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knowing what you don't know


There’s an important kind of wisdom in knowing what you don’t know.

Too often we fall into the delusion of thinking we know a lot more than we really do, commonly known as “illusory superiority.”

This can often make us stubborn in our beliefs and unwilling to accept new information. Ultimately, it stagnates our growth.

Recognizing what you don’t know actually puts you in a unique place of power. It can improve your choices in life, because it’s an honest view of your knowledge and capabilities, as well as your ignorance and limitations.

When you know that you don’t know something, there are a range of things you can do to improve the situation:

  • Knowing what you don’t know teaches you what areas in your life you need to seek more information in.
  • Knowing what you don’t know gives you the opportunity to refer to someone else who can help you.
  • Knowing what you don’t know allows you to step back before making an ignorant and/or hasty decision.

Understanding the limitations of your knowledge puts you at an advantage from people who overestimate their knowledge or aren’t aware of their own ignorance.

This isn’t a negative thing, this is about being honest with yourself which means acknowledging both your strengths and your weaknesses.

To know more about what you don’t know, always be willing to test your beliefs and assumptions, however certain you may be that they are true.

It’s important to challenge your beliefs to see if they are backed by some amount of evidence, logic, and/or personal experience.

We can begin challenging our beliefs by asking ourselves questions, such as:

  • “What caused me to form this belief? Where did I learn this?”
  • “What kind of evidence would help support this belief as true?”
  • “What kind of evidence would help support this belief as false?”
  • “Are there alternative beliefs that may be just as valid, if not
    more?”
  • “What’s one thing I don’t know that would be really useful in this situation?”
  • “Does this belief conflict with any other beliefs I hold?”

Questions like these will give you some idea on the limitations of your beliefs and knowing what you know vs. what you don’t know.

If you are willing to keep an open mind about your beliefs and the possibility that you don’t have all the facts, you will be much better off than if you were to just take everything you believe as complete truth.

There is wisdom in knowing what you don’t know. Approach your beliefs with honesty and humility, and that will provide you with the flexibility you need to begin building a life of genuine happiness.


Discover more tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement

The Science of Self Improvement

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