As someone with a verified love of learning, I can sometimes feel insecure about my lack of knowledge in some areas. I’m always trying to learn more about what interests me and my loved ones, and all the things going on in the world, but I can only retain so much information. There are some things I just don’t know, and might never know.
It has taken me a long time to realise there is strength in admitting you don’t know everything.
As someone who consumes a plant-based diet, and feels quite strongly about things like animal cruelty, fast fashion and plastic pollution, I’m often challenged on my perspectives and asked to provide reasoning.
For me, it’s as simple as “I don’t feel right doing that, so I won’t do it” and “if you know better, you should do better,” but everyone always expects more from you. They want you to reference journal articles, experts and meta analyses to back up your opinions because they just can’t understand the choices you make.
This puts a lot of pressure on people to feel they have to know it all for their opinions to be valid.
In the past I’ve walked away from conversations like this feeling unintelligent and sometimes questioning my own motives.
“How can I be better prepared for all the questions next time?”
“Can I really consume a plant-based diet if I don’t know everything there is to know about it?”
This can be upsetting for a lot of people, especially those who are already insecure about their intelligence or identity in general.
Maybe you have an interest in something, like politics, veganism, indie rock or mountain climbing, but you don’t quite understand it fully. Don’t let that deter you from pursuing it. I’ve taken a strong liking to Chinese medicine, herbalism and astrology of late, because they’ve been working for me, but I don’t understand them inside out yet, and that’s okay.
Take comfort in the fact that no-one knows everything.
If you don’t know enough to comment on an issue, don’t.
Don’t lie. Don’t stretch the truth. Don’t speculate just because you’re feeling pressured. Just be honest. Show them what integrity and confidence looks like.
Hit them with one of these:
“I really don’t know enough about it, sorry”.
“I’ll have a look into it and get back to you”.
“Maybe we could both do some research and learn a bit more”.
Responding honestly shows you‘re intelligent in that you don’t have any unrealistic expectations of yourself or anyone else to be an expert in any given field. It shows that you’re confident in yourself, your instincts and your choices, and that you value authenticity.
Letting go of the pressure to know more than what you know currently is liberating. You might even remind the people challenging you that they, too, could benefit from learning more, but that it’s okay not to know it all.