I’m very much a learn-as-you-go kind of person. The amount of luck I’ve had figuring things out without letting on that I really don’t know shit is really quite baffling.
For instance, when I first started writing for a local newspaper, I received a call from a resident saying I should interview this retired volunteer firefighter who was moving to Florida. He had been a lifelong resident in the town and had a positive reputation in the community, so a farewell story seemed appropriate. I thought, Sure, why not?
So I called the guy’s wife and set up the interview. When I got to the house, he was sitting on the porch swing with his wife. He looked very serious; a bit distraught even. He sure didn’t look like no Tom Hanks.
I walk up and introduce myself happily (so young and naive). “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, sir. I’m excited to learn more about you, sir.”
The man looked at me sternly and said, “It’s about time the newspapers got on top of this. It’s quite a story.”
Geez, man, would you like some sausage to go with that ego?
“Well, I only just heard-” I started to say, but then he interrupted me.
“It was quite an incident, very newsworthy.”
I stared at him blankly, confused. “Yes, uh… Incident?”
He looked at me. “You’re here to talk about the car through the doctor’s office that almost killed me, aren’t you?”
I blinked, hesitated for a moment, and then slowly said, “Yeeeees. Yes, I am. I just, uh, don’t know all the details… Can you describe what happened?”
“So I was just sitting there in the doctor’s office, minding my own business, when this car comes plowing through the wall, coming just this close to hitting me. Shook me right to the floor!”
I ended up using the story on the front page and we sold out of newspapers that week.
Okay, so MAYBE this story of how bullshitting and feeling guilty about not knowing something wasn’t the best example to use, since it had a happy ending. But the point I’m trying to make is that there was no possible way that I could have known that this guy almost became a splattered wall mural before that interview. Yet his reaction to me not having gotten wind of the story sooner made me feel guilty anyway, so I felt compelled to fake it.
There’s no way to know everything. A lot of times, we don’t even know we’re supposed to know something until after we discover we’re supposed to know it; even after we’ve made a mistake because of it. It’s okay to say, “I didn’t know that” or “Now I know, so I won’t make the same mistake next time.”
It’s that simple.
We fear making mistakes. We fear looking foolish. We fear embarrassment. But every single one of us is an imperfect human being with limited experiences. Our bacon doesn’t have to know something until that knowledge eventually becomes important for us to know, for whatever reason.
I used to be embarrassed for not knowing a particular song or artist. Now I take pleasure in people’s shock when I say, “Yeah, I don’t know that one.” Yes, they may tease me a little at first, but then they get so excited to share something new with me.
Sometimes, there will be people who look at you like you’re the dumbest person in the world for not knowing something. Guess what? They can eat poop. They don’t know what your experiences have taught you. Whatever it is you don’t know is only your fault if you intentionally chose to not know it, you know?
For example, if you are a cashier and intentionally choose not to know how to conduct refunds when you know you’re supposed to, that’s on you. It’s your responsibility to know something like that. However, if you have just started a job and don’t know yet that one of your responsibilities is to issue refunds, do not spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact that you didn’t know. Simply admit that you didn’t know and then learn whatever there is to know about issuing refunds. Be comfortable with who you are, what you know, and what you don’t know. Own it.
I remember when I was young, I hated the dentist. Not because they ripped apart my gums, wouldn’t shut the hell up, or kept asking stupid questions when I had a mouthful of spit that I would have been more than happy to let drizzle all over their hands in order to respond (although that was certainly part of it). They were just assholes that always made me feel shitty about myself. If I didn’t know exactly how long it took for my 10-year-old self to ride my bike there, exactly what my dad did for a living, or when the last time I had a haircut was, they laughed and mocked me, making me feel stupid.
One time, I got lost on my way back to the waiting room. The dentist saw me standing in the hallway, scoffed at me, and actually pushed me in the right direction. Like GET YO HANDS OFF ME, BITCH, OR I GONNA SHOVE THEM LATEX GLOVES DOWN YOUR THROAT. (I’m not bitter or anything…)
The point is, I always felt guilty for not knowing things. But I was just a kid; there’s no way I could know everything, yet I allowed people to make me think I should.
Things to Remind Yourself When You Don’t Know Something
Here are some positive messages to remind yourself the next time you start feeling guilty for not knowing something:
- Nobody’s perfect. Your bacon is everything it needs to be, even when it isn’t perfect.
- Everyone learns at their own pace. It doesn’t matter what the topic, subject, or situation is.
- You’re not God. You weren’t born with the expectation that you should know everything. Cut yourself some slack.
- There’s always going to be someone who knows more than you about something, and that’s okay. There’s always someone who knows more than them, too.
- It is what it is. You can’t control what you know or don’t know until you learn that you should know it. When that happens, then know whatever it is like a bacon boss (to the best of your bacon’s abilities, needs, and desires).
- It’s fun to learn new things. Allow yourself to get excited about that.
- Don’t be embarrassed about admitting you don’t know something. Being honest is the only way to learn, and may even help someone else learn it, too.
- Being honest with yourself about what you do and don’t know helps your bacon sizzle. So sizzle, baby, sizzle!
- Not knowing everything does not affect your innate worth. You are always enough, no matter what.
For some reason, people often take pleasure in making us feel bad for things we don’t know. Honestly, it’s most likely because it makes them feel better for not knowing certain things themselves. Maybe they just have an asshole dentist.
In any case, don’t let the toxic people in your life piss on your bacon for not knowing everything. Your bacon is just fine.