Growing up I always felt relatively intelligent. My grades from various school tests, reports, projects and exams seemed to justify those feelings. I can remember receiving some praise around the house; the occasional “we’re just so proud of you,” and “keep up the good work” were thrown around. A funny thing started to happen though. I wasn’t conscious of this change in mindset, of course, but if I take a moment to reflect I think I’m able to trace its beginnings back to a grade 7 science test.
The fear of being wrong, instead of the pursuit of knowledge and learning, began to take hold. Little did I know how powerful, and potentially disastrous, this shift in mindset could be.
I really never found it difficult to excel inside the school system. My memory, when I was a young buck, was reliable. I grasped difficult and tricky topics relatively quickly. I had strong research skills, and was confident with my problem solving abilities. This all came naturally to me, and I very rarely had to do much of any forced studying. I was one of those kids who could power through their homework during the final 5 or 10 minutes of class and be rewarded/reassured the following day when I’d receive my “100%” mark on the assignment. My report cards would usually have a couple 98%’s, 100%’s, and even a couple 105%’s. Gotta love those bonus questions!
Slowly but surely my attitudes started to change. Again, I didn’t realize this at the time, but I began to pursue this sort of perfection not out of the sheer joy it would bring, nor the knowledge I was banking for future use, but simply because it terrified me to be wrong. To not know; to not do, or be, better than others. Being wrong was not something I wanted myself to experience.
Cue the ol’ “hindsight is 20/20” expression, but if I had only known the power of being wrong. If, instead of giving into the fear of embarrassment and the fear of judgement, I would have just embraced EVERYTHING as a powerful learning experience, I can’t help but wonder…
It’s obvious at this age, and even more so for the folks that learn to love it earlier in life, that being wrong is sort of beautiful. Sure, it’s likely impossible to totally shut out the voice in your head that may mumble
“you fool, I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”
“I can’t believe YOU… DID…THAT! It was so obviously STUPID. You ARE stupid”
But you can certainly tame it, or acknowledge its’ skewed opinion, and move on.
And here’s the secret, the reward if you will.
This voice, this self deprecating feeling and instinct, always – and I mean ALWAYS – precedes knowledge. It comes before learning something new, something that will compound inside you and will be twisted into a new skill, a new piece of information, a new perspective that will very literally make you smarter, stronger and more confident. This always happens. It just depends how long you allow that voice, that Gatekeeper of learning, to stand in front of you, blocking your way to growth.
I can remember allowing him to guard the entrance for DAYS AT A TIME! I’d lose sleep over it. I’d replay the “mistakes” I had made, the errors, the poor decisions, and I’d worry over it. Man would I worry. Even worse, I’d fear the thought of someone – be it a close friend or total stranger – find me out. Call me out, point out my folly…as if we were in direct competition in EVERY aspect of life, and my mistakes equalled their gain. Ridiculous right? A little crazy even…
This battle of learning to love being wrong can gain so much traction in a life that just now, during the composing of this post, I noticed my heart rate increased and I just happened to get a text from Mrs. Bastard, who’s at work, asking me “What are you doing?” to which I replied “Working on a blog post, but I’m feeling too dumb, exposed and inadequate.” I’ve actually already had to fight off closing the laptop and giving up on this article 3 or 4 times. Feeling that fear is normal, and is likely a life long battle if it’s ingrained deep enough. In fact I’ve felt the exact same way with each and every post. Yet, when I look back at the few I’ve published since starting the blog I can’t help but feel proud. With every post I’ve learned something new. Be it a writing technique, a new definition, a new understanding of how WordPress is organized and coded, or a grammar/spelling lesson from someone who’s more skilled in the art of the English language.
From here on out I choose to acknowledge this fear, but it will no longer control me. I choose to ask questions when I don’t have an answer, no matter how “obvious” the answer is or how rudimentary and “basic” the skill that’s required to do the job may be, or seem, to others.
“You can’t know what you don’t know” is what I’ve decided to tell myself.
I want to fall back in love with learning, and I want my skill sets to compound over time, bringing me decades of value.
Photo Credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/rainbowsqueeze