Constructively Confused

Constructive confusion. Hopefully, constructive criticism is something everyone has received over the years. It is something many of us have a hard time accepting and often, makes us uneasy with whatever we did. Most people, when they give constructive criticism are doing it for the benefit of the person they are constructively criticizing. Seems harmless, right? These comments may cause us to question our abilities and re-think our competencies. While constructive criticism is great, I want to talk about the feelings that constructive confusion has brought me. What is constructive confusion? By Mikaela’s definition, constructive confusion is any situation, event, or new piece of information that changes, makes you consider changing, or updates your current viewpoints, no matter how long they have been part of your belief system, while giving you insight into other areas of your belief system needing updating. It sounds confusing, because it is. But in a good way. So, like constructive criticism, constructive confusion allows us to re-think our competencies and adjust/improve our skills.  

My first semester of graduate school has left me constructively confused. I have talked with other individuals who have completed, or started graduate school, and many of them have said they feel the same way. I am still trying to put the experience into words but have had a difficult time labeling some of the thoughts and feelings associated with the new changes. It was not traumatic, and it is not something I would label as completely life changing (yet), but it is something that takes a different way of thinking. In four short points, I would describe graduate school as:

  1. A place where you learn and read so much that you start to think anything is possible, but impossible all at the same time.
  2. The more you learn, the more you want to try to do something to make a change.
  3. When someone told you as a child that education was the door to endless possibilities, they were not kidding. You are on your way to being well educated and the world awaits.
  4. A place where you have started to ask questions that do not always have simple answers and you will look high and low before you are satisfied with the answer, or you will find a way to find your own answer.

This list is obviously not comprehensive and is not everyone’s thoughts, but after some thought, I think these four points summarize my main points of confusion from the semester. As I learn, I feel my thoughts and beliefs shifting into something I would have never thought I would be thinking. As my attitudes towards what is important and valued change, I find myself thinking about how I want to impact those around me. It is not enough to just know, it is what we want to do with this knowing that will make the difference. This desire to know, to see the possibilities where you didn’t see the possibilities before, and the constant questions made in your mind can cause constructive confusion. While dealing with this confusion, sometimes I found myself depressed for no apparent reason,other than the fact I had questions and didn’t have [good enough] answers.Sometimes, I found it hard to focus on other tasks because I was so concerned about reading and understand what we would be discussing. Other times, I felt exhausted and under qualified.

I am not saying that graduate school is the only way to be constructively confused. Life hands us many situations leaving us confused, misunderstood, depressed, or exhausted. In everyday friendships and relationship, we are left with new information that will update and alter our perspectives, in both positive and negative ways. This new information can leave us confused, concerned, and lonely. While the side effects of constructive confusion do not sound pleasant on any level, I think the point of being constructively confused is to use it as an opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves. Embrace the confusion,because if you are not confused, I think you are doing it wrong. What is the point of having it all figured it? Without some confusion, we would become stagnant as people. Do you ever think that Thomas Edison thought he had it all figured out? Probably not. Because if he did, he would not have raised so many questions and created the light bulb. I am not saying that whatever we do with our constructive confusion will equate to the importance of a light bulb, but who knows. Instead of hiding from the constructive confusion, take it all in. Use all the new information and perspectives and update your own viewpoint to make yourself, and the world, a little brighter. Lets face it, we are all a little confused and it is all part of the journey!

Thanksfor reading!


The most confused we ever get is when we are trying to convince our heads of something our heart knows is a lie.

Karen Marie Moning

If you are not confused, you are not paying attention”

Tom Peters

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