Consider the following scenario: you’re engaged in a discussion centered around a topic with which you are familiar but wouldn’t necessarily consider yourself an expert.
You make a statement which, to your horror, is indicated to be inaccurate. Do you:
a. Ask for more information
b. Backpedal immediately, scramble to reassure all parties of how knowledgeable you actually are, and distract from the notion that your making an error could ever have even been a possibility at all
Most, their willingness to admit such a thing – or lack thereof – notwithstanding, would be naturally inclined to choose the latter, and in doing so sentence themselves to a future of accommodating the very ignorance that landed them in a potentially embarrassing situation to begin with.
It is a natural human tendency to present the most effective and desirable version of oneself, but in some instances this sets the stage for a short-term gain and long-term loss.
Through our fear of appearing ignorant, we conceal our ignorance rather than seek enlightenment. Through this process, rather than acknowledge and properly tend to our own shortcomings, we cling to them; nurture them almost, allowing them to incubate and fester until such a time that it they become impossible to conceal, as they have become just as much a part of us as the characteristics of which we are cognizant of presenting to the outside world.
There is much to be said of the potential gain of leveraging the energy one might normally devote to compensating for one’s own shortcomings and putting it toward the addressing and correcting of said shortcomings.
Imagine yourself as an athlete who has just incurred a bone fracture. In a competitive environment, you want to avoid providing any reason for those around you to question your ability to compete.
You also wish to avoid taking time off on a doctor’s recommendation so, rather than seek treatment, you conceal the injury entirely, continuing to compete as you normally would in hopes the situation will simply resolve itself.
Except the situation doesn’t resolve itself. In fact, your pain and mobility issues only intensify, becoming increasingly debilitating until you’re no longer able to compete at all.
Your injury has failed to heal properly and, exacerbated by the strain of functioning as though there was never injury to begin with, will now affect your ability going forward not only to compete, but to even maintain effective mobility in a general capacity.
This metaphor, an on-the-nose, physical characterization of the mental processes by which we so often bamboozle ourselves into the embrace of unworkable – or at the very least less-than ideal – circumstances.
Because, though we are often on some level aware of the considerable lack of value attached to the reward – if it could even reasonably be referred to as such – waiting at the end of the less tumultuous path, it remains just that: the less tumultuous path.
As such, it’s going to be the one which appears the better choice to the instant-gratification portion of our reptile brains – in most cases, particularly in the modern day, this portion of our brains receives the most engagement by a significant margin.
Nonetheless, the “prize” waiting at the end of the less tumultuous path, irony, is often just a longer and more tumultuous path than the one we sought to avoid in the first place.
This is the bargain we make for plastic peace of mind; for false promises to ourselves of earned stresslessness; the psychoanalytical equivalent of credit card debt at crippling interest rates.
Look within yourself, seek to understand your own motivations, and be honest with yourself, as well as the people around you.
In short: ask the stupid questions, you’ll be all the better for it.