

      Exactly.

  10. Megan says:

    Don’t know if I’m afraid of being wrong, but I know I sure do hate it. I recently had to face being wrong when I had to sell my beloved MINI because the upkeep was too expensive. None of the research I did indicated that this would be the case, but there it was anyway. I had pushed for the car because I loved and thought, “Screw totally practical, why can’t I have fun?”

    I think the fact that I was wrong about the car made it harder to sell than the fact that I adored it.

  11. Rita says:

    Sometimes the fear is so great we keep the truth from ourselves. I stayed in a soul-crushing marriage for 14 years because I was too proud and scared to admit how wrong I’d been. As it was imploding, I was able to look back at journals I’d written in the first year, and I could see that I knew it that early. But my fear was strong enough to push that truth down. When it could stay down no more, I felt blind-sided by it. How could I have known and not known at the same time? Fear. It’s a cloak, a mask, a box with a strong lock on it. Yeah, a lesson I have to keep re-learning myself. Luckily, life keeps giving me the opportunity to learn. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one. Thanks for giving me some this morning, as I’m embarking on a new set of choices that I hope are the right ones. Or maybe just better ones.

  12. Sheila says:

    If by “wrong” you mean “a complete and total fuck up and oh-my-gosh they are all going to laugh at me” then yes.

    I don’t mind being wrong in an argument……like when you realize half-way through trying to prove your point about some random thing that “Oh yeaaaaaaaah” now I get it and you’re like “Crap! Now I gotta try to save face!” I’m cool with that.

    But like, choices, decisions, etc? Totally terrified.

  13. sometimes i read these posts and want to hug you so tight because i think you can be too hard on yourself. today is one of those days. no one will mock or tongue cluck at you. and if they do, words can’t hurt you. besides, i’ll cut that bitch.

  14. *blink*
    Yes. I am. And yes, I’ve kept myself stuck over it. But you know what? I think maybe this is the last little bit of push I need to GET OVER BEING WRONG and get unstuck.

  15. Lisa says:

    For the most part I don’t fear making a wrong choice at the time of the decision, but I do regret having made a wrong choice once it has been proven wrong. I don’t let it bother me too much usually, but right now I’m faced with a *really big* decision that has me terrified of choosing the wrong option. Once I choose a path with this one I can’t go back and change it. It’s giving me the anxiety.

  16. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve never thought about this before. I’d say that in certain areas of my life I fear being wrong– like buying the wrong color sofa or choosing the wrong doctor. Those are situations where results are everything– and being wrong can have expensive and/or tragic consequences.

    But overall, I’d say that I do my best and when I’m wrong about something– so be it. Nobody’s perfect. Stupid happens. I just try to fix things and then I move on.

  17. HeatherS says:

    Being wrong for me does not bring fear of shame…I don’t care if I blurt out the wrong answer during a game of Trivial Pursuit or even at a PTA meeting because I’m kind of over that type of thing. I don’t (usually) have a problem admitting I was wrong (I know I can’t do math and my attention to detail sucks). And while I’ve been known to spend a LOT of time trying to decide what color I’m going to paint the bathroom next or same as many, decide if it really is ok to get rid of that box of useless crap that’s been sitting in the garage for 2 years, let’s face it, life can be full of some really scary decisions and trying to decide between the right and wrong answer can drive us crazy. I don’t want to let fear rule my life but there are lots of places in my life where fear of making the wrong decisions has been agonizing, not just because someone else might judge me or I might judge myself but where there are real life and death consequences. In the case of being diagnosed with cancer at 31 years old, should I remove two breasts, one or none? And pregnant at the time, so should I put off treatment so I can have a full-term healthy baby and risk my life or should I deliver early and risk her life, in an effort to save my life? This is not to belittle anyone else’s fears about being wrong. We all have our own neuroses and anxieties. Our fears are relative. Today your biggest fear might be picking the wrong paint color, tomorrow it might be making the wrong decision about medical treatment. At THAT moment, it’s real to you. Today I worry about my cancer coming back. And I worry about getting rid of all the extra hats & mittens in our coat closet because someone might come over to play in a snowstorm and forget theirs. It’s hard because we don’t always know if we were “wrong” or not until later. Lately though, I’ve been trying to just answer decision making questions in a different way…not, “Will I regret this choice later?” but “Will this make my life simpler/better/happier now?” It’s not always easy to do but I haven’t regretted any of my decisions yet. None that really mattered.

  18. Momma says:

    On a whole different stream, but also about being wrong. We all know how STUPID governments can be. A perfect example, of course, is what’s happening right now in your country. But, here is an example of a bunch of idiots: several years ago the Turks and Caicos government petitioned the Canadian government to accept their country into our Dominion. It was introduced as a bill in the House, but, THE IDIOTS TURNED THEM DOWN! Now, Canada is the best country in the world we think, but it would have been a better country with a province in the Caribbean, right? Now, that was just wrong.
    So glad for you that you have a chance to go to our ‘almost’ country! *sob*

  19. Poppy says:

    Sometimes I’m wrong on purpose just so other people can be right. It seems to make them feel wonderful about themselves, which pleases me, so everybody wins.

    Be wrong, be right, I still love you.

  20. Liane says:

    “The truth is that being wrong is almost never that big of a damn deal at all.” I really like that statement.
    I like to think that I have come a long way with this actually. But it is a process…I still struggle. A great book to read is The Gift of Imperfections by Brene Brown. Fabulous…

  21. [...] proved to our kids that we are in this together. We became a little more patient and a little less afraid of being wrong. We held on a little tighter and learned how to let go a little more easily. We [...]

  22. Sylvia says:

    You are so right! I have been struggling with this same binding fear of being wrong, and is has held me back from so much.

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