Hollywood has long hung on to the trope of the inept new Dad trying to change a diaper on Junior. We see Dad fumbling with the project as if he’d never used his fingers before. Ultimately Mom arrives to save Junior from Dad’s incompetence. Mom and Junior throw shade at Dad until he sheepishly leaves the job to the more capable.
It is a bit embarrassing for all of us when we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t know what we are doing. True, it is less stressful to be comfortably in command. The first time we drove a car, made Grandma’s famous shrimp grits or first spoke a foreign language to someone who didn’t speak our native tongue – each carried incumbent anxiety. By the time we’d done it a few times, it all seemed much easier.
Naturally, the act of making the meal was the same, each ingredient mixed and step performed. It was only in our minds that it seemed simpler. The awkwardness adjoining the development of new skills drives us to work intensely to improve, making the discomfort subside and our competency level elevate.
Still, there are those among us so paralyzed by the fear of their own unfamiliarity that they fail to progress. They develop no new expertise and remain throughout life much as they have been since they decided, about middle school age, that they had learned enough. They languish with a mindset that urges shunning of exploration and a clinging to the safe and well known.
We must become comfortable with our own ignorance. Otherwise, shame drives us to become static and fail to progress. If we can’t embrace the reality of our lack of knowledge, the very act of learning can repel us. The shame of our shortcomings can lead us to preserve them.