Recently, I overheard a conversation between two women that went something like this.
“I finally went to that art class I told you about.”
“That’s great. How was it?”
“It was OK. I don’t know if I will go back.”
“Why’s that? I thought you liked painting.”
“I do but… We started on a project and it seemed like everyone in the class knew what we were doing except me. I felt kind of dumb. It was like everyone was better than me and it was frustrating.”
While I mentally applauded the first woman for stepping out of her comfort zone to attend the art class, I also thought about how many times people don’t start something, whether it be a hobby, a project, or a new interest due to fear. The fear that they might appear to be new to the task. It’s (more than) a bit ironic that people seem to fear looking like they are learning when they are… learning. I also thought about how many times people finally work up the nerve to start learning something, figure out that it’s more difficult than anticipated, and then quit due to fear of the unknown.
Let’s first talk about the fear of appearances. It’s as if it never occurs to us that beginning something new automatically means that we are going to be LEARNING something new and we couldn’t possibly know everything about it. If we already knew how to do it, then there would be no reason to learn it. Also something to think about… Everyone starts from a place of not knowing and, depending on how long someone has been at it, everyone is at a different place in the learning process. Like the people in the woman’s painting class.
Even people who are considered “naturals” at certain tasks had to take that first step to learn, whether it was by observing or listening and then trying.
I will also mention that I have never met one person in my entire life who has ever looked down their nose at someone who is learning a new skill. Ever. In fact, I’ve met many that were the complete opposite.
Everyone has to start from the beginning. There’s no other place to start.
Now lets take a look at the second fear. The one that comes when learning a skill is more difficult than anticipated. This fear is not the fear of the skill being too difficult. This is actually related to self confidence and whether a person thinks that they have the abilities necessary to get beyond the initial difficulty. It comes with thoughts along the lines of “I’m not ever going to get this. I might as well give up.” It’s a fear of the unknown because you truly never know what you can do unless you try. Once you give up, the results remain forever unknown.
Before you quit when you feel the fear of the unknown, ask yourself why you wanted to learn the new thing. What made you want to take that first step past the fear of appearances, and actually do the thing? Do you still feel that way, even after learning that it is more difficult than you thought it would be? If the answer is yes, then don’t stop. It’s okay if you’re not good at it. You will figure it out and you will get better and you will want to keep going, no matter what stumbling blocks or frustrations you encounter.
Here’s the beauty of getting past both types of fears. When you start and don’t quit, you will get results. Honestly, you will probably even get them without giving them much thought. In my experience, when I focus on the “here and now” moments of learning a new skill, I wake up one day and realize that all of those moments added up to me being really good at that particular skill. Can you relate? Of course you can. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say you also know what happens when you see the results… You feel a sense of accomplishment. That feeling when you smile to yourself and feel like you’re standing just a bit taller. And that feels good.
So, my friend, when you are considering trying something new, no matter how long you’ve been wanting to do it, no matter what age you are starting at, no matter who might be better than you in the current moment… Be courageous and start. You have absolutely nothing to lose. If you find it feels harder than you initially thought it might be, go back to your reasons why you want to learn it. If those reasons are still there, then that means you know it’s worth the effort.
Continue to learn and grow, with the additional knowledge (yes, it’s a given) that you will get better at it and you will get results. Learn at your own pace, be positive, and you will naturally stay in a growth mindset, which, I might add, is good for your psychological and emotional well-being. All I have left to say to that is “Go you!”