Have to do it right

Imagine that you’re equally positioned between two roads that will both get you to your destination, and you have to choose the right one. 
Wait, what does “right” mean? It might mean the fastest, the easiest, the safest, or the prettiest. And how do you know which is the “right” one this time? Last time Route A had unexpectedly heavy traffic. The time before that Route B was moving so slowly. Route B is so much prettier, but it has a tricky merge. Route A has fewer traffic lights, which could be all in your favor or all against you. With no practical way to predict, which do you choose? You have to do it right!
Wait, why do you have to do it right? This is not neurosurgery, where micro choices can have life altering consequences. We’re talking about decisions and choices that don’t have life altering consequences at all. Sometimes guessing “right” — because it’s often about guesses without any meaningful data — can be useful. It might get you there faster or with an easier drive. 
The question isn’t really, “was it useful”. The issue at hand is whether it’s necessary.
For a lot of people there’s a powerful feeling that you HAVE TO do it right, whatever the “it” might be. If asked “why have to?”, they might give reasons like saving time, prettier drive, etc. But the truth isn’t so superficial. 
The truth is about this internalized feeling of HAVE TO. It’s deep, generally without an obvious logical reason, but with the potency of something inarguable. People will say things like, “It’s just there”, or “I just have to”.
Sometimes this comes from a childhood environment that was unsafe. Doing it right increased safety, or at least reduced risk. This can happen in a childhood with angry, violent, or unpredictable caretakers. Doing it right, whatever the “it” might be, was about self-preservation. Even when the danger is long gone or outgrown, the compelling need to do it right can remain.
Sometimes this comes from a place of expectation more than danger. Some children are given the message that more than average is expected of them, and that less than that will be disappointing, inadequate, or just wrong. This can happen to eldest children in big families, where they’re expected to be adjunct parents to younger siblings. Or to children with handicapped parents, or alcoholic parents, or parents with mental health issues.
And it can happen to gifted children, who might get the message that “much is expected from those to whom much is given”. The consequence of this can be the “have to do it right” feeling, regardless of how insignificant the “it” might be. There can be the sense that you should be able to know what the right choice is, even if logic says that there’s no way to know.
For all of these situations, fortuitously doing it right (“Oh, cool, no traffic!”) can bring relief, but doing it “wrong” (“Dang, so much traffic”) can feel shameful or scary.
If you have this kind of experience, ask yourself, “Why do i HAVE TO do [ it ] right?” If you can’t come up with some important and rational reason, maybe this is a leftover rule that is no longer relevant or necessary. 
Maybe it’s safe or okay to let this HAVE TO feeling go. It’s likely to feel weird for awhile. Freedom is like that.

Dr Benna Sherman

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Dr Benna Sherman

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