Have you ever been secretly afraid to start something new because you didn’t want to be bad at it? It can be hard to admit it to yourself, but I bet most of us have been there. Or maybe you’ve actually been overly confident when you got started only to realize you weren’t as good as you thought? That happened to me recently. As some of you know, I’ve been running regularly as cross-training this winter. I had high expectations for myself based on previous experiences and running races. How’s it been going you ask? I’m not nearly as good as I was and it’s taking quite awhile to come even close to where I was a couple years ago. There are days I want to quit and am embarrassed because I know I can be better. What do I tell myself on those days? “It takes courage to suck.” I also remind myself that I actually LIKE this process. I like working hard and getting better over time. I like seeing how far I’ve come but in order to do that, I have to be willing to suck for a little while.
This also applies to other things like… public speaking, learning an instrument, starting a different job, becoming a parent. Sucking at something for a little while is actually an important part of the learning process. I watch my 11-month old try and fail, and be really bad at new things he is learning. We aren’t hard on babies when they are learning, but we tend to be so hard on ourselves. Distancing yourself from the action can be helpful for having more self-compassion. I actually get embarrassed sometimes at old articles I’ve written on even my TEDx talk I did in 2015 because I know I’m so much better at that stuff now.
It’s also a great reminder that doing the reps matters, consistency matters, and the mindset that talent is NOT fixed and can be changed with effort is key (a growth mindset). No top performer was immediately great out of the gates.
The last thing is if you think you suck right now, what are you comparing yourself to? You might be comparing yourself to a previous version of you (like in the case of my running). You might be comparing yourself to the best in the world- to people who have worked their whole lives to improve at something. It’s important to compare yourself to today. Start where you are today because the present moment is the only thing that exists.
Being able to change your self-talk from “I suck” to “this is what it takes to get better,” might help you stay the course or even get started. It takes courage to get started and suck at something, to be humble, and to embrace the bumpiness on the trail…without the bumps, would it really be worth it?