Isn’t Curiosity Enough?
Photo courtesy of Sarah G..

Isn’t Curiosity Enough?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

People love to project identities onto you. They love to be a part of the foreshadowing, to feel as though they were there before you “made it.” Maybe they were even a part of your journey, encouraging you to become the person they always knew you could be.

They are kind-hearted and well-meaning. What they want for you is success, happiness, greatness, financial stability. Like they have…

One day you announce that you are going to take some science classes. “A doctor!” They shout. “She’s going to make a wonderful doctor!” You know they would be right, you would make a great doctor if that was what you wanted to do. Part of you wants to grab onto this identity yourself, thank the heavens for finally granting you a calling. But it is premature, and you know it.

You shyly explain to them that science is simply an interest at this point, something you’re excited about. You just want to learn more about how the body works. It might lead to a profession, but it might not. Or maybe you say nothing and let them be excited for you.

But then you feel guilty because you know that their projections might not materialize. You feel even guiltier because the truth is that part of you is enjoying the praise and congratulations for finding your Thing.

When you try to register for a biology course, the admissions officer wants to know why you want to become a physician. (Did you say you wanted to become a physician?)

I hope that one day we live in a world where support and encouragement exists, even when a path doesn’t lead to a prestigious career. I hope we live in a world where the praise is for the intellectual exploration itself, because there could be no more worthy endeavor than seeking to understand the world.

Do people place projections on you when you show interest in an area? How does this make you feel?


  1. I just watched this video the other day. Your post reminded me of the part where he is talking about his classmates at his 25th college reunion. The people who took classes for a specific, money-making career are all unhappy and feel as though they have wasted their lives. The people who took classes they were interested in and who seemingly possess a love of learning are happiest. So, I’d say curiosity is enough and those of us who understand that at an early age are lucky. This wisdom seems to come to most people as they age, and leaves them with many regrets. Here is the video if you are interested in taking a look: “How To Know Your Life Purpose In 5 Minutes” – those of us visiting the website can probably come up with more than a few life purposes and I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. Holli says:

    I really love this post, Emilie. The truth is that this mindset is so ingrained in our culture, that I have done it to myself.

    What’s liberating now as an adult is that I’m giving myself room to explore. In my photography, I try new things and it’s fun to find areas I would have never thought I’d go such as architecture photography.

    @Lily – you’re right on too. I think there’s something to our core as humans that we want to find order and categorizing people is one way we’ve done so but in reality people change. I’ve heard it said that curiosity or the journey is the purpose, not the final destination. I hope that makes sense:)

    • Emilie says:

      Ou architecture photography! You should come to Chicago. :)

      Yeah, I’ve done it to myself too. It’s definitely nice granting yourself permission to “dabble,” at any age.

  3. Em says:

    I don’t think they do it nowadays but they used to do it often when I was younger. Primary school, I had the best essays and everybody kept telling me I should and will become a writer. Like – why on earth? Just because I was quite good at writing, should I immediately publish books and become famous? I’m sure there were more things like this when I was growing up. Like when I started learn english, said I loved it and they were immediately like “You should translate books then, or do something with it!”. Whyyy? :D There’s million ways on how to use that skill once you developed it. And if you feel like you’re learning it just out of curiosity and for “just in case” security, that should be perfectly legit reason. I don’t really like it when people think this straight way that when you start digging into some skill or interest, you are obliged to proceed somewhere with it and become an expert with a career based on that one skill. I mean – it’s riddiculous, especially if you just really started.

    • Emilie says:

      Well said, Em! I think that jumping right to the associated vertical career can cause you to seriously miss more interesting opportunities to use your skills in unexpected ways.

  4. Jon says:

    It’s not just identities, in my experience. They somehow also automatically assume you’ve studied/trained in the thing you’re interested in and project that onto you too.

    I’ve had recruiters and peers tell me “you’re an amateur” and “you’re not a real professional”, for that reason. All the while forgetting that they were the ones who made those assumptions in the first place. But it still hurt nonetheless. For years.

  5. Vanessa says:

    This is a big one for me right now. I’ve come to the place, again, where I’m trying to pick between two interests. PR/marketing and Premed/homeopathic medicine, so I want to take some science classes, while doing a PR internship. I’m 22 and supposed to have my career rolling, according to family, so I’m getting a lot of push back. I’m more of a apologize rather then ask permission kinda gal, but I wish people were more open to intellectual pursuits as a means unto itself. I’m looking forward to helping create that future.

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