We’ve all been there: frantically spinning our wheels and saying “I don’t know…” over and over again.
Making decisions is difficult. It’s hard to choose between two paths and it’s even harder to trust the one you end up picking -- especially after you’ve delayed picking it for as long as you possibly can.
“I don’t know” is safe. It’s like the worn-out pair of jeans you keep wearing even though you know they don’t fit you that well anymore (not to mention they’re completely out of style).
“I don’t know” doesn’t honor you, but it works. It’s easy. “I don’t know” is what we choose to say when bravery evades us. Here’s why we do it:
Your courage is hibernating.
Whenever the phrase tumbles out of my mouth with the same comfort and cadence I use to order my morning iced coffee, I -- 100 percent -- know exactly what I keep saying that I don’t know. Once the agony of indecision is gone, the veil between the question and the truth is quite thin.
You’re saying “I don’t know” because you’re afraid of the conclusion you’ve made.
It isn’t that you don’t know, but more so that you’re not ready to know. Often, when we’re struggling to decide which career path to take, which lover to love, which feeling to follow or how to spend our weekends or our dollars, the common threads are uncertainty and risk. Well, just take a leap of faith and JUMP.
You've silenced your instinct.
When you back yourself away from your own instinct, you’re just buying time until you find the courage to act. The good news is, no matter how far away we drive from instinct and no matter how much we dilute, drown out or suffocate it, it will remain to be a faithful compass when we’re ready to follow it.
Judgment is undoubtedly real and painful when you’re the subject of it, but no matter which life path -- which answer, which God, person or hairstyle -- you decide to support, there will be someone or something there to disagree with you.
Your instinct, though, is loud and powerful. It'll knock you over and you may not always like it or understand why. Demanding as it may be — whether it's a stern and booming voice or a consistent silent whisper — it has a purpose, which is to protect and self-correct the path you're on if you're losing your way.
If you wait too long to figure out "why" it's screaming at you, you may have to learn the lesson it was trying to help you avoid. You don't need to wait for evidence to justify the instinct; the evidence usually comes after you honor it. Consider the evidence to be a reward.
You want to be accepted.
We say “I don’t know” because the way you’re leaning isn’t always the popular route to follow. The road may be unpaved or dangerous and you may doubt your own ability. You say you "don't know" because you're accumulating the strength required to TRY.
We say “I don’t know” because we’d prefer to stay in peoples’ good graces. At the root of everything, we want to be accepted and loved, despite our differences.
We say "I don't know" because if we make the wrong choices, we don't want someone waiting on the sidelines to say "I told you so." It's easier to suppress what you do know to avoid battling naysayers.
We say “I don’t know” because it’s risky to know that you have to quit the job you told everyone you were going to LOVE once you got it.
What you do know is how “fulfilling” feels when you’re experiencing it, but you don’t know how to find it. We say "I don't know" because every now and then, the truth means having to swallow your pride.
We say “I don’t know” because it’s difficult to tell someone you’re not going to leave the person who “doesn’t make you smile anymore.” What you know is that love regenerates and evolves and how you feel may change tomorrow, but that sounds capricious.
We say “I don’t know” because it’s hard to tell someone you’re terrified. It’s vulnerable and sticky and no one wants a pity party. We say “I don’t know” because it’s hard to be confident when you’re being told you’re wrong.
We say “I don’t know” because we need space. We need room to accept the reality. We need to grieve on our own before change occurs and we finally need to decide. We know, but we want to prepare internally the way we see fit.
We say “I don’t know” because we’ve accepted too many external impressions, expectations, opinions, timelines and paths to guide our answers. The only real answer is what is right for you.
We say “I don’t know” because we feel pressured to have answers when all we really know is that we need time to guide us in the right direction. And unfortunately, “gimme a second" isn’t a very favorable email signature.
Take your time.
Wherever you are and however many times you keep sputtering out in defense that you “don’t know,” it’s okay.
In fact, it’s okay to actually feel like you don’t know for right now because, I promise you, when you grow still for a moment, when you accept all of the worst-case scenarios as potential outcomes and when you see fallouts and big pictures, the truth looks a little less scary.
When you dictate answers based on your own gut feeling, your own guide, the answer will simply come. When it does, you will carry it with you for as long as you need to do so.
The moment you decide to accept that you’re afraid and you do know the immediate answer, but not the future result, “I don’t know” won’t have as much power over you.
You may even find that you’re saying it much less frequently. In fact, “not knowing” will turn out to be an incredibly liberating sensation.
Photo via Reddit