“Why choosing your battles and admitting when you’re wrong is truly worth it.”
We all know that one person—you know, the one who will argue ‘till the end of time to prove a point about something incredibly, and relatively, minuscule. Maybe you’re even one of them! I know I was, and sometimes still am.
There’s something fulfilling about having the last word, landing a strong rebuttal, or simply being heard in a room. I know my family particularly likes to have their fair share of political debates at the dinner table, even when it's in public, like—The Cheesecake Factory kind of public. No one seems to zip up their mouths and soak in what the other person is saying. Their brains crank with the next set of points they’re ready to relay, and their egos take up more space at the dinner table than their food.
Their conversation goes a little something like this: one person makes an argument, the other makes a counterargument, then the two go back and forth as each of their arguments are 90% proven wrong by the other person. As the debate continues, each party begins to dance around their main point and soon divert their attention to either semantics, or how one of them used the word, “technically,” wrong. Where does this even go?
“This must get exhausting,” I say to two of them as the waitress sets down our freshly made avocado egg rolls. They waive me away. I laugh. I take a bite, and continue listening to the ridiculousness of what they deem as “worthy of their time.” I love them no matter what.
Why do I tell this story? Because I also used to be this kind of person. I loved feeling smart, being heard, and embracing the security behind what I could do well at—arguing. I was in several debate clubs growing up and have a pretty politically active family. I was constantly surrounded, and conditioned, to find flaws in arguments and use them as strongpoints for myself, something The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor, helped me understand. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s what I’ve gathered about myself when I went through a time of self-reflecting. Why did I feel so good proving people wrong? Or more importantly, why did I hate admitting when I was the one who was wrong?
I can’t really name a pivotal moment in my life when I started to realize this about myself. I just knew I did not feel good after arguing with people, even if I did “win” the argument. I felt like I was feeding into this fiery energy, overdosing on a medicine that fueled my brain with the wrong “highs.” It was addictive, and seeped into my relationships, friendships, and even stranger-ships (if that’s even a word). It was this sort of defense mechanism to protect my ego. I noticed I was insecure, and this was my way of masking the history of trauma and frustrations I had about my past.
Now if I had to pinpoint a time when I changed my perception about admitting fault, there was a funny moment a few years ago when a guy did something that emotionally hurt me. He said something along the lines of, “Oh my GOD I’m an idiot. I’m so sorry Areeta, I’m such an idiot. Can I do something to fix this? What if I bought you ice cream?” This was all said while his eyes were bulging out of his head, and his hands were pulling back his hair. I literally giggled out loud. I absolutely loved how easy this was for him. In fact, I was jealous in a way.
Here was a guy who did something wrong, and I, a teenager, was really hurt. What astonished me was that he, also a teenager, immediately owned up to his shit. I don’t know why this amazed me so much, but it did. Because of his honesty and hilarious vulnerability, it was easier for me to forgive the mistake than if he were to have said something like: “Well, technically I didn’t do anything wrong, because according to the ‘relationship doctors’ of Harvard Med School blah blah blah” I can’t even finish the stupid, made-up quote because it hurts my brain. Instead of disregarding the way I felt, he just accepted what he did, and then did something to fix it.
It wasn’t until I entered my twenties when I really mulled over that moment. This guy is still one of my best friends to this day. He’s so confident in himself and has even been asking me out for over a year now. Even when I say no, he doesn’t stop shooting his shot. Isn’t it interesting how this guy—one who’s so good at admitting when he’s wrong—is also so good at handling rejection? Feeling good about who he is?
“Areetaaaaa. I’m not trying to wife you up!! I just want to take you to dinner!!!! C’monnnn.” Charming fella, really. Maybe one day. He makes me laugh.
Another inspiration that helped change my view about this, is a documentary on Netflix called “The Secret.” It’s also a book. To sum it up, it talks about how you can manifest your successes into existence by the way you think and act. This changed my life. Since I wanted to alter this particular habit of mine, and also be happier, I thought about the things I could control and adjust about myself.
I started to implement this way of living, as well as how the teenage guy operated, into my own life. An example of this was when I was in Big Bear a few months ago. I messed around with the thermostat to see if I could make the cabin warmer, but I in fact, made the place colder (this is in mid-January, by the way…classic Reet). Someone yelled, “Who freaking turned the thermostat down to 58 degrees!?!?”
Teenage Areeta would’ve been frightened and zipped her mouth shut. However, 22-year-old Reet full-heartedly stepped forward and said, “I’m so sorry fam! That’s on me. I thought I turned it up but I’m dumb and accidentally did the opposite!!” Several people laughed. I did too. The person responded with “Haha, no worries I got you,” and dialed the thermostat back to the right temperature. How easy was that!? Admitting my fault right off the bat took so much less energy, fixed the problem faster, and even brought a few laughs to people’s faces. I thought. “Wow. Why didn’t I do this more often?”
Now I know that’s a little, funny story, but this can apply to so many different aspects of your life. This isn’t to say you should ignore issues worth fighting for, or that when you see something unjust, to simply turn away. No no no. This is meant to inspire you to pick the battles worth fighting for and standing up against. Ask yourself, “Is this worth my time?” “Will winning this argument improve my life?” “Will not admitting fault help me feel better?”
This also isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself, or even your past self, either. We are all works in progress. There’s absolutely no way I can say I’m the same person I was when I was a teenager, and I’m sure you can say the same about yourself. As my dear friend Adriano once told me, “You can’t compare your past self to your current moral standards,” and I stand by that notion to this day.
So, with that being said, give this a shot! Pick your battles. Admit when you’re wrong. Maybe mess with a thermostat now and again. The pay-off is endless, and you will find more peace by exerting less anger. I can promise you that.