The Most Dangerous Phrase

“The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.” — Unknown

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Constructive criticism always made wince. I was never quite mentally ready and even less emotionally prepared. Each sharp comment or cutting remark was interpreted as an arrow aimed straight at my heart, which I helplessly swatted at like a fleeing mosquito. My automatic tendency to deflect the feedback was primarily due to an overwhelming discomfort with who I actually was — and who I pretended to be as a result.

I spent much of the past decade suppressing who I am, venturing into the very depths of my soul, rattling off feeble attempt after feeble attempt at convincing myself I was someone else. Someone more conventional. Someone more customary. Someone more…normal. This battle raged within my mind, scattering the ashes throughout my heart. People suffered because I suffered. I projected it onto them. My self-imposed pain kept me from truly loving anything — most notably, myself. You can set yourself on cruise control as often as you like; but if you fail to glance up at the road, you’re bound to crash and burn.

I reached that point approximately nine months ago, when I was forced to confront the decisions I made over the years that impacted so many people. Flying under the radar and fitting in wasn’t worth being a coward. All the greatness available inside me would never see the light of day, nor would anyone I cared about ever know how I truly felt.

All the turmoil, all the disturbance, all the unrest, all the heartache, could’ve been avoided if it weren’t for consistently leaning into this one growth-crippling phrase:

“I know.”

It seems harmless, right? How could “I know” possibly be at the source of such emotional and spiritual dissonance? 

Well, declaring certainty over areas I knew I wasn’t totally certain about sparked a hotbed of tumultuous internal conflict. Because my inner feelings and outward expression were out of alignment, telling myself I knew something (that I truly didn’t) eroded my self-respect brick by brick.

When conversing with friends and family, uttering the words “I know” allowed my blind spots to roam freely, knocking over vases within my psyche and not possessing the foggiest understanding as to how they toppled over.

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Language is a channel for influence. Our subconsicous mind is always listening, even when we assume the stakes are low. Much like a skitoma, our words can create mental misperceptions. The mind believes what it thinks is true, not what is actually going on.

What was actually going on was I was in a state of muddled chaos — unspeakably afraid to assess the damage. Living my life in a constant state of posturing — underpinned by doubt and shame — I’d do whatever it took to avoid looking stupid. I’d abort all dreams if it kept me from being embarrassed. I’d jolt to the path of least resistance if it meant I wouldn’t be questioned beyond a superficial level.

Fear drove me and as a result, I hypnotized myself into believing a crock of bullshit that I had any clue what was going on with me. I lied to others without even realizing I was lying. I proclaimed order over forces I hadn’t earned the right to control (or even comprehend).

I know” was the biggest load of garbage I could ever possibly communicate, both to myself and to others.

Here are a few of the other dangers of leveraging this common proclamation:

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1. It shows your not listening

I know” is a lazy, apathetic blanket statement. It’s a deflection of the message being communicated to you, highlighted by your desire to move on to another topic of discussion. It’s a short-sighted attempt to condense a breadth of information into less than it’s worth by placing on it your stamp of cognitive approval — as if that’s supposed to mean something.

Doesn’t tend to inspire much hope in the person you’re speaking with.

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2. It reveals insecurity

The inability to acknowledge that you either don’t know or haven’t fully mastered something is the fastest way to propel the color red to the top of the flagpole. When you refuse to own up to your ignorance, you’re revealing you believe a shallow, rigid understanding (at best) is better than the open mind that can attack the areas it wishes to gain a firmer grasp.

Expose your own ignorance before someone is forced to do it for you.

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3. It blocks the attempt at contribution

When your response to something is “I know”, it’s usually at the rebuke of someone’s attempt to provide you with insight. Even if you do know what the other person is advising, “I know” is a concrete wall. It doesn’t allow room for the other person to feel as if they added any value to you whatsoever.

Before answering, consider how much the relationship could benefit from you simply accepting the person’s attempt at supporting your best interest. It could rise to a whole new level solely via suspension of judgment.

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4. It diminishes objectivity

Whether you’re saying it to yourself or saying it someone else, “I know” is a finite statement. The world — and reality, for that matter — is very much fluid. When you say you know something, even if you do know it, understand that’s it’s only good for a period of time. Life is constantly changing, shifting, evolving — whereas, under these pretenses, your thinking clearly is not.

Keep an eye on the big picture and stay grounded in reality.

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5. It highlights an unwillingness to change

Attachment keeps us from a lot of things. Perhaps the type of attachment that holds us back the most is the attachment to what’s familiar. We know what we can live with, even if we’re not happy about it. Despite our personal freedom being robbed, at least we’re certain about what we can expect. This caveat is what keeps most people from giving up what they know to go after what they don’t.

We only grow when our desire to change is greater than our desire to stay the same. What we “know” embeds us in the arena of “the way it’s always been”.

Whether you’re at odds within yourself or on the brink of a fragile relationship imploding, you’re better off knowing nothing and chartering back to square one.

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So what’s happened with me the last nine months? Since then, the line has been drawn in the sand. I’ll never keep myself from myself. Whatever defensive reaction that shows up on a dime, I’ll carefully step around. Whatever my ego wants to protect me from, I’ll be precise in pressing the eject button. Whatever the hell I’m so fearful of, I’ll look straight in the eye and offer a handshake. I need to make peace with these fears, for they are the gatekeeper of my dreams.

I don’t intend to define myself in any way, as I’m through with the limits of my own making. I’m simply me — as open as I possibly can. Regardless of how sure I am conceptually, I’ll always leave the door open a crack. I’ll allow myself to roam free, leveraging my intuition as a barometer. Little acts of courage that interrupt my old way of being feed my spirit. Breaking the pattern breeds hope for the future. That I won’t be stuck as a fixed personality type or an anchored level of confidence.

For anyone struggling with similar internal battles, just be you — however that shows up. I’d love to meet who you really are.

And something I do knowis the world would love to meet you, too.

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