Yesterday, in a footnote, I mentioned that I was clearly contradicting myself from a few days before. At the time, I just meant it as a joke – but I think there’s more to it.
I dislike being wrong. I dislike admitting I’m wrong. I think stereotypically when I imagine a person who doesn’t want to admit they’re wrong, I imagine the school know-it-all, or the arrogant boss: so smug in their superiority that they can’t imagine a scenario where they’d be wrong.
Maybe that’s not actually how it is, at least not always. My discomfort with admitting I’m wrong doesn’t come from a place of arrogance, an assumption that I do know everything. It comes from insecurity – the fear that you’ll realize I know far less than you assumed – or worse, less than I lead you to believe. To be discovered to know less than I’ve implied is literally a worst case scenario for me. It’s the kind of thing that will keep me up at night.
As with any insecurity, in time you begin to build walls around it. Once a feeling you don’t like is identified, you start changing your behavior in order to make sure you’ll never have to feel that way. So I stopped having opinions on all but the safest topics – or those that could reasonably be argued in either direction. To take a stand on a topic and be proven wrong, or to change your mind, was unthinkable.
But once you start down this path, the topics you can comfortably have an opinion on shrinks. And as it shrinks, your ability to have interesting conversations shrink. Interesting conversations are built around honesty and vulnerability, and avoiding sharing an opinion – avoiding even having an opinion out of fear is about as far from vulnerable as you can get.
Writing this is my immersion therapy. I’m here, sharing half baked ideas. Most of them aren’t as safe as I’d like. It’s uncomfortable. I’ll turn on some of them in days, or weeks, and decide the opposite true, or discover I didn’t have the whole story, that I hadn’t thought things through all the way.
But here’s why I’ve decided it’s ok, and why I’m writing anyway: Constant adherence to who you were yesterday is dishonest. It’s ok to contradict yourself. We all change. We get new information, we have new ideas. If we only share the ones we’re absolutely sure of, or force ourselves to maintain opinions we had yesterday, last week, last year, and make a point of crucifying those around us who don’t, we’ll all be absolutely right, absolutely static, and absolutely boring.