Learning something new is sometimes really hard. We can make it even harder, by being overly critical of ourselves. The thing that we need to always remember is that everyone is a beginner at some point. And really, being a beginner allows us to see more potential in life and the things around us. The minute that we think we’ve mastered something, is the minute that we stop trying to learn. When we stop learning, we stop improving, and we get complacent. When we get complacent, we can miss out on a lot because we don’t look outside of what we already know.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts, there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki
Try to do everything, even those things that you do each and every day, like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it. When we can do this, we are always open to learning something new, to tweaking our process, and to improving ourselves and our lives. We’re also giving ourselves the opportunity to become more confident as a person. Each time we succeed in learning something new, in improving in any measure, we grow more confident. But, we have to be willing to be a beginner to learn.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve caught myself not being willing to look like a beginner.
This is something that I’ve struggled with off and on throughout my life, but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve really paid attention to it more.
The first time I noticed it, was when I was talking to a few different people about learning to edit videos. I kept saying things like, “I’ve never done video editing, so I don’t have any idea what I’m doing”. At first, I didn’t realize it, but I was putting myself down by saying this. While it’s true, I really don’t know much of anything about editing videos, my mind intent behind it was that, because I don’t know how to edit videos, I’m somehow stupid, or less than.
No one said this to me, or made me feel this way, it was entirely me having limiting thoughts about myself.
I often forget that I’m not Google, so I don’t know everything. (Don’t tell my husband….haha) If I’ve never done something before, I’m not just going to magically have this knowledge. I have to learn and practice, just like anyone else.
This didn’t really click until I said this to someone and he said, “everyone has to start somewhere, it’s okay to not have any idea what you’re doing”. When he said that, it was like a light bulb went on in my head and highlighted those limiting beliefs. In that moment, I was able to begin to like being a beginner.
“If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.” – Barbara Sher
You learn to live life from a point of curiosity and wonder.
I always thought I was a pretty curious person, and I am, but I was limiting myself, and what I could learn and do, by not wanting to be seen as a beginner at anything.
The next time this happened, I was able to recognize it more quickly.
I’ve been learning to play golf recently. We went to the driving range for the first time about a week or so ago. It was the first time I had hit real golf balls with my clubs (We had been playing with practice balls, which are basically the same size as a golf ball, but with holes in them. They aren’t meant to go very far.)
I kept making silly mistakes: bending my front arm, letting my wrists collapse, not keeping my head down. As I was doing these things, I was beating myself up for not knowing better. But then I thought, ‘hey, I’m new at this, I’m not going to be perfect at it right away, or maybe ever. I’m not looking to go pro, or play in tournaments, I’m just out here to have fun’, and that’s exactly what I was doing.
Even though I kept messing up more often than not, because I stopped expecting myself to be ten steps ahead of where I was, I started enjoying myself more.
Being a beginner is not always an easy position to be in, but there are things that we can do to make it easier on ourselves.
1) Don’t worry about what other people think of you.
For the longest time, I would feel silly if I was new at something. I felt like people were judging me, or making fun of me, because I couldn’t do something. I thought they would look down on me because I didn’t know how to do whatever it was I was trying to do. I soon came to realize that most people weren’t even aware that I was there. Not in a rude way. People just have their own lives, their own little worlds, and I wasn’t really on their radar as much as I thought I was.
Even if there is someone out there who is judging us, or someone who is looking down on us, the trick, is to remind ourselves that we don’t need to worry about them. Their judgements are based on themselves, and issues they are having, and not on us.
People that look down on others who don’t know something, generally have a need that isn’t being met in their own lives, so they look down on others, or make fun of them, as a way to make themselves feel better. If we learn to let their looks and comments roll off of us, instead of internalizing them, we make our lives a lot easier.
2) Learn to laugh at yourself.
Some people think that if they laugh at themselves, then it gives others the right to do so as well. Some think that anyone who is laughing at them is being mean, and they take it as a personal attack. Really though, when we have a good sense of humor, and don’t take everything so personally, it makes a big difference in life. This is especially true if we’re learning something new.
In those rare times when people really are being mean, you laughing at yourself takes the wind out of their sails. If they are laughing at you, in an effort to hurt you or make you look bad, then they want you to react, they want you to be hurt or mad. When you instead laugh, they don’t know what to do.
