Part 1: The Allure (or Obsession) with Certainty

Part 1: The Allure (or Obsession?) with Certainty

Do you ever feel like you’d feel so much better – about your life, your work, your self, your relationship, *insert blank here* if you just had more…

Certainty. 

Does it sometimes feel like the people who know what they’re doing – the successful business owners, the spiritual entrepreneurs/leaders, the trendiest influencers, are all… certain? 

And you think ‘If I could just feel more certain, or have more certainty, I’d feel so much better.’ 

If you do, I don’t blame you. 

Isn't certainty... a sign of enlightenment?

 

Certainty is marketed as aspirational, as a mark of true enlightenment – whether intentional or not. 

They’re all certain, confident in their life that they’ll be taken care of. 

THIS is where you’ll be once you achieve the *correct* level of spirituality – this absolute confidence that your life will work out perfectly as long as you…

  • Do the mindset work
  • Surrender
  • Increase your vibration
  • Follow your intuition
 

(With the not-so-subtle implication ‘if you’re not getting what you want, OR if you’re still having doubts you’re not spiritual enough. Or surrendered enough. Or healed enough… yet’)

This leaves the distinct impression that once you’ve grown enough into your spiritual self – your ‘enlightened self’ – you don’t have worry, doubts, or uncertainty.

Or, maybe you do – sometimes – but THAT’S your ego talking. That’s you slipping off the path – forgetting who you are. Once you remember you’ll be back to no doubts. No worries. Total certainty.

‘I was worried – until I realised I had to let go of my ego, and reconnect to the highest version of myself and remember I’m on my best timeline.’

I definitely fell into this trap – I could feel my own uncertainty, my own questioning, and thought, okay I just have to keep working to get to where they are. 

I’d have moments of feeling 100% confident that everything was going well. 

Then, I’d get thrown for a loop and blame myself, or my lack of spirituality or faith. 

But then… 

It started feeling off to me...

– and it’s taken me three years to work through why. 

I went from course junkie-ish – chasing the certainty that everyone was selling. 

To delving into spirituality to find that feeling. 

To feeling a bit uneasy when I saw it in social media posts. 

To coming to this conclusion: 

I think we need (and maybe are about to have) a sea change when it comes to Certainty with a capital C for emphasis. 

Actually, I think embracing uncertainty gets us closer to enlightenment and connects us more deeply to the experience we’re here to have.

It's time to embrace the uncertainty of being human.

Yep, that’s right. 

From where I stand, it seems obvious that uncertainty is such an intrinsic part of the human experience that it’s as important as living in a body.

Maybe the goal isn’t to get to the point where we feel certain all the time. 

Maybe as humans having a human experience, we’re actually meant to get comfortable in uncertainty? Embrace it? Maybe we need to stop chasing the certainty that seems so comforting.

That's what I'm exploring in this series

Here in Part 1 we’ll look at why certainty is so attractive. Why are we so drawn to it?

What does it look like, and more specifically, what do I mean when I’m referring to certainty? 

In Part 2, I’ll share the examples of how chasing certainty or clinging to certainty can create disappointment, cognitive dissonance, and a weird, completely unnecessary hierarchy along with other general detriments to society. 

In Part 3, you’ll hear (read) my arguments for why our next steps should be embracing uncertainty as a fundamental part of the human experience. 

Not only are we inherently uncertain as humans due to our limitations, but that uncertainty has some real benefits in helping us fully experience what being alive has to offer. 

Not to mention it’s the ultimate challenge in detachment. 

So, if you’ve ever felt a ping when you see people *knowing* that they’re going to get everything they want, that they’ve put their order in with the universe and are just waiting for it to come through…

Or if you’ve wondered if something’s wrong with you because you don’t have that type of unshakeable confidence – come along with me and see if it might be because, actually, deep down you know that certainty isn’t all it’s advertised to be.

What do I mean by 'Certainty'?

You could almost make a drinking game out of how many times you’ll read ‘certainty’ in this series (but I wouldn’t recommend it because you might end up with alcohol poisoning if you did).

As a writer, I prefer to use variations of words to keep it interesting, but for me the word ‘certainty’ is the best one for this conversation, thus its repetition in the series.

I thought about using ‘confidence’ (which I do use a few times here) but to me confidence implies it’s not-quite-certain – like you believe it, but you don’t feel it’s 100% going to happen.

I thought about using ‘know’ (instead of ‘they’re certain’, saying ‘they know’) – which again, can be used in some cases, but to me you actually know when it’s provably true – you can’t really know something is going to happen, but you can feel certain it will.

‘Believe’ is another contender, but again, ‘believe’ implies an unknown, when you have a belief you recognise that it might not be true (i.e., it’s not a fact, it’s a belief). Similar thing with ‘faith’.

