This was first published on KSL.com
Believing your own views are right is a troublesome tendency that we each must watch out for. It shows up as an overattachment to our own ideas and opinions and the tendency to see other perspectives as wrong.
When you get overattached to your opinion, you also tend to look for reinforcement confirming that you are right. It's called confirmation bias and you are drawn to shows, articles and books that confirm your current opinion over things that challenge it. You subconsciously seek this confirmation because it has a positive effect on your self-esteem.
Feeling like you are right doesn't actually increase your value; it just temporarily makes your ego feel better than other people whom you see as wrong.
If people struggle to see value in themselves, they often seek what I call "group self-esteem." They align themselves with a group of people who see themselves as superior to another group, and because they are a member of this superior group they get a little self-esteem boost.
The temporary benefits
But again, thinking you are right is only a temporary ego boost because being right doesn't actually give you more value than the people on the other side. Many people believe their ideas, opinions and beliefs do make them the "good guys" and more valuable than people with different views and beliefs. You can see this happening all around us.
People need to believe that their opinions make them better than others for two reasons:
1. They need the self-esteem boost that comes from feeling superior to others
This often happens when they don't get enough self-esteem from their appearance or performance. So, taking a strong stand on their views becomes their "thing" that sets them apart and makes them feel valuable. These people will talk about and share their views liberally because it reinforces their sense of value. They are overly committed to being right because it makes them feel better.
2. They get a sense of safety from their strong opinions and ideas
Feeling sure about their views gives them a sense of solid ground to stand on. Their opinions and views can make them feel in control and provide some stability. Beliefs can create our sense of security in the world; the problem is that when we rely too heavily on our opinions for security, we can become stubborn and stop learning, growing or experiencing people and ideas outside of those views.
There are some benefits to being overcommitted to being right, but there are also some troublesome consequences from being this way. Here are a few of them:
1. You only see life from your own perspective
You cannot help seeing the world through your own lens — a lens that was created from all your past experiences and knowledge. Yours is a very unique lens, too, because no other person on the planet will ever have your upbringing, your family, and your life experiences. You are literally the only one who can see life through your lens.
This is important to understand because your lens is also not accurate. It is all you know and can see, so it feels accurate, but it is — and will always be — just your perspective. There is an infinite number of other perspectives from which things look totally different. This is why any number of witnesses can watch the same event and see it very differently. This is why witness testimony can be unreliable. People always see the world through their skewed lens.
Recognizing this and understanding that all you can ever see is your own skewed opinion, perspective, and views means being open to honoring and respecting other people's right to see the world from their perspective. It is also all they can see, and from their perspective things will look very different from yours.
There is great wisdom and compassion to be gained when we step out of judgment and our need to be right and experience, listen to and learn from other people's perspectives. If you only watch your perspective's news program and read books that support what you already believe is the truth, you will miss out on the richness of the human experience and all its diversity.
2. You don't learn anything
A funny thing happens when you think you're right in your opinions and views: You stop asking questions and you stop learning. You subconsciously believe you know all there is to know, so you don't care what else is out there. It is only when you are willing to question what you know, and are truly open to being wrong, that you can learn. Wise people know that the more you learn, the more you understand you have more to learn.
There are always going to be more questions than answers. Being willing to question your views and knowledge makes you intelligent, a perpetual student, and ensures you're always growing. True wisdom is always questioning what you think you know.
3. You don't connect with people
If you are overly committed to your own opinions, you will miss opportunities to connect with other people — primarily because they won't share their perspectives with you. They can feel that you aren't open and don't provide a safe place to share, so they will keep their views to themselves.
There are billions of amazing humans out there with interesting stories and experiences, many that are beyond your ability to comprehend. Because you have never experienced life in their shoes, you don't know what they know. The more different they are from you, the harder it can be to cross the divide and connect with them; but when you do, you grow in incalculable ways.
This is why people say travel to faraway places changes you. Taking time to get to know people, who are vastly different from you and honoring and respecting their right to their views — even if their views bother or offend you — will help you gain compassion and wisdom. Spending all your time with people who agree with you gets you nowhere.
4. You don't experience love at the highest level
I personally believe — though I am open to being wrong about all of this — that differences are a perfect part of our life's journey because they stretch our ability to love others and ourselves. Differences trigger fears in us and push us out of our comfort zones. Think about some people in your life that you have a hard time loving or even liking. What are the differences that create these feelings? For some reason, your subconscious mind that has decided these behaviors in these people make them unworthy of love at some level.
The problem with letting these feelings go unchecked is that as long as you see their faults as making them unworthy of love, you will also see your own faults — though they may be different ones — as making you unworthy of love. You literally cannot love yourself except as you love your neighbor. If you stay in judgment of them, you will also stay in judgment of yourself. If you want to truly love and accept yourself, you must work on seeing every other human being as equal in value and worthy of compassion. You may never understand their perspective or behavior, but you know that's because you cannot see the world through their lens.
Being open to understanding and learning from other people takes you to a higher level of love and creates a wiser, more open and beautiful way of living. But you cannot get there if you are stuck in your need to be right about your current views.
Opinions vs. morals and values
I also want to say that opinions and views as I have addressed them in this article are different from your morals and values. Morals and values are beautiful choices you make about the rules you want to guide your behavior choices. They are still made from your perspective, but they are the consciously chosen systems to live by. What you want to avoid is pushing your value systems onto others — because they have the right to choose their own — and being closed off to changing your values as you grow and learn.
You could choose to stay open and question everything including your values, your views, and your opinions, and constantly measure them against love. There are so many dimensions to the human experience, and nothing is ever fully black and white, but love for yourself and other people may be a good measure in choosing values that create positive things in your life.
These are, of course, just my perspective and ideas, but I do like the results that are created in my life when I choose to see life as a classroom — purposefully designed to stretch my compassion and ability to love. I also appreciate the comments to my articles that challenge my ideas and premises and I am always open to being wrong.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.