I learned a new word a couple months ago.
Heard of it? I hadn’t.
Agnosiophobia is the fear of not knowing.
To me, this means not knowing enough – not knowing the best way to proceed – not knowing how to do things correctly, so that you don’t look or sound or seem like a complete fool.
It might also be the reason I obsessively learned German before visiting Austria for the first time (a little bit different than learning Gaelic for fun before visiting Ireland, ha ha…). I just did not want to look foolish or be caught like a deer in headlights simply because I didn’t know what to do or what to say.
If you don’t know enough German, here’s a word that encapsulates what I’m talking about:
What does it mean?
Literally, it’s closest to saying “Excuse me,” or “Sorry.”
Of course, I found I didn’t need to excuse myself as much as I had expected I would – partly because more people at least understand English than expected (though it’s best not to have the highest of expectations in this regard), and partly because, well, things are always so much easier than expected when you’re in the thick of it… and if they’re not easy, then you at least know that those excruciating bits have an ending point, and you always end up learning something to make your next experience less awful.
Like two nights ago when a cashier’s register broke down and she couldn’t see how much I owed her, and I didn’t know how to tell her the numbers, in German, to help her. So I went back to the apartment where we’re staying and memorized the patterns of German numbers… my husband caught me counting feverishly to one hundred under my breath before getting out of bed the next morning.
… Did I mention the fear of not knowing?
Honestly, the fear of not knowing is the reason it took so long for me to finally write another blog entry, earlier today. I was afraid of not knowing how to start again. Afraid of not knowing what to write about. Surely I’d look foolish if I simply picked up where I left off, right?
But I’ve learned a few things since I last wrote here. Things that helped me shut that voice up – the one that tells me not to bother, since I’m so afraid.
Firstly, the following quote from Carrie Fisher comes to mind:
Be afraid. But “do it anyway.”
But… there is more to it, right? I mean, those of us who battle depression or anxiety know that it isn’t just as simple as “do it anyway.” And I know Carrie Fisher would probably agree, that this little soundbyte isn’t enough to jump start our minds when they’re frozen in fear.
“Knowing what to do will never be enough.
It’s not as simple as “Just do it.” If it were that simple, we would all have everything we want. There’s something really foundational that has to happen before we can take action, and that is that we must learn to conquer our own feelings.
Wow. This really hits the nail on the head, right? Mel Robbins created the 5 Second Rule for this exact reason – pushing yourself to do something, with a simple action that can actually make it possible.
“When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.“
There is a wealth of information about this rule, which you can find here, but suffice to say this really, truly works! It’s all about acting on the few seconds before an idea turns into inaction, and the physical actual countdown kicks your mind and body into gear!
Today, I left my journal behind before a 2 and a half hour train ride. I thought, “Well, now I can’t write. Sad face.” But then, I remembered my blog, and my fear of picking it back up… and that fear reminded me of Carrie Fisher’s words, and thanks to Mel Robbins, I knew what to do.
And I’ve applied it to my German-speaking experiences, too, here in Austria. I might not know what to say, or whether or not they speak English, but I just take a deep breath and…
5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!