Ever have those days when you feel like you’re failing to live up to your own expectations? For fellow perfectionists or for anyone who enjoys trying new things, this feeling is probably a familiar one. Learning a new skill is not always fun and it’s not always a graceful process. Sometimes it requires us to wobble along like babies learning to walk in front of onlookers that laugh heartily at our failed attempts. People generally avoid putting themselves in situations that might make them feel embarrassing or slightly incompetent, but by doing so they are missing out on the long-term benefits of taking a risk and trying something new.
When you are having one of those days that you don’t feel good at anything, here are four easy tips that may make you feel better:
1. Embrace the Beginner Phase
Whether it’s learning the guitar or learning about astronomy, accept that you won’t be the best or the smartest in the room. Accept that there will be a time when everyone will be giving you advice. Humble yourself and accept this advice with gratitude whether it’s helpful or not and whether it’s given to genuinely help you or to make the advice giver feel important. Accept that some people (hopefully very few) might enjoy seeing you struggle. Accept that you won’t always get positive encouragement, acknowledgement or any sort of pat on the back for trying. If you are able to fully embrace the beginner phase you will be better off for it.
2. Celebrate Small Victories
If you’re not having any fun, then you will probably give up prematurely. Focus on small, easily accomplished, goals and celebrate your small successes instead of getting discouraged contemplating on how much further you have to go. Every step forward is a step in the right direction and things will become easier and easier as you continue on. Keep some perspective and remember that it’s okay to laugh at oneself from time to time. Finding that lightheartedness and sense of play is invaluable in this process.
3. Be Kind to Yourself
Although we are often our own worst enemy, don’t put yourself down out loud or in your head. “Should have, could have, and would haves” will only make you feel worse. Own up to your mistakes, realize what could have been done differently and then turn the page. Practice positive self-talk instead of self-punishment. Studies have shown that positive reinforcement shapes behavior more effectively than punishment anyways. Identify your strengths and remind yourself that you are still learning.
4. “Don’t Stop, Don’t Give Up”
If all else fails, there are two things that always make me feel better after a long day of not feeling good at anything. One is watching this delightfully encouraging YouTube video.
And second is a quote that Christopher Robin once said to his friend, Winnie the Pooh: “Promise me that you’ll always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Someday, you’ll look back and you’ll be glad you were brave enough to make those first clumsy beginner steps. They will be the stepping-stones that lead you to your current state of awesomeness.