Learning to laugh at yourself also helps to take some of the stress out of the situation. If you are stressing over doing everything right, getting every step down perfectly, and not looking stupid, having a good belly laugh will diffuse it. You can’t genuinely be laughing and smiling, and be completely stressed at the same time. Chemically and physically our bodies release stress when we laugh. If you just can’t bring yourself to laugh or smile, look at someone else doing it, or of pictures of people smiling and laughing. Smiles and laughter are contagious.
3) Admit you’re a beginner, without putting yourself down.
When we’re learning something new, some of us have a tendency to put ourselves down during the process. We say things like, “I’m really stupid at this”, “Maybe one day I won’t suck”, or “What is wrong with me, why can’t I do this better”. I have personally said all three of these things at different times throughout my life.
We have to learn first, to differentiate between DOING something stupid, and BEING stupid. Just because we do a stupid thing, does not mean that we are a stupid person. I do things a lot, that really feel pretty dumb at the time. Sometimes I still slip up and say things like, “man, I’m stupid”. If I do though, I try my best to catch it and remind myself that, “I did a stupid thing, but I’m not a stupid person”.
Once you learn this, you can be more aware that really, if you’re learning, what you do is likely not stupid anyway. Just because you’re not doing it right from the very beginning, doesn’t make it stupid. If someone tells you how to do it, and you ignore them and keep doing it wrong without trying to do better, that’s when you’re doing something stupid.
The fact is, you’re going to mess up while you’re learning (and probably even when you get really good at things). We all have good days AND bad days in doing anything. You’re going to have your form down, and then one day, keep forgetting to hold your arms right, or keep your legs bent, but if you are practicing, trying, and improving, then there is nothing stupid about it.
4) Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t learning as quickly as others.
We all have our strengths. Some people can pick certain things up more quickly than others. There are those that seem to learn anything they set their mind to with ease. For those of us who don’t learn that quickly, it can be frustrating. But comparing ourselves to others, whether we think they are better than us or worse, is not going to help us get anywhere any faster.
It will actually have the opposite effect and slow us down. This is because, thinking that we’re better or worse than someone else, keeps our focus on them. We focus on what they have that we don’t, or what we’re doing that they aren’t. Instead, keep your focus on what you’re doing, how you’re improving, and those things that you need to accomplish to learn more.
5) Learn to appreciate that you are at a different skill level than someone else, without letting it reflect on you as a person.
Like telling yourself that you DID something stupid, but that you’re not a stupid person, knowing that you’re not as good as someone else at something, shouldn’t reflect on who you are as a person. We can appreciate the different skill levels we are all on, without thinking that we are any better or worse off as people. For instance, I know that I’m not as good skill wise at cooking as some other people, but that doesn’t mean I’m not good at other things, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not inherently a good person.
6) Focus on how far you’ve come, and not how far you have to go.
Doing so helps us to acknowledge the progress that we’ve made, and to celebrate it. When we focus on how far we have to go, it can make us feel like we’re spinning our wheels and not really getting anywhere.
It’s ok to check in from time to time and see what you need to do to accomplish your goals, but don’t let this become your main focus.
7) Learn to take criticism and advice graciously, but not to be walked on or belittled.
Most people, when they give you a criticism, are genuinely trying to help you improve at whatever you are doing. Once we learn this fact, and stop thinking that people are judging us or looking down on us, we can take that criticism and use it to improve.
That being said, there are some people out there who will criticize you in order to make you feel smaller, or in order for you to have to depend on them more. They don’t like that you are learning and progressing (for reasons that are all their own) so they put you down in order to make you feel bad about yourself, or to make themselves feel better. If this happens, we have a choice, we can either let ourselves feel bad over what they said, or, we can know that they have their own issues, and not let that spill over onto us. Either way, we choose how we react to this criticism, how we feel based on how they are acting.
The hardest part of this is dealing with our own inner demons so that we don’t put our own frustrations and fears onto other people. Knowing the difference between those that are genuinely trying to help, and those that are trying to put us down, is much easier if we aren’t looking down on ourselves and others.
8) We can learn something from everyone we meet.
Every. Single. Person. Even those people that get on your nerves, or that you just can’t stand to be around, can teach you something about yourself and/or your life.
Being a beginner can be exciting, if we have the proper mind set about it.
As Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
The more quickly we can acknowledge the fact that we’re all beginners at some point in our lives, the more fun our lives can be. Instead of worrying about what others are thinking, about looking silly, or about how far others have gone, we can focus on soaking up everything that life has to offer.
(I chose this picture as the image for the post for 2 reasons: 1) My husband was the one who did the photo manipulation, and he’s a beginner at this skill. 2) It’s World Turtle Day today!!)