Seems pretty basic, right? Like, duh, we all know that good stuff takes practice. We’ve tried to duplicate grandma’s famous macaroni salad. We’ve seen innumerable Pinterest fails, we know this.
We all “understand” this, superficially, let’s dig in some more. If you are anything like me you have a million things that you’d like to try, things that you think “Hey, I could do that!”, looks or sports or languages. And bigger things. Your grand inspirations. Big dreams that feel like fledgling birds, not quite ready to see the world outside of the nest of your brain.
Something is keeping you from pursuing those interests and endeavors. Sometimes it’s time, sometimes it’s funds, but often it’s neither and those are just the comfy excuses we all use to keep ourselves safe and sound and stifled. Often we don’t pursue our greatest potential because we are not convinced that it’s worth the inevitable botched attempts, the discomfort of failure, others seeing and judging our less than perfect first tries.
But remember, any first attempt is not meant to be as complete, successful or appealing as the finished product. A first attempt is just that, your first try at something that you’ve never done.
If you’ve been in the inspiration/motivation/inspirational quote world for more than a minute you’ve probably seen the quote “When a child learns to walk and falls down 50 times he doesn’t think to himself ‘Maybe this walking thing isn’t for me’”. What then makes us think that we don’t deserve the same chance to be successful at new endeavors? We would be appalled if people saw a baby’s first steps and said “Dang, your kid isn’t very good at that.” “Wow, are you sure she’s cut out for this?” “Maybe he should just sick with crawling and stuff because he seems really good at that! And anyway, there are already like a million little kids out there who walk and they’re all SO much better at it than yours. Not to hurt your feelings or anything, but maybe he should stick with what he knows.” Those people would be shunned and everyone would know that they were incredibly insensitive and maybe a little bit insane. And no one. Would. Believe them. Those parents are going to keep encouraging that little tyke to walk as much as he can and as far as he can and as often as he can.
I am one of those people who puts significant value in the New Year, not as a drinking holiday or for crazy shenanigans, but for evaluating where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Some may disagree, and while I think that every new moment is a good time to do the same self-searching, what better time than the beginning of a new calendar, the first of the year, to do some introspection?
So let’s think together. Grab a pen and paper, your phone, a Word document, a spare receipt and some eyeliner and join me. Jot down a quick list of things that you’ve been thinking about trying, trying to accomplish, or have always wanted to do. Take another minute and add to the list some things you “failed” at in 2016 and don’t plan to try again. (Mine includes speaking German, blogging, and reading at least one book per month, to name a few.)
Read through your list and think about what your reason is for not doing the things that interest you- things that you think would improve your life and make you happy. Circle the ones that you haven’t done because the first class would be uncomfortable, you feel like you won’t be able to master it, or you would try but your family hated your last new recipe and their health is important to you…
Thanks for joining in, I know this is a lot of class participation, but there’s one more thing to do with that list. Look over all of the things you’d like to do. The “failed” attempts you’ve made, the fear that you feel when you think of how vulnerable you’ll be when you try some of them for the first time. And remember where we started. Your first attempt will never be as good as your finished product. That first dance class might be a sham, but it’s supposed to be. Your still life may look like something from Picasso, but it’s supposed to. I may be completely unable to understand the very basic sentences in my German conversation (that happened), but that’s what first attempts are like.
That’s when I encourage you, as Louise Hay says, to be a kind parent to yourself. Just as no parent is going to discourage their new baby from trying to walk because those first few steps were tentative and didn’t look too promising, we don’t treat ourselves with respect, kindness or love when we tell ourselves that because our very first baby steps into a new world we don’t deserve the untold gifts that can come from making them.
So take some steps, make some messes, get comfortable with the knowledge that your first attempt is likely to barely resemble what you hope the finished product will be. Because honey, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to go, and we all know it. And those first tentative tries are usually the most important.
P.S. When you embrace this truth for yourself how about using it with others? When you friend posts their first YouTube tutorial don’t throw shade, encourage. When your spouse writes you their first romantic poem (that’s not happening for you?) embrace the spirit, remember the process. And when your co-workers make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight then are the first to suggest ordering Chinese every Friday, offer salad and support.
Love yourself, love others.