What Happens if We Always Think We’re Certain?

Most of us feel absolutely certain of what we believe or do.

We insist that our beliefs are the one and true belief, while other beliefs are downright wrong.

We believe that our ideas are the one and only idea that guarantees a bright future for our children.

We believe that our knowledge and experiences and connections are the only thing we need to succeed.

But I’m afraid, there’s a downside to that way of thinking.

In his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” Mark Manson deconstructs why pure certainty is dangerous:

“The problem here is that not only is certainty unattainable, but the pursuit of certainty often breeds more (and worse) insecurity. 

Many people have an unshakable certainty in their ability at their job or in the amount of salary they should be making. But that certainty makes them feel worse, not better. They see others getting promoted over them, and they feel slighted. They feel unappreciated and underacknowledged.”

Pure certainty, in the long run, makes us feel bad about ourselves or the world.

The moment we believe that we are absolutely certain, that we know everything, that we are really expert, that’s also the moment we start closing our minds.

And that’s also the moment we feel superior to others (and who said you are superior?).

We may not notice it, but ask yourself: When was the last time you accept others’ ideas? Or when was the last time you listen to someone sharing his or her point of view?

You probably don’t remember because you’ve been fixated on your always-sure-worldview for a very long time.

Truth is that we could be wrong all along.

And maybe other ideas or opinions or beliefs are what we need to better understand life.

This is very liberating. In the words of Mark Manson [emphasis mine]:

“The more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel in knowing what you don’t know.

Uncertainty removes our judgments of others; it preempts the unnecessary stereotyping and biases that we otherwise feel when we see somebody on TV, in the office, or on the street. Uncertainty also relieves us of our judgment of ourselves. We don’t know if we’re lovable or not; we don’t know how attractive we are; we don’t know how successful we could potentially become. The only way to achieve these things is to remain uncertain of them and be open to finding them out through experience.

Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.”

Yes, a healthy dose of uncertainty in what we believe or do isn’t that bad.