Today’s episode is about giving ourselves permission to begin and be okay with not being as good at the things that we are really passionate about right from the beginning. I am sharing three simple steps to take if you struggle with giving yourself permission to be a beginner. I am also sharing my own example of what struggling with this looked like for me.
Links that I mentioned:
- Work with me: 1:1 coaching and mentoring
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- Sign up to the fortnightly letters
- Connect with me on instagram @hirasahmed
Transcript of the episode:
Today, I want to talk about giving ourselves permission to be a beginner.
This is probably the most valuable lesson of all the lessons I am going to share in this season with you. This is something I personally have struggled with many times in my life and this is something I see coming up very often with my clients as well.
We have this story that we have to be perfect and an expert at anything that we are going to give ourselves permission to pursue and especially if we want to share with the world and claim some space for ourselves.
So you want to start something you have always been thinking of doing and it is something very important to you. Maybe it is an idea that you have been sitting on for a while. Maybe it is a skill you want to be really good at. Maybe you want to start a podcast. Maybe you want to learn to switch your camera to manual mode from auto and get better at taking pictures. Or maybe it is a project that you are really passionate about and have been procrastinating on for a while. Maybe you want to write but before you start writing and sharing you want to make sure you are really good at it. You really do want to make it happen whatever that idea or thing is but you are scared of not pulling it off at all or at the level you dream about. Clearly it is really really important to you and you have a ton of expectations wrapped around it. This idea or this project almost feels precious. Before it becomes too vague to decipher let me share a personal example to put this in perspective for you.
So I have always loved painting ever since I was a child. I have talked about this in great detail in the very first episode of this podcast. I loved it so much but I never gave myself permission to pursue it wholeheartedly.
I had my reasons and I had tons of them. I wanted to be so good at it right from the beginning. I wanted to have it all figured out right from the start. My style, the artistic unique voice that whenever anyone looked at it they would know it was me. I wanted to know exactly what my style looked like before I started experimenting and figuring out what I wanted to love about painting. I wasn’t ready to put myself through that process of figuring it out. I just wanted to be really good at it. Even if I did try, I was so frustrated by what I was seeing on the canvas as it didn’t look anything like I had in my mind. I had a thing for realistic figures and portraits back then. This reminds me of another story that I had. It was about drawing realistically that realistic/photographic art is the quote-unquote real art. The Abstract didn’t make sense at all to me. This also stopped me from exploring the abstract earlier.
Anyway, if you have ever tried drawing realistic portraits and figures yourself, you’d know they are not easy to do. Nothing about them is easy. It takes a lot of hours of practice in drawing, learning about anatomy, getting the proportions right and improving your observation skills so much so that you couldn’t tell the difference between a photograph and a painting.
I hated it when it didn’t end up looking like that. My frustration in the early hours led me to believe I wasn’t good at it. I stopped trying because I didn’t want to disappoint myself. I was not ready to disappoint myself especially on something that was very dear to me. I kept it on my list of want-to-do things for someday when I will have that skill figured out almost magically in a vacuum.
There were also a lot of other reasons that I gave myself. One of the reasons at the top of my mind right now is that I didn’t want to ruin the materials in practice as they had cost me a fortune. But it all boiled down to me not being ready to give myself permission to put in the hours it needed me to put in to get the kind of good I wanted to get at it.
Starting something is usually the hardest part and giving yourself permission to become a beginner is quite hard at times. It is scary. Trying something new and especially when that something is important to you feels even more scarier because deep down you are worried about disappointing yourself – what if it would not end up looking like the standard I have in my head. And we self-sabotage there by giving up trying it in the first place and end up not being anywhere near that good.
It not only applies to creative skills but it also applies to trying on new things in our lives. Trying something new is always scary. When we become too accustomed to our ways of doing things in a certain way, we feel a little unsafe when we think about taking on a new adventure, some kind of risk even if that’s just a tiny little step forward. We learn by making mistakes and by failing. Don’t we?
When we start expecting and demanding too much of our selves right from the start and when it is time to mistakes to learn something new, it becomes really hard to give ourselves that permission to go out there, make those mistakes, and learn.
If you have not ever drawn in your life and you don’t know anything about drawing but you want to draw and it is new to you and you want to learn. You will begin at one point. some point. Your first few drawings will be bad and certainly not your masterpieces. The first draft of everything is bad. It is not about getting the first draft right from the beginning. It might sound cliché but it is the truth that it is much more about engaging yourself in that process of writing that first draft.
I get it. It is hard. You are not feeling okay with your work not coming out perfectly on the paper than it was in your head. You are feeling disheartened and at times thinking that maybe this is not for you. Maybe this gap between the vision you have and the outcome is supposed to show how bad you are at it. So why not try giving it all up altogether?
This is where I’d like to lovingly challenge you.
All creatives struggle in the beginning and there exists a gap, a gap between where you want to see yourself as a creator and where you are when you first start. That gap exists for every single artist and everyone struggles with it. That gap fills in with you trying to fill it up by not quitting on your dreams and by keeping creating, keep practicing, and making progress. It is hard and it requires your consistent practice, compassion, and commitment to cover that gap over time.
Here are three simple steps to summarize it all for you:
- Giving yourself permission to be bad and a beginner at something is the first step. Realizing that this is a process that will eventually make the future you thank you for making those choices. The more you hate being in the beginner stage the longer it takes to get out of that beginner stage. The more you try to avoid it the more it becomes bigger and bigger for you. The more you try to resist it the more it becomes harder to overcome. Becoming okay with the fact that you are going to start somewhere and allowing yourself to be bad at that thing you are so passionate about in the beginning, accepting that it is a part of the process and giving yourself permission to become a beginner is going to help you get to the next stage much faster.
- Secondly, understand and accept that it takes time and practice. To get out of that beginner stage and become better at your craft you have to give it your time including the time to making mistakes and figuring things out, not knowing all the answers and then hell a lot of practice which again demands time and commitment on your part. Also, allow yourself and your art, your creative expression to take the time it needs to come to life through you. Don’t let your expectations of how much time it should take bring you down.
- Thirdly, very cliché but here it is – let yourself fall in love with the process. Let yourself enjoy the process instead of beating yourself up with a stick for not having it perfect or for not having all the answers as the truth is, you might always be struggling with something, you might won’t always have all the answers right in front of you. Instead of obsessing over this rather try to be gentle with yourself and start showing up for yourself as much as you can today so your future self will thank you for taking these tiny steps you took today despite feeling uncertain. Embrace the trial and error. It might work and it might not and that’s okay too. You always learn something as an outcome in hindsight. Nothing is ever a waste. It might look like failure to you right now but it is not. It is all part of the process. It is not a failure as long as you are showing up and trying.
Okay. this is it for today and I want to leave you with this beautiful quote. It is probably my most favourite one ever. It is by Ira Grass.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years, you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
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