In some of our programs, we talk frequently about the medically accurate information related to sex, puberty, pregnancy and STDs. Many times, when we share the new information, a lot of the students will have resistance to what they are hearing because of how they feel about it. They may say things like, “ well I still feel like it’s ok because…” or “but, I always thought…”. We know that, even though we provide accurate information that is backed up by statistics, science and even anecdotal evidence, many of them maintain opinions that could be harmful for their future and goals because they are still holding on to previously understood myths and stories. This represents a concept called “anchoring bias”. (Source) Anchoring bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we are given about a topic. When we are setting plans or making estimates about something, we interpret newer information from the reference point of our anchor, instead of seeing it objectively. This phenomenon is not unique to teens. The rejection of information is less about the truth of it and more about how a person feels when the new information is presented in the place of what was initially believed and received. Learning and the process of experiencing new information can be uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. But it’s required if you want to grow. Discomfort is the charge (or debt) of growth and success. We have seen this throughout history in many different areas.
In the month of February, the US acknowledges it at Black History Month and has done so since 1976. If you didn’t know, Black History Month started in the realm of education. As an organization that focuses on the education and informing of young minds as a way to provide guidance for their decisions, PATH holds education near and dear to our hearts. We see education as a catalyst for growth, future success, and change.
In its inception in 1926, Black History Month was initially a week-long endeavor to highlight the contributions of African-Americans in society. While most consider the positives attributed to acknowledging contributions, that would require us to also look at what precipitated the need for acknowledgement. It was a change of information. It was necessary. It was a look at a past and current condition and a provision of information to allow those in the black community to not be ignored. The status quo needed to be shaken. In order to change and make something better, you must first acknowledge that there is a problem. When Carter G. Woodson proposed the notion of a Negro History Week, he identified that there was something supremely lacking in the education of American history. It wasn’t that African American history was new or even that there was just now African Americans who were doing great and amazing things. It was that there was a deficit of the coverage and acknowledgment of these accomplishments. They were always there, they just weren’t known.
As we reflect on the accomplishments during this month of Black people in history, like Fannie Lou Hamer (civil and voting rights activist), Fredrick Douglass, and Madame C.J. Walker, it’s important to recognize that change starts with education. A common theme in many of these world changers is that they saw a change that was needed or became a changed person for the betterment of themselves and others. It may not be formal or official. But how we allow ourselves to be educated or how we educate others can be a first step in the process of growth and change. You can’t learn what you already know. I think of one of my favorite movies, The Matrix. It wasn’t until Neo was given a different perspective that he was able to see the truth around him. He was blind to it his entire life. He even had to go through a rebirth of sorts to experience the truth of the world’s condition. It started with a choice. The red pill or the blue pill. The blue pill represented staying in the comfort of his familiar perception of life. The red pill represented accepting the history of the world and exploring uncomfortable truths of their veiled reality.
Much like Neo in the Matrix, Carter G. Woodson and many African American trailblazers, we are presented everyday with the choices that could correct or coddle our comfort. We are given the choice to ignore the uncomfortable information and opportunities given to us or use them as a charge for change.
Changes… Are they good or bad? Well, I suppose it depends on who is asking and the nature of the changes. We are creatures of habit. So, most people struggle with the idea of change. But, as we have already established, change is necessary. Even small changes can be beneficial and not just for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being better.
Can you handle change or are you being held hostage by your comfort?
Education, a major conduit of truth, can be, by definition, uncomfortable. So when change is present and you find yourself resisting it, ask yourself this, “ is it because it’s not true or necessary, or is it because I’m uncomfortable?”
What uncomfortable skill or change are you charged with that will change the trajectory of yourself and others? Maybe there’s a skill or craft that you are afraid to start or maybe you’re resistant to learning information about historical and current disparities that are uncomfortable and disorienting. Perhaps you are experiencing the transition of a relationship or you are outgrowing a job.
Will change be your catalyst for your growth or just the force that expels your energy when fighting against it?