To me, certainty has a singular definition, in that you believe so much, you’re so confident, that you think you know, but you can’t actually know because it hasn’t happened yet. But someone who’s certain would argue that they DO know. 

Here, specifically, I’m talking about certainty regarding things that haven’t yet happened, that are in the future, that someone believes WILL happen, but hasn’t yet. As in, a certainty about your results – about what definitely WILL (or definitely WON’T) happen.

If you know a better word for it or a true synonym, please feel free to share – and I may even come back and add it for more variety 😉 .

The Seduction of Certainty

Have you noticed how MUCH certainty and how many guarantees are pushed around in marketing, in spiritual teachers, in all types of leaders?

I first became conscious of it in the spiritual entrepreneur space, but realised it went back to marketing 101 up to cults and political parties.  When you look around, it’s everywhere.

When it comes to marketing, we’re all meant to sell the results – as if we know that our programme or offering will DEFINITELY deliver a specific, predictable result to every. single. person. (who puts the work in, amiright? #NoExcuses)

When it comes to spirituality, the mark of a truly spiritual person is how little doubt or uncertainty they have around their life #faith

And don’t even get me started on leaders taking advantage of our need for certainty to keep themselves in power (though we’ll touch a bit on that in Part 2’s section on cults). 

Certainty is seductive.

In a world that’s constantly changing and surprising us (especially over the last few years / decade / this century / … you get the point) – certainty can feel like a balm.

 

Certainty is... very oft en... about control

At the end of the day, needing certainty about what’s going to happen is almost always about feeling in control of our lives. Feeling like we’re safe. 

When we’re certain about what’s going to happen, we feel in control, and we feel safe. 

And feeling safe is SOOOO important. 

We want certainty because we want to feel safe and protected from all the bad things that happen to other people. Or to us in the past, so they don’t happen again. 

We crave this safety so much that we will follow and flock to people who ARE certain.

If we feel like a specific programme, or belief system, or connection, or whatever can give us certainty, well of course we’re drawn to it. 

take manifestation for example...

Manifestation is very often treated less like a cooperative co-creation and more like a way to guarantee you get what you want out of life (yes, I know there are exceptions to this broad and generalised sentence, but this attitude is pretty common).

Have you ever wondered if the people who are 100% positive that their manifestation process works are successful because it actually IS that successful, or because they’re so confident in themselves that they convince other people to buy into their vision?

 

I know that personally when I fell down the online marketing rabbithole (starting with ‘Create Awesome Online Courses’) I did so because these people had a PROVEN system if I *just* followed the steps in their course, I *would* get this result.

Weirdly, the more I got into my spiritual journey, the less resonant the attachment to or desire for certainty felt. 

Yes, I still saw manifestation coaches whose trademark attitude was ‘I’m confident everything is working out for me’ as a sort of ‘gold standard’ of what being *really spiritual* meant. 

But something in my gut was telling me, this is NOT it. 

 

Is all certainty bad?

Before we go into Part 2 I want to answer a question you might be asking. 

‘Are you saying we should NEVER be certain about ANYTHING?’

And… the answer is not at all. 

First of all, we can be certain (or feel certain) about our feelings and desires.

Especially when it comes to our feelings and desires (aka don’t gaslight yourself). 

We can be sure of our feelings – I’m certain I love my children. I’m certain I love my husband (most of the time, j/k). I’m certain I love the work I do in my two businesses and I’m certain about my team being amazing at the clinic.

You may not be certain about how you feel about something, and that’s okay. 

But if you DO feel certain then you probably are, and I definitely don’t want you to question that.

You may know deep down in your bones that you want something for your life – your desires. 

You can feel certain about those, and also change your mind later, no biggie.

Then there’s being certain about facts – things that we’ve repeatedly done, over and over, and gotten the same result. This is the category of facts from the basic ‘fire burns skin’ stuff to the more complex ‘Vitamin D helps me with my energy levels’ fall into.

I mean, we couldn’t exist if we were uncertain about EVERYTHING.

With future stuff (which is mainly what I’m talking about here), I also have no problem with being *mostly* certain. You can be mostly certain that something will be successful, or that you’ll make a certain amount of money, or of any of your plans really.

It’s about the allowance that you *could* be wrong, things *might* end up different, and that’s not a big deal. 

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a huge difference. 

Or, maybe you’re like me and felt slightly off about this whole certainty quest we all seem to be on.

Well, follow me to Part 2 and let’s look at what the negative affects the striving for and attachment to certainty can create.

(If you’re here before I’ve published Part 2, and want to make sure you don’t miss it, you can subscribe to my email list below and you’ll get a notification when I’ve published it)

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