When we open ourselves up to new information is when the most important growth happens.
How does it make you feel to be told you’re wrong about something?
It’s natural to get a little defensive. To stand behind your position and argue for it. To hold true to your values and opinions.
Most of the time, this is what you should do. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
There is a caveat, though. One that took me quite awhile to grow into.
The caveat is the search for the truth. Valuing facts and evidence that are used in order to develop a worldview and determine a stance on important issues.
To me, what is true is more important than what I think or feel. I am entitled to my own opinions, but I am not entitled to my own facts.
If I walk around thinking that something provably false is actually true, I am living my life in a way that is disconnected from reality, no matter how small the “something” may be.
If this is the case: Please tell me I’m wrong.
Too many of us are walking around closed off to new information. We will dismiss anything that is out of alignment with our worldview due to cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is the stress felt when we are presented with information that conflicts with a belief we hold. What most people do is then turn away from the new information and search for something that confirms their existing bias.
They’ll switch to a certain news station or share a certain article where they can feel “right” again.
I have had countless people delete or block me on social media for nothing more than being asked why the believe something, or to present evidence for a truth they’ve asserted.
If you make a claim about a fundamental reality, you open yourself up to being asked to proving it. This is how claims about truth work. If I tell you that I have the ability to fly, it is not your responsibility to prove me wrong. It is my responsibility to show you it’s true.
But most people simply walk away from these conversations.
The problem with this is that it puts blinders on and skews reality in a direction that doesn’t actually exist. It might “feel” better or be more comfortable, but it is simply not the truth.
How do we value the truth over our own feelings? We must attach our identity to learning rather than already knowing everything.
If we must always be right, we will constantly struggle with fitting the world into our narrative. We will feel confused and defensive. We will ultimately stop learning and growing as we swirl around an endless cycle of confirmation bias.
If we tie our identity to learning and growth, however, we consistently seek our new information and almost hope to be wrong.
For scientists, their job is to literally prove themselves and each other wrong. Evidence does not care about your feelings. It does not care about your beliefs. It simply steers you towards the truth no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.
I believe we would be best served by a world where the truth is sought by us all. What is real? What is verifiable? What is provable?
If I walk around believing a flying teapot is circling the earth with a magic genie inside of it, it might make me feel good, but I have absolutely no real reason to believe that’s actually true.
If I believe something that could potentially harm myself or others around me, there are real world consequences to defending that belief.
It’s not easy to challenge yourself. There is ego and stress involved. We don’t want to be faced with the reality that something we think is…isn’t. But, this is the only path to growth and learning. We take in new information by clearing out space filled with old and incorrect information. Our opinions and perspectives become more accurate and well informed…if we let them.
I challenge you to challenge yourself. To value truth over ego. To research and learn. To ask yourself “why do I think this is true?” and then seek unbiased reality. I challenge you to shape your identity around learning and therefore welcome being “wrong,” because you’ll understand that false evidence is not an internal part of who you are, simply something in the world that hadn’t been corrected in your mind yet.
I challenge you to verify information before you spread it. To open yourself up to new knowledge. To imagine all of the things in the world that you don’t know yet, and then seeking them out.
And if you ever see me saying something that is factually inaccurate…please tell me I’m wrong.
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