Osher Günsberg On The Liberating Feeling Of Saying ‘I Don’t Know’ - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Osher Günsberg On The Liberating Feeling Of Saying ‘I Don’t Know’

Why do we try so hard to prove we’re on top of things, when deep down we know we’re not?

There was a time in my life when I thought I knew everything. My wife, Audrey, and I were watching a show the other night, and one of the characters was trying to impress someone who’d asked her if she knew about some underground band. Without missing a beat she lies, “Yeah, of course.”

I physically flinched. And straight away Audrey asked if I was okay. My body had instantly recalled the sensation I’d get when I would lie like that. It’s the horrid feeling in the moments after a blatant lie – the feeling of, If they figure this out, I’m toast.

This is something I hadn’t done in more than a decade, mind you. It was a time in my life when I was trying hard to hide my own insecurities by projecting an image of someone who knows everything about every band (or movie, book, actor, podcast, city). I never ever wanted to admit that I hadn’t heard of something. Someone would say, “It’s like the synth sounds on that Ultravox song All Stood Still.” And I’d nod convincingly: “Yeah, it is.”

But I had no idea what those “synth sounds” sounded like.

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Unfortunately for me, I had learned that once I said “Yeah!”, the other person would get so excited they’d start to share enthusiastically about why they love that band (or song, book, album), and in doing so would reveal more and more information, causing me to dig ever deeper to come up with a response like, “Oh yeah! Ultravox – WOW. And would you believe that Midge Ure from Ultravox was in Thin Lizzy right before that? They’re so much more than The Boys Are Back In Town. Have you heard “Jailbreak?” It’s a riff so nasty you’ll need some enzyme spray to soak in for a couple minutes if you ever want to wash the stink off.”

Just like that, taking control of the conversation, moving it from a space where I couldn’t appear clever to a space where I could get very excited about something that I knew all about, and in doing so I could: a) show how smart I was; and b) protect my fragile little ego.

Too often I found myself clutching at the edge of credibility in conversations in pubs or at parties – or even in the middle of an interview with a musician on live television. Considering my job for a long time was to give the impression of possessing unshakeable musical pop-culture credibility, this was a stupid thing to do.

Thankfully, my man David (the guy who helped me get – and helps me stay – sober) taught me that when I have memories that make me flinch, to remember this: “We get to live the rest of our lives not being that guy anymore.”

“When I think about lying in those moments, I know that it all ties back to anxiety, to seeking control, to being unwilling to coexist with uncertainty. It’s saying no to something that I’m afraid of to chase the notion of safety.”

OSHER Günsberg

But when I chase safety, I’m always the greyhound and safety is always the electric bunny. I’ll never catch it. Never. And the idea that things will be safer if I say no to fear is an illusion. Because after a while of saying no to things you’re afraid of, your options get pretty limited. In my story, the option I was left with to try and stay safe meant not leaving my house for days at a time. Not good.

The paradox is that the safest path forward is actually to say yes to the thing that I’m afraid of. In this case, I’m chasing control of the conversation – and the approval of the person I’m talking to. Because I’m afraid of what my self-worth will be without it.

But what does saying yes to that fear sound like? I found four excellent words to use instead of lying.

“Have you heard about this super- cool thing, G?”

“Not yet – tell me!” In a blink, everything changes. Inside, it feels like I’m okay not

knowing about this super-cool thing. And because this thing sounds super cool, on the outside I’m excited to hear about it.

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Also, I have given a gift to the person I’m talking to, because who doesn’t love to share their passion for a band or a book or a YouTube channel about human-powered wood lathes?

But what about when you’re on the other side of this situation?

I used to be a punisher when people hadn’t heard about things I was in to. “You’ve never heard Gang of Four?! How can you say you love the Chilli Peppers if you’ve never heard Gang of Four?” I was protecting my scared little-man ego by being a superior, arrogant asshole.

Nowadays, I try to remember a time before I’d heard or seen the thing I’m into, and that makes it easy to say something like . . . “You’ve never seen Pulp Fiction? I’m so jealous of you! I wish I could watch it again for the first time. To see the non-linear storytelling which hadn’t really been done before. You are so lucky.”

Since I started saying yes to my fears, I’ve lost count of how many random and wonderful things I’ve discovered about the world.

Also, I am so much more comfortable in conversations with strangers. I’ve said it before: if I backed away from all the things that frightened me, I would end up living on the head of a pin. But when I say yes to things that scare me, I’m saying yes to trusting myself that I can cope – and I’m saying yes to possibility. Saying no is a binary outcome: running from fear or the status quo.

If nothing changes, nothing changes.

When I say yes to possibility, there’s nothing but options.

The best part about possibility is that nobody has figured out how to predict with certainty what is going to happen in the next second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year or decade. So I could let fear paint that picture for me, or

I could invent a new possibility about whatever might happen.

If I’m going to be thinking about it for potentially years, I may as well make up something wonderful to carry in my head until that moment arrives. And when that moment does arrive, it may look how I imagined . . . or nothing at all like what I imagined.

But if I try to carry a positive possibility with me, and the belief thatI will cope and figure things out no matter what happens, then I won’t have wasted minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years or decades worrying, or allowing fear to take me away from the present. Otherwise, every choice I’d have made in the meantime would have been guided by fear, shutting myself off to possibility.

We don’t know what we don’t know. So we may as well create something that’s easier to live with than fear to carry with us until the moment when we do know, trusting that when we get there, we’ll cope.

Because, somehow or other, you and I have always figured stuff out in the past. Who’s to say we won’t then?

For more of Osher’s insights into self- acceptance, fulfilling your dreams and getting the most out of life, listen to his bi-weekly (every Monday and Friday) podcast, Better Than Yesterday.

By Osher Günsberg

A fixture on prime-time TV for two decades, Osher Günsberg is Men’s Health’s growth and personal development expert. Having carefully navigated his own journey of self-discovery and sobriety, Günsberg knows how difficult it can be to make the necessary changes in life that can facilitate inner peace. Now, he wants to help you make transformative changes in your life. For more of Osher’s insights listen to his bi-weekly (every Monday and Friday) podcast, Better Than Yesterday.

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