Nothing drives me more crazy than the phrase, “I don’t know.” It’s so unsatisfying to use it. It’s so unsatisfying to hear it. It can be defeating, frustrating, disheartening, dismissive, disengaging. It’s rarely joyous, or peaceful, or encouraging or blissful.
I’m uncomfortable with not knowing. I’m loathe to use the phrase, “I don’t know.” Even when I truly don’t know, I make up answers, I over-explain, or try to justify my not knowing. I’m a people pleaser. I can’t handle not knowing or having the right answer.
At times, it’s turned me into a liar. Other times, it’s made me slippery and non-committal. Often it makes me look like a moron.
But without fail, every time, it’s made me feel unworthy. If I don’t know answers, if I can’t provide a surefire solution, (if I can’t be perfect), then what does that make me?
What does that make me?
A fraud? A faker? A liar? A cheat? An idiot? Maybe.
I was explaining this to someone the other day, and ended up waxing poetic on some lengthy metaphor about how some people just know things. Like doctors. You go to the doctor, and it’s their job to know what’s wrong with you. They listen to your symptoms, assess the situation, runs some tests, and voila – there’s your answer. They’re trained well enough (hopefully) to know the best treatment and we (literally) trust them with our lives.
But the person I was speaking with, pointed out one small, but rather important detail – they weren’t born knowing all the answers. They were born as unknowledgeable, innocent, impressionable infants, and they grew up asking the right questions, feeding their curiosity, putting in the time, practicing their skills and (gasp!) even sometimes getting it all horribly wrong.
Sometimes we get stuck in the safety of, “I don’t know.” We’re afraid of reaching out, asking questions, collecting answers and information, testing ourselves, getting it wrong. But that’s what the movers and shakers of the world do. They’re learners. They’re students. They’re explorers.
I’m a learner. I’m a student. I’m an explorer. And I don’t know things – but I want to find out. That’s the difference.
I want to find out.