Chesterton's Fence

A blog post that I've wanted to write for awhile is one where I talk about ideas that I reference on a regular basis, since that kind of post would be really interesting for me to read! Ideas can be really powerful tools for thought and growth, especially when they're used as analogies. However, I haven't written a post like that because I find that usually only one or two ideas are readily on my mind at any given time. 

Right now, an idea that I've been thinking about a lot is Chesterton's Fence. The premise is that if you come across a fence in the middle of nowhere, it's good practice to try to understand why that fence was built (even if it seems useless to you) before trying to take it down.

This idea has been popping up for me in self-growth contexts, especially whenever I hear myself or someone else say phrases like "Why can't I just X," "Oh, I guess I could just X," or "I should be able to X." In these situations, if you were to actually just do X, that feels a lot like bulldozing Chesterton's Fence without taking the step to understand why you are currently the way that you are. Sometimes that might be useful, but I think this often has the potential to create new trauma for yourself, without solving the underlying problem(s). Additionally, you might find that you're somehow not able to do X, even though it seems like you "should just be able to do it," which could be a frustrating experience. My experiences around this kind of thing have made me a big advocate of doing some form of deep introspection before shifting anything fundamental about yourself. It feels like the difference between running around in the dark and walking around in the dark with a candle.

An example of this that's coming up for me right now is around two years ago, I realized that I didn't trust anyone and wanted to change that. I remember telling my thesis advisor that I was going to start trusting everyone, and she was skeptical 😂. The truth is that I didn't even know what it would look like for me to trust everyone, so it felt like I was just trying to speak something into existence without changing anything else in my life. It took me another year to learn why it's so difficult for me to trust people (because I don't want to get hurt) and what it means to be vulnerable (being in a situation where I could really get hurt). And only now do I feel like I can actually take the steps to trust (a couple) more people in my life more. I imagine that if I never understood those things, then I would have never gotten to this point.

I hope this idea helps you in some way! I don't usually write this on my blog posts, but I do always hope that if you find any of my posts interesting, you'll reach out to connect with me about them! Thanks for reading 💕


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