I’m the kind of person who has to be correct on 95% of things, if not everything. Back in middle school and high school, I rarely raised my hand to speak out loud unless I was 110% certain of the answer.
Of course, nobody is perfect, so I have had those times when I was — gasp — wrong about something.
Let’s take a pause here to contemplate the gravity of the situation.
Being wrong shows you are vulnerable. Being wrong shows you are not as smart as you appear to be, and not being exceptionally brilliant makes you vulnerable. Your entire reputation is ruined by one fumbling mistake, and your peers will forever remember that day when you were wrong.
Before you laugh, I have to state that this is the common mindset of most perfectionists. Being wrong for us is like a blemish. We put on a show of brushing aside our embarrassment. If a student corrected us, we would say, “Oh, okay,” and let it go. But if someone of higher authority corrected us –like, gulp, a teacher— we would nod humbly while our cheeks heat up more and more until we resemble a pink balloon.
Now that I’m in college, I rethink my fear of being wrong. Yes, I have heard the same old cliches about “not striving to be perfect, yadda yadda, eat your vegetables, etc.” But those never really touched me enough. What really changed my perspective was the vast amount of views out there.
In my Critical Interpretation class, we discuss the effects of various poetry and symbolic devices within. The subjectivity of the whole thing makes essentially every interpretation correct (unless the interpretation is just completely far-fetched). There are definitely times when the professor disagrees with a student’s analysis, and you can see him going, “Hmm…” with that Are-You-Sure, I-Don’t-Believe-That-Is-Very-Correct expression (the nightmare of every perfectionist).
But then, the conversation continues as another student talks about his view.
No blemish on the student whose interpretation was wrong.
No big deal.
The world did not stop, amazingly.
But watching on the sidelines isn’t nearly as powerful as personally experiencing the happening. For a presentation, I had to analyze and describe the effects produced by a passage. It could be anything, from an advertisement to a pop song. To make a long story short, I apparently over-analyzed the lyrics to Mr. Brightside (a fantastic song by The Killers). The professor then gave a speech about nonsensical lyrics in music, finding the limit of where to stop analyzing, etc, etc.
-insert “What?! I was wrong?!” here-
No, I have learned that college is an excellent preparation for the real world. In the real world, there will always be people who disagree with you in casual conversations. There will be people who oppose your opinions in national debates. Every second, someone is wrong, someone is right, and someone is in the gray line between the two sides. (And someone out there right now is saying there is no right or wrong, only differences in opinion.)
To put it briefly: it’s okay to be wrong. It really is.