Get comfortable with not knowing.

As I wrap up my last ever week as a student nurse (!) on placement, one of the nursing assistants asked me what the most biggest thing I’d learned during my three-and-a-bit months on the ward was.

I was stumped, at first, and didn’t know how to answer — but after a day or so of thinking, I’ve realised, it’s something a psychologist said to me towards the beginning of my time here:

“Get comfortable with not knowing.”

I can’t remember the exact context, now, though that’s not terribly important, and even if I could, it’s possible that I wouldn’t be able to write about it and still maintain confidentiality. The important thing is the lesson.

I’ve heard similar lines before — get comfortable being uncomfortable — and whilst that is also something I need to embrace better, being comfortable with not knowing is something that I… really suck at, actually. I am a geek, a nerd, I like to know and to learn and to improve. I’m never done. And not knowing, it’s hard.

What the psychologist told me was that, sometimes, I can’t know. Especially in the field of mental health.

I can’t always know what motivates people to do certain things.

I won’t be able to get into people’s heads straight away, to understand them and how to try and help.

There will be times that I can’t predict events based on historical patterns.

Sometimes, I will not know.

And if I don’t accept that, I will probably spend a good chunk of my career dwelling, not letting go, wondering: what if?

It’s unlikely, looking back at my past, but it could lead to staying working in an area in which I’m stagnating, not helping people as well as I could be, because I’m too afraid to be new at something.

What’s more likely with me is that I may not perform as well as I could, as a newly qualified nurse, because even though everyone knows I’ve gone from big fish (third year student) in a small pond, to little fish (newly qualified nurse) in a huge lake, I’m afraid of looking stupid, of looking like I don’t know what I’m doing.

I have Imposter Syndrome already and I haven’t even started!

I don’t have the answers to this problem. Maybe I will in six months, but… I don’t right now. It’s something to think about, though. Getting comfortable with not having the answers, with not knowing.