The value of not-knowing.

Today, I would like to talk about this tweet for a bit:

michelle phan tweet

I don`t know why this picture is so vague, that`s weird.

“My favorite question to ask, is why? My least favorite answer is, I don’t know.”

The reason I want to talk about it, is because I agree with the first part, but I disagree with the second part.

First of all, I agree that the best thing to ask is `why`. This has been my default for pretty much my entire life, up to a point where I`ll sometimes flat-out refuse to do something unless I know the reason why I`m being asked to do it in the first place. I also may have either stalled doing the thing or just ignored the question altogether if someone wasn`t explaining. It`s a flaw. I know. But not only do I take pride in being curious, I also expect to be treated with respect, and informing me with the reasons behind things is part of that respect. It means you consider us equals, which is something that`s very important to me.

Plus I`m a bit of a knowledge-addict and asking `why` gives me more information which I do always love. (I`d make a surprisingly bad spy though, just in case you`re wondering.)

So I agree with the `why` part. But I don`t agree with the `I don`t know`.

We live in a culture where you`re supposed to always be on top of things, you`re always supposed to be 100% prepared and knowledgeable and an expert in your field. Saying `I don`t know` is almost a sin. And asking questions is even worse: you`re supposed to figure things out on your own, you`re just magically supposed to know how to do everything,

But the thing is, it`s impossible to know everything. You can spend days, weeks, months, years even, preparing for something, and there will still be things you don`t know. You can spend years learning one subject, become an expert in your field, and there will always be someone else who knows something you don`t.

And I think it`s time we learn to appreciate the words `I don`t know`. Saying those words opens you up to new knowledge. It also means you`re being honest, you`re not pretending to know everything. It gives you a chance to follow up with `but I`ll look into it` or `but please do tell me` or `let me get back to you on that`.

Before anyone who knows me IRL will say anything: I will readily admit that I have often been guilty, and still sometimes am, of not asking questions and not admitting I don`t know something. I have made things up in the past, made my mind twist in strange turns just to have an answer that sounds somewhat logical. I have put people down for not knowing something I consider basic. It is definitely something I am still working on, though I like to think I`m making good progress. It`s something I`m discussing in therapy, as it seems to be a result of several things in my past. But I like this new way of thinking, I like being able to admit I don`t know something. I like being a more honest and open person. I also enjoy getting to teach people things they didn`t know (even if they don`t always appreciate the effort).

Besides, my little nephew (4,5 years old already) is in his `why` phase and I want him to see that people don`t always have answers to questions but that we try, and if I can I want him to keep that curiosity for a long, long time to come. Even if it will drive my sister insane.

It`s okay to not really know what you`re doing. It`s okay to still be learning, to not have all the knowledge in the world. Ask all the questions, experiment, act like the 4-year old child who is trying to figure out the world around him. Us grown-ups are still trying to figure it out too, after all. I`m all for working to become a less ignorant person than yesterday. And tomorrow, hopefully, I`ll be less ignorant than today. And so on, and so on.

Learning to say `I don`t know` might be the best thing to learn in our lives.

Unless you`re a doctor or someone else with an important job that lives depend on. Then I do want you to know what the hell you`re doing instead of just messing around. (You can still learn new things too! You`re just actually supposed to know your thing, okay.)

Just saying.

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