Not knowing what the future holds, what we’re supposed to “do” with our lives, and just generally what to do next, aren’t easy. The simple truth of the matter is that not knowing is unpleasant and oftentimes unsettling. But what’s equally true is that not knowing is perfectly fine. There’s no shame at all in not having it “all worked out beforehand”.
Many of us remember a time when we were young and unemployed. We knew not what we wanted to do, and we knew even less about how we’d eventually get “there” – wherever “there” would ultimately turn out to be. The last thing we wanted to be classified as was “unemployed”. Despite being true, it was a term to be avoided at all cost. And then of course came along our very first job. Suddenly we were no longer “unemployed”. We were now employed, aka respectable.
The Respectability Lie
There are numerous lessons to be learnt from the old unemployment conundrum. The most important of these lessons are without a doubt that we have a definite tendency of looking for “respectability” in those things we consider part of everyday human life, i.e. things all humans are “expected” to engage with or partake in.
This can be easily applied to most other avenues of life. Productivity is another biggie – another “respectability” issue. Recent stay-at-home orders proved fertile soil for the productivity farce to bloom bigger and more magnificently than ever before. We suddenly realised that lying about the house wasn’t an “acceptable” way to pass the time and forget about the crisis right outside our back doors. It was yet again not acceptable “not to know” what to do.
And so, we took to baking banana bread we’d never in a million years have time to get around to actually eating. Despite the obvious wastage, we were OK – we were doing something; being what we consider as “productive” when really, we should have been wagering on Australian betting apps instead.
Pain Isn’t The Same As Shame
Psychology has long been aware of the dangers associated with a certain “shame” attached to not knowing what it is that we’re really expected to do “next” in whatever situation or set of circumstances. Psychology also “knows” that its perfectly OK not to be OK.
There are some pretty neat suggestions out there that may be adopted to try and release ourselves from the bondage of emotional self-centredness. Most of the suggestions identified entail some form of an actual physical action aimed at helping us move our focus first in the direction of self and then away and in the direction of the world around us.
A very good example of such an action is yoga. What yoga teaches us is that pain is in fact impairment and that its no shame to lean right into the discomfort of what we’re experiencing (in yoga, this is manifested by leaning into the actual physical pain). We’re so often afraid of judgement that we think would naturally follow going through instead of around the discomfort.
Its time to stop and realise that its OK to not know our “next”.