What to Do When You Don’t Know Everything, or, Tips for Every Day

When I began my graduate school training to be a clinical psychologist, I was worried.  In particular, I was worried because not only was I one of the youngest in my cohort, but because I also had almost no experience in psychology.  I had never done or seen an intake session.  My classmate conducted an intake (in front of all of us classmates) like it was something she had done daily for the past 20 years.  I was freaking out internally, but I remained calm on the outside.  Who exactly could I express my anxiety to anyhow?  My new classmates?  Nope.  Not happening.

I was also worried in a bigger way.  I believed I would never be completely ready to be a psychologist because I could not possibly ever know everything.  And that meant I believed at that very important time in my life that because I was training to be a psychologist, I needed to know everything.  I wondered, “What if a patient asks me to explain every sexually transmitted disease in existence?”  “What if I need to describe how planes take flight?”  You get my message.  The potential for on-going worry was endless.

Fortunately for me, I survived my graduate school training.  Fortunately for you, I’m still pretending I know everything by writing this blogpost, but feeling more calm and collected about what I actually know.  What I know now is this:

  • You don’t have to know everything.  No one does.  No one can.
  • Don’t assume you know everything.
  • People do not assume you know everything.
  • Don’t worry when you inevitably get caught not knowing everything.
  • You can use your lack of knowledge to learn more.
  • Keep your mind as open as you can.  People will appreciate that as your eagerness and capacity to learn.
  • Life will teach you what you need to know.  There is actually no getting around this point.
  • If you are a professional, e.g. a doctor, your patients and clients can help you to know more.  You can help them get over their own worries about not knowing it all, e.g. what to do, how to cope, where to turn.
  • Everyone has some anxiety about how competent they are.  Use this fact as a way to connect with people around you rather than to feel inferior or superior to them.
  • Knowledge isn’t everything.  It isn’t what we really treasure most.  For example, knowledge, for me, does not trump trust, love, and kindness.
  • Knowledge is not the equivalent of competence.  So stop beating yourself up if you feel you don’t know enough.  You are good enough.

Thanks for reading about my journeys in graduate school anxiety.  I hope my reflections and tips help you to enjoy your sense of your potential more.

Do you have any tips for getting around the need to know everything?  If so, please send a reply.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Email this to someone
This entry was posted in Academic, Feelings, Resistance, Thoughts, Uncategorized and tagged by Christine Li. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christine Li

I am a licensed clinical psychologist with an expertise in working with procrastinators. I enjoy the challenge of helping chronic procrastinators to see their work and their relationship to their work in a new way so they may find ways to move forward. Although I work with many students in my private practice, I also work with professionals who wish to improve their level of engagement in their work and in their lives outside of work. I have hosted this website since 2009, when I decided to reach out to those struggling with procrastination but who were outside my geographical area of New York. I have very much enjoyed the contacts I have made through this site and the coaching work that I have been able to do as a result of "Procrastination Coach." I invite you to contact me so we can discuss how my coaching services will fit with your current needs.