The fear I find in asking questions


Arpita Das

A question mark that I drew inside of my notebook for math.

Over the course of the past 15 years, I have been told three things interchangeably. I’ve been told that I have good handwriting, been constantly reminded of the body hair on my skin, and that I ask really good questions. 

But for some reason, this restrains me from being able to reach my full potential. I’m sure we’ve all been in that awkward situation when a teacher asks at the end of their lecture, “Any questions?” Most of the time this is followed by a long period of silence. We’re encouraged in school to challenge the teacher with our curiosity, so why don’t we? 

Is it because of the fear of judgment that hovers over our heads as we sit in doubt thinking we’ll be the only one to raise our hand? Or the thought that we will be mocked for not grasping a concept? Regardless of the reason, I used to think like this too, until I realized that I was only hurting myself. 

It’s nerve-wracking being the only student in a classroom to raise their hand. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from speaking up, it’s that asking a question only makes me understand the content better. Curiosity sparks conversation. There is no greater feeling than the joy you get from knowing you were able to get your doubts cleared; even if you were the only one willing to take that risk. 

There is no greater feeling than the joy you get from knowing you were able to get your doubts cleared even if you were the only one willing to take that risk. ”

— Arpita Das

My mindset always used to be that if I asked questions, I would be perceived as clueless and stupid until my mentality started to change last year. The response I got from this was surprising, but nonetheless significant and is important to me today. 

I mentioned to my counselor that I never spoke up in class and received help when I needed it because I didn’t want to be a burden and hold back the class. My counselor laughed and reminded me that teachers are there to help you, which includes answering questions. 

Each time that I muster up the courage to ask a question, it always ends in other people asking questions as well. It reminds me of the power of numbers; one person asking a question to defeat the potential isolation I feel gives me comfort in knowing that the people around me learning the same lesson also feel confused. Then, I am more willing to ask for help when I need it. 

Although no one likes being confused, I can agree with the fact that I would rather be confused with a group than by myself and have trust in the fact that I am not alone. And what I’ve learned from doing this is that it’s not seen as annoying, but actually attentive; it shows the teacher that you are paying attention and giving all of your effort to their subject.