Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when it comes for you?
Question Monster, Question Monster, Question Monster…
How about that? You can really do a Bad Boys remix with just about anything, it seems. Or maybe not.
See, Social Anxiety paid a visit every single time I readied myself to ask a question. It seems that the amount of Social Anxiety I exhibited was so high that I conjured up a monster out of thin air. The simple act of asking a question took such prominence in my mind that whenever the urge came to open my mouth, this monster appeared by my side. It frequented me so often that I dubbed him the “Question Monster.” It would suddenly appear, tap me on the shoulder, and whisper, “Don’t ask, they’ll laugh.” Needless to say, it ripped my confidence apart with its words: “it’s a stupid question…what kind of dummy doesn’t know the answer to that?” No wonder I was scared to ask a question in all areas of my life.
Damn it, Question Monster!
At some point, I stopped asking. The fear of facing the Question Monster inhibited me. It was always lurking around, ready to show its “Don’t ask” face. The insecurities plagued me; they projected onto me, so I did everything I could to avoid asking questions. If I really needed an answer to something, I walked up to the person and asked in a one-on-one setting or wrote it out in an e-mail (if I even bothered to remember). I never had the nerve to ask a question out loud in front of *gasp* PEOPLE.
Just the mere thought of asking a question got me worked up as if I was getting ready to enter a boxing match. My hands got sweaty, my heart raced, and my breaths were shallow. I had panic attacks at the mere idea of asking a question. Damn it, Question Monster!
With time, I realized that I was the one giving it control over me. With time, I understood the negative consequences of not asking a question – namely that of me being left out in the dark.
I was missing out on knowledge, information, and connections.
I deprived myself of these wonderful things because of the monster I created. Thankfully, after many years of struggle and working through my own action plan, it became dormant.
But recently, it hit me how much knowledge I left on the table all those years. The other day, I asked a question in a Facebook Group because I wasn’t sure how to approach my newsletter and needed some advice. Needless to say, a total stranger changed my entire perspective on how to address my audience, and it turned my ENTIRE website around. Which made me think:
What else did I lose out on because I was too scared to ask a question?
I’ll never know. But what I do know is that I’m the only one that stands to lose if I don’t ask.
This is why I now make a point to ask whatever pops into my mind. Regardless of what it is or who it is. Instead of being scared of people staring me down, I now fear not getting the right information to give me the extra edge. That’s something to be scared of.
And because Social Anxiety prevented me from asking questions, I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Who knows what golden nuggets you’re missing out on? For example, that the house next door to Hugh Jackman is on the market.
If you’re scared to ask a question, remember these 3 things:
1. If you have a question, chances are someone else has the same one.
I was scared to ask a question because I didn’t want to sound stupid. I didn’t want to hear snickers and whispers behind my back. In my quest to preserve the image I had of myself as an intellectual (an all-knowing being who never asks anything because it knows everything), I overlooked something much more important. The fact that an intellectual’s biggest strength is actually knowing they don’t know anything. I should have told myself, “Hey, if I’m as smart as I think I am and if I don’t understand this, then there are other people in the room that probably don’t either.” Flip the internal story around, and you’ll be more relaxed knowing that you’re not alone.
2. There are 295 exabytes of information floating around.
Do you really expect to know everything? Can anyone? Think about the enormous amount of information circling all around us! In fact, I’ll need to live about 100 lifetimes to touch every piece of data, and even then, it won’t mean I’ll understand all of it. And by that time, it probably would have quadrupled, so even then, I’ll only be touching the surface. It’s inhumane to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Whenever I see the ghost of the question monster, I think about all those exabytes, and I ask away.
3. No one will remember what you asked.
But you sure will remember what was answered. Quick, can you remember a question someone asked the teacher in the 10th grade? Other than “didn’t Al Gore invent the internet?”. Because here’s the thing, you probably don’t care enough to remember, unless you had the same question. Most people are too self-involved with their own thoughts to pay attention to what’s going on around them. And if they do actually care, it’s because they’re part of the discussion, and they’ll appreciate seeing someone else interested. So the turmoil you feel inside before you’re about to ask a question is because you think everyone will turn around and point the finger at you. In reality, half of the people zone out, the other half is annoyed there are questions, and the other half are happy to answer them. I told you I was an intellectual.
The biggest favor you can do to yourself is not to be scared to ask a question. Please do it for your present self, but do it especially for your future self because one day, you’ll browse through your brain’s memory tabs and pull that information out. And it’ll change the course of your life.
And yes, the Question Monster still shows his face now and again, but I always turn around to face it before it attacks me.
I cut it off before it starts with its pitch, and I say, “Mama needs an answer, go away.”
This article was featured in Introvert, Dear.