What are three of the hardest words in the English language to utter?
Despite what the Rom Coms of Hollywood would have us believe, I don't think that "I love you" are the most difficult words in our verbal lexicon. (Unless, of course, we're trying to say those words while looking in the mirror. That can be a tough exercise!)
I really, truly believe that the words "I don't know" are the toughest.
They expose a weakness in the facade that we're told we need, of having it all together all of the time.
Those words may be just as, or more, vulnerable than "I love you."
They say, "Here is where my defenses are the weakest," and "there is a possibility that I am wrong about this."
But no matter how smart we are, or how much we have it all together, we simply can't know everything and be right all of the time.
If nothing else, that would make us insufferable.
Admitting that we don't know gives us the power to be wrong.
Did I just use the words "power" and "wrong" in a sentence together??
If you just sat up a little straighter and pushed yourself away from the screen in distaste, hear me out.
Yes, there is power in being right. It feels great, and we learn important lessons of trusting our intuition.
Yet, we place so much emphasis on being right, that we've created huge fear around being wrong.
We can lay awake at night for ours, wrapped up tight in our fear with the mantra playing in our heads "But what if I'm wrong?"
Unless we have our thumbs over a big red button that has the power to change lives and alter history, being wrong is usually not the end of the world.
But it sure as hell feels like the end of the world.
(If you ever need an inspiring pick-me-up when you're stuck in the fear of failure, check out this list of amazing people who succeeded through multiple failures: They Did Not Give Up. In fact, I recommend bookmarking it.)
Often, we're afraid of not knowing or being wrong because we equate both with failure.
We're trained to see failure as an end result and something to be ashamed about.
How many amazing creative minds do we lose to fear and shame?
When we're in fear and shame, we are not fully present.
We find wonder and beauty, new ideas and images everywhere when we allow our senses to experience each moment fully. When we shut down our perceptiveness and our sensitivity and only look to the finish line, our creativity has no access to the very elements that make it enriching and deep.
So the lesson here is that failure is not a finish line. Neither is success for that matter.
There is no shame in being wrong.
In fact, being wrong might open us up to amazing new lessons, creative insights and opportunities for growth.
"I don't know" has the power to invite others in to collaborate, to share their ideas, and to make something greater than we could have created on our own.
It gives us room to see what works, what doesn't work, and to be innovative in our process.
What if we took the pressure off of being right, and the fear away from being wrong?
"Superstructures" Fine Art Photograph by Jen Kiaba.Click to purchase a limited edition print.
"Superstructures" Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba. Click to purchase a limited edition print.
Old ways of thinking can hold us down and hold us back. Sometimes these patterns are embedded in our very culture. But when we break free, our horizons can be limitless.
If success and failure are simply two sides of the same coin, then I am personally trying to embrace both with the same energy.
When we are able to do that, suddenly our creative space opens up in a way that we wouldn't have imagined before.
And here's an interesting challenge:
What if we applied the same emotional response to being wrong, and perceived failure, as we apply to being right and having a success?
What if we celebrated those moments of being wrong as an unforeseen opportunity for growth and new directions?
In fact, in her book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Kathryn Schulz makes the claim that error is actually the fundamental human condition.
Schulz encourages and celebrates mistakes and the growth that comes from them.
It may seem counter intuitive, but what a freeing idea! Listen to Schulz's TED talk here for more!
Have you ever seen a perceived failure, or moment of being wrong, turn in to something unexpected and delightful?
I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!