Sometimes I feel like I have to have all the answers before I can speak. It’s a bit ridiculous, really. No one has all the answers. If I wait until I have all the answers before I speak out, I’ll be waiting a long time.
And at the same time, we expect other people to have all the answers, too. To always be right. To be bulletproof.
What if we collectively came to the table with the understanding that we’re all works in progress? We’re all messy. We’re all in the exploration stage of something. I think the defensiveness we feel when we’re called out comes from an expectation that we be perfect and that we be right. What if we ditched that? What if we collectively agreed that I’m not perfect and I’m not always right, and the same goes for everyone around me?
Imagine how this could change our gender norms, for example. Our men have been raised in a culture where they’re supposed to be right all the time and have all the answers and not feel their feelings. So when they get called out for saying something offensive or incorrect or hurtful, they get defensive, because it pokes a hole in the image they’ve built up of themselves. When we ask them to change or apologize, it goes against the very nature of how they’ve been taught to exist in the world. Because why would someone who’s perfect need to change? Why would someone who’s never wrong need to apologize? It doesn’t align.
Imagine, instead, if our men were taught that they could feel their whole range of emotions, that they could make mistakes, that they don’t have all the answers and never will. That they could be wrong and then learn how to do better. Growing up with that world view, it would feel better to be called out on something; they’d already know how to learn from the experience and change. Our culture hasn’t given them any practice, so how can we expect them to know how to do it?
If we want to continue to learn and grow, we need to admit that we’re imperfect and incorrect. It’s like learning a new skill. I can’t learn how to paint if I come to a painting class thinking that I’m already a pro. I’m not giving myself any space to expand into.
I need to come to the class with an open mind, ready to learn the lessons of people who know more than me. I need to acknowledge that I don’t know what they know yet. That I will be bad at this before I get good.
Each of us is a teacher in some regards, and each of us is a novice in others. What if we all agreed to be each other’s students and teachers at the same time? Imagine all we can learn.