Saying “I don’t know”

Have you ever been in a math class, where the teacher has been going on for some time about how to find the p-value or the best method for sampling a group of people, and yet, it’s like Stephen Hawking has come to talk to you about quantum physics?

It’s bad when you don’t understand what’s going on but if you look around the room, and no one in your peripheral view has glassy eyes or a blank face, you know you’re doomed. Take this in a college class where there are 400 students or in the workplace, where everyone around you is older, has years of experience of you, not to mention solid relationships with each other and a work relationship with you. You feel small and unimportant even while your question is on the tip of your tongue.

It’s not fun not being in the know. Sometimes it’s not getting the joke, other times it’s getting the joke played on you. The truth of the matter is saying “I don’t know” is a vulnerable state to be in. There’s a reason that kid in class never raised his hand or asked the teacher to reexplain a lesson. To admit you don’t know feels worse than not knowing in the first place.

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It makes you feel stupid. But worse still, you feel alone. It’s as if you’re the only person who has this question, like you’re the only person confused. I think that’s what gets us so close to giving up – is that we think we’re in this alone.

Despite the billions of people who share this earth with us, not to mention the billions of others who were here before, we think our experiences have only happened to us – that we’re the only one who thinks everyone thinks of us as stupid. Or we’re the one who everyone says doesn’t try.

Our fear takes its hold on us and we begin to believe the lie, we’re stupid, we don’t work hard, and we’re all alone in this.

And sometimes, the lie feels more comfortable than the truth. Not because it’s kind and comforting like our beds, but because it’s familiar, so we hide in it, and we don’t speak up.

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We lose out on whatever we could have learned, and keep quiet because it’s safer. The familiar will always seem safer to those of us who have never dared to wander beyond its shores. I think a loss of the familiar is even scarier for those of us who don’t like adventure. We like our roots. We like our routines. We crave mornings where we leave our beds and we are able to sleepwalk through our routines. Without challenging our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. 

Let me let you in on something: change is hard. It’s so incredibly hard. There are so many stories about the girl who changes and grows and a few months later, she has all these friends, she’s going on adventures left and right, she’s never lonely, she’s somehow in the perfect place in no time at all.

That’s not real. That’s not the reality. The reality is ugly. It’s that you feel lonely. That there are words so stuck in your throat from all the times that you’ve tried to lodge it out of you, to say that you don’t quite understand what’s going on, to ask someone for help, but fear wouldn’t let you. All of you clings to what you know. Too afraid to see what could possibly be beyond this. 

And so, we sit there in our heads, confused yet quiet. Never taking a leap of faith because we’ve always believed there’d be a long fall waiting for us.

Yet the truth of the matter is this: when one person says they don’t know, a room full of people chime up. “I don’t know what that word means.” “I don’t know what physics is about.” “I don’t know why people believe in God.”

The voices inside of us give way, to let the words we’ve held onto escape. And suddenly, we’re not so alone anymore. Suddenly, we’re able to hear people say, “Me too.”

If we sit in our childhood bedrooms as we age, age won’t matter anymore because we’ve clung for so long to the past versions of ourselves, to the one that will never speak up for fear of looking stupid, because we’re afraid that we’re the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on. We will be halting our growth, our progress, and our change that’s supposed to come in this season. 

I may not know everything, but no one knows everything. And that’s how we keep moving forward. Knowing that we won’t discover the earth end to end, but knowing every step of the way, we’re not alone.

Signing off,


What don’t you know? What do you want to learn? Comment below.

3 thoughts on “Saying “I don’t know”

  1. This is such a wonderful post and so true that we will never know all there is to know about life. But that’s the beauty of life, I think. Knowing that there are so many things out there that we can learn should give us the drive to live and learn as much as we can – to not be content staying in our comfort zones and never leaving those shores, as you say. I also love how you pointed out that saying “I don’t know” is a vulnerability many never want to share. We feel ashamed and less than, because we are not in the know of what others know. But, I try to remember that at one time those people who are in the know were in my shoes some time ago and not sure of the answers to some questions. Like you said, none of us are alone in this journey we call life. 🙂

    This was a very inspiring and uplifting post, Gigi. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your thoughts on this.

    1. Thank you so much for telling me how much you enjoyed reading it, Manessah. Life is all about navigating the questions that no one really has the answers to. It’s about making up the answers as you go along.

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