How To Cope With Uncertainty

Kim Kimball
7 min readMar 10, 2023

I am living with more questions than answers.

When will my baby make his entrance into the world?

Will I be able to have an unmedicated birth as I’d like to?

What will my son be like?

Will I enjoy being a Mother?

What impact will this transition have on my marriage?

What impact will me becoming a Mom have on my business?

Will travel be enjoyable anymore?

What is going to happen to my friendships and relationships?

Who will I become on the other side of this transition?

It feels like I’m standing on the biggest unknown precipice of my life thus far.

It does feel vaguely reminiscent of getting married, but even then, I knew that although it would be incredibly messy, I could get out of that commitment if absolutely necessary. There was a “back door”.

There’s no getting out of parenthood; it’s a lifetime commitment. And let’s be honest, none of us really know the extent of what we are signing up for when we take the leap. It’s impossible to. It’s likely the biggest commitment you’ll ever make that’s also the biggest unknown.

For someone like myself who has a history of developmental trauma and C-PTSD, not to mention a neurospicy brain (a term I got from my former mentor, Madison Morrigan, for neurodivergence), these big, lifetime commitments make uncertainty feel like they loom even larger and can stir up lots of anxiety–especially when they relate to intimacy, vulnerability, and closeness with people.

We humans don’t like uncertainty-this is simply universal. I’ve never seen an exception to this after coaching hundreds of people over five years.

In fact, we go to great lengths to not feel it (it makes us wildly uncomfortable), avoid it, and convince ourselves that we are in control and can outsmart it.

If we are really honest with ourselves, any idea that we can attain certainty or control is an illusion.

I’ve learned this the experiential hard way over and over again:

The career that I went 80K in debt for that I thought would be so satisfying sucked my soul, and I ended up needing to do a career pivot that I never would have anticipated.

My parents marriage ended in divorce after 41 years, and I would have NEVER seen that coming in a million years.

The way I thought I would have met my life partner was wildly different (and I’d argue better) than I ever could have cooked up in my wildest dreams or arranged for myself.

Taking the leap to start my own business was a huge risk that I have no idea how it was going to pan out, and has had a myriad of twists and turns and lots of uncertainty all woven in (and continues to!)

I could go on and on…

Nothing is certain in life, and if we feel it is, we are fooling ourselves.

This means that the more that we can learn to dance with the uncertainty, to accept it as simply a part of life, the more we can embrace it, the more content we are going to be able to be in our lives.

But how do we go about doing this, since as I mentioned earlier, uncertainty tends to elicit fear in most of us?

I want to share a few things that have been helpful for me in learning to be with uncertainty in my life, as I know it’s not something I can ever “escape”.

How to Cope With Uncertainty:

  • Notice what sensations being in a place of uncertainty brings up in your body. Often times we haven’t brought these (likely uncomfortable) sensations to our conscious awareness, but they are what is unconsciously driving our behaviors to numb or avoid them. These are often behaviors that you’d rather not be doing but can’t figure out how to break the habit (i.e. “self-sabotage”, that is really always self-protection).
  • Once you have brought the sensations to your conscious awareness, practice being with those sensations rather than numbing or avoiding them. That may look like naming what sensations you’re feeling and where you’re feeling it in your body. It might look like taking the time to allow them space to just be rather than needing to do something else. Here’s the thing: when you practice this, and make no mistaking, it is a practice, you learn that you can be with this discomfort and not die. You actually build capacity to be with uncertainty, you get more and more adept at feeling those sensations, and they get less and less scary. Eventually, uncertainty may even feel neutral to your body instead of like a threat.
  • Interject possibility. What habits does your mind have in what it makes uncertainty mean: does it automatically conclude that something terrible is going to happen because it’s unknown? Can you crack the door a little for a wider possibility that there may be an equal chance of something wonderful happening that you haven’t yet been able to envision? **I will make the caveat that before this can even be possible, make sure to do some nervous system regulating exercises, as our nervous system state determines our thoughts.
  • Trust yourself. Can you trust that whatever the outcome, that you have your own back, that you’re resourceful, that you’ll figure it out, and you’ll make sure that you’re OK? When you know this, the outcome itself carries much less importance, because you know that whatever happens you’ll be able to use it all as part of your journey and growth. It can be helpful to look back on all the things that potentially didn’t go exactly as planned and how you were able to handle and deal with it as a way to bolster your self-trust and confidence.
  • More will be revealed. Make the choices and decisions that feel best for you with the information that you have available now, trusting that more will be revealed as you do, one step at a time. We stall and spin out when we try to predict a million steps ahead when that information currently isn’t available instead of trusting life to unfold naturally in its own timing.
  • Radical acceptance. This doesn’t mean giving up, it simply means no longer trying to control the uncontrollable. When we radically accept what is in our lives, we no longer live in resistance to it, and it frees us up to actually focus our energy on the things we can control. Even when there is an outcome that I perhaps wouldn’t have wished for myself that was outside of my control, when I can accept it as part of the wholeness of life, it changes my experience of it by simply letting go of the resistance to it.

Uncertainty still has its moments of discomfort, but my ability to be with that discomfort and not have it spin me out, consume my thoughts, and control my behaviors has vastly expanded in the last few years through tending to these practices.

I no longer need certainty to feel or be OK.

When you no longer need external circumstances to change in order to feel safe and OK within yourself, that is where your true power lies. That is sovereignty. That is freedom.

When you live in that sovereignty and freedom, you no longer need to endlessly chase certainty, trying to white-knuckle grip life into what you want it to be, but you can settle in and relax into the uncertainty, trusting the mystery and the unfolding of life.

I don’t know about you, but that feels delicious to me.

As an added bonus, here are some of the things I’ve noticed has become more accessible and possible as a result of improving my relationship with uncertainty:

  • Moving from less urgency in my life
  • Having more patience with others, myself, the unfolding of life’s timing that I can’t control
  • Ability to stay connected with others even amidst disagreement (aka uncertainty!)
  • More presence
  • Less anxiety
  • More clarity in decision making
  • Increased sense of my own sovereignty, more grounded within myself
  • More tolerance for confrontation
  • More tolerance for others having their own thoughts and opinions of me, of allowing them to have their own experience of me, and even dislike me

I know that you may be thinking to yourself, all of that from learning how to cope with uncertainty?

Yes! I don’t think it’s an over-exaggeration to say that all of these things have been cultivated in direct relationship to my ability to tolerate uncertainty.

Reflection Questions:

  • What’s your relationship like with uncertainty? Why do you think that is? What’s informed that relationship?
  • What habits of your mind are present with uncertainty? (For example, automatically jumping to the conclusion that there will be a poor outcome if things are unknown)
  • What are some things you may do to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty?
  • If uncertainty was inevitable, what do you think would best allow you to have a relationship of trust with it as a part of the wholeness of life?

I’d love to hear from you, what’s your relationship like with uncertainty? What’s an area of uncertainty you’re facing currently? Feel free to comment below and let me know. I always love hearing from you.

And if you’re enjoying these Stories and you’d like to receive them directly to your inbox on a bi-weekly basis, you can sign up for my Insider Circle Newsletter here.

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Kim Kimball

Women's Leadership Coach helping women leaders, coaches, + entrepreneurs stop people pleasing + perfectionism in their biz, life, + relationships.