Like lots of people I know, I loathe the feeling of being terrible at something. It swarms me with a glittering array of feelings ranging from inferiority & jealousy to stupidity and embarrassment and makes me less than inclined to face up to my ineptitude a second time around. We grown ups have all got so many talents and skills – many that have been developed and honed over years and years – that somewhere along the way we have forgotten what it’s like to start again from the very beginning.
It’s a daunting task – especially in this challenging and competitive world where our levels of expertise and aptitude are directly responsible for gaining us employment, bringing us praise and acknowledgement and setting us apart from the legions of “basics” who try but cant do what we can do nearly as well as us. We like to feel good at things – it’s flattering to our egos and it helps offer us a sense of identity and belonging to an exclusive community that is defined by a shared and relatable skill set (like musicians, accountants, yogis, etc). We like to be seen in the light of things that we’re good at as it helps us feel validated.
For most of us, the majority of our new learning experiences occurred as children – back when being crappy at stuff was pretty much considered an inevitability. Now, a lot of that early learning has morphed into something that seems intrinsic to our nature – like walking or reading or copy and pasting MSN convos to show our girflriends what that dude said in a private message – that we fail to acknowledge there was a time back when we couldn’t walk, couldn’t read, and didn’t automatically go for the highlight, command + C, command + V to spread the cyber goss.
Now, in adultland, being crappy whilst in the throes of learning something new isn’t considered as adorable and understandable as much as it is frustrating and time consuming (which I’m sure anyone stuck behind a learner driver or standing in the epic post office queue whilst the trainee serves can attest to.)
But, as many reasons as there are to avoid the uncomfortable task of learning something new, it’s a hugely important part of our continuous mental/physical/social & spiritual development. Learning something new ignites the parts of our brains that have grown stale, lazy and complacent with assumed knowledge and repeated behaviours. It requires patience, perseverance and humility and reminds us what it is to be human – capable of falling, rising, growing and appreciating what efforts are involved to do something new, unfamiliar and challenging.
So today I ask you that trite and oft pinned quotation – when’s the last time you did something for the first time? Something that you were really, truly terrible at? The worse, the better – as it takes you even further away from your particular, ingrained skill set. Go find something interesting, or uncomfortable or even scary to do and allow yourself to wallow in your incompetence. Your initial inability is not proof of your hopelessness as much as it is evidence that you’re brave enough to break out of your safe zone to grow, learn and, in my case, finally try to get my goddamn Ayesha.