Starting anything is difficult, hard, time consuming, ego destroying. And the older we get, the more aware we seem to be that we suck at things. Do you remember how long it took for you to learn to walk? No? You tried, you stood up using tables and chairs. You wobbled on your feet and then fell on your bottom. And after a while, you’d take three steps and fall over. Then five, then ten. And soon you were running around, causing all sorts of mayhem.
But, to begin with, you sucked at walking. Crawling? You were ace at that, but you even had to learn that. There is an old cliché saying there, if you look hard enough. But you did not think about how much you suck at walking, which made you give up. Nope. You kept on going until you got it. Your determination to do a thing trumped any feelings of inadequacy, any failings you had, any thoughts you had that you were not good enough.
So why is it, now that we ‘know better’, we are so damn hard on ourselves when we can’t do a thing? Why must we only come out into public with a skill, when we have perfected that skill so we get 10’s from all the judges, including the Russian judge?
We all compare ourselves to others in a variety of different ways. We use the benchmarks of other people to inspire us, to encourage us, fire us up to be like them. We use the examples of others to compete against, as a thing you want to be as good at, if not better than. Or, to be just like them. And if we’re not, in our own mind, then we’re not good enough.
And it is in our own mind where all this bad stuff, the self-sabotage, really takes hold. Someone can tell us they really like our writing, and we can smile and say thanks, but the inner critic starts going- did they just say that to be nice? Do they think it sucks and theirs is better? Am I supposed to say nice things about them now? Is their fake compliment really an indictment on my fashion choice?
Okay, fashion, possibly not, but crazy thoughts like that often do happen. Do they not like my stuff because of who I am, what I represent, what I am wearing? Throw in anger, anxiety, the need to be wanted and belong, and a whole mess of other things. And we end up just stopping, just quitting what we tried to do, without even breaking through that barrier of learning.
So what kind of things do we do to ourselves which make us think we suck, and what can we do.
Firstly, you’re going to make mistakes. This is inevitable. You are not going to be 100% proficient in what you want to do, right from the get go. I write copy for real estate companies. I did this four or five years ago, and then the market dried up for me. Late last year, I made a connection, and got back into it. I quite enjoy it. I visit a house, walk through and decide if I would want to buy it, of course. I speak with the owners, find out what they like about their place and why they are leaving, and get a story behind the whole thing. Then I go home, write it up, in an hour, send it off, and huzzah! Pocket money, spending money. It’s good, I like it a lot.
However, when I did my first two or three, there were issues. Missing data which I was supposed to have collected, parts of the template not filled in; one particular property, which had 5 bedrooms, and a study and a rumpus room and, and, and…. The copy did not resonate very well. Luckily I had a client who would give feedback, but inside me, I was kicking myself thinking- how is it I mess things up, such simple things?
Now, I have put processes in place, have tweaked the template to autofill certain fields, and took on board the idea of walking a person through the home (not house). Things like this. I learnt from MY mistakes. It is always better to learn from other people’s mistakes, but if you can LEARN from yours, if you can work on the mistakes and how to not do them again, you will improve, get better and more confidant in how you do what you do.
Reffing junior basketball, I watched an under 10 boy make the mistake of shooting the ball in the opposition basket in the second half of the game, because he forgot that you changed directions at half time. The coach asked him- you know what you did? The boy nodded, was quite embarrassed, he did perform this feat in front of a lot of people. But he came out and scored twice after the time out.
So remember, mistakes happen. They are all a part of the process of learning. Even after taking 3 steps, you, as a baby, fell on your bottom. But you got back up, and you did it again, learnt that after 3 steps, you can make a fourth, and a fifth.