Is anyone else constantly in fear or is it just me? Based on the incessant phone-checking I see and most people’s inability to sit still or make proper eye contact, I’d venture to guess I’m not alone. I bring this up, not to shame anyone, but to bring light to the ways in which we often diminish our own lives. So much of what we fear isn’t real; so much of it comes from the inside out and not the other way around. We create our fears internally and then see them everywhere we look. They become the lens through which we view the world.

I began thinking about this from a personal perspective as a woman about to turn 30. As this milestone moves closer and closer, I’m being confronted with all the roadblocks and bad habits I’ve picked up along the way. One of these is the idea that my knowledge, or lack there of, is directly linked to my self-worth as a person. This belief can keep us in a constant cycle of highs and lows, ex. “Oh I understand what’s going on here. I get it. I’m smart. I’m worth it.” vs. “Oh no! What are they talking about?!! I’m so confused. What an idiot.”

These thoughts are often quickly followed by others like “Don’t let them find out you don’t get it” or “ACT LIKE YOU’RE FINE. ACT LIKE YOU’RE FINE!” By the time you get to this place in your mind, you’re lost. You’ve already decided you’ll never understand the concept or idea and, thus, cut off the opportunity to learn.

Though I’ve not completely conquered this demon, one thing I’ve gained from working with developers and designers is a greater comfort in not knowing. I see them dive head first into problems and come out the other side alive, so I know it’s possible. I know that not having the answer isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of everything. How do I know this? Because I see their growth everyday; I see their experience and knowledge expanding moment by moment. The more they move into the discomfort, the more they grow, the more accomplished they feel in the end.

Perhaps it’s not comfort I’ve gained but a greater sense of hope that on the other side of the uneasiness is a prize worth having. Some of the people I admire most literally get high off the discomfort they feel when they’re out of their element. They’ve taught themselves to seek out the moments that pinch; they’ve learned to love the pain. Somehow, through hard work and grace, they’ve learned to separate the learning process from their innate self-worth. This is the trick to real freedom. My advice? Do anything and everything you can to give yourself this gift.

Not knowing something does not make you stupid or less than, it makes you human; it makes you real. We’d all benefit from digging down deep into the “yuckiness” of the unknown and allowing ourselves to get used to it. Why? Because it’s usually where the good stuff is and, whether we like it or not, wading through the confusion is the only way out.

I don’t know about you but I’m not much interested in spending my energy acting like I know something when I really don’t. I’m much more interested these days in admitting my flaws and weaknesses and seeing where they take me. It can be a little bit terrifying, or a lot bit, but, ultimately, it seems to be completely worth it.

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