New is Hard

(Estimated reading time 2 minutes)

One of the most helpful things I’ve heard in the past couple of weeks is the first episode of Brene Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us. It was useful because I have been navigating a few personal challenging first times, and the podcast gave me some tools to help manage them.

In this episode, she talks about the difficulty of being new at something. We can be excited and committed to this new thing and also feel incredibly vulnerable and awkward.  Brown says, if the definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, then being new at something is the epitome of vulnerability. New is hard, and we don’t like discomfort. Unfortunately, the only way to get to the other side of discomfort is right through the middle of it. It’s the newness that causes discomfort despite the size of the event. We can feel vulnerable about small things like learning to video chat someone for the first time, just as we can about the big ones like navigating our first worldwide pandemic. (By the way, she talks quite a bit about COVID-19 being a collective first time and what that’s like). Sometimes we dislike discomfort so much that we try to avoid it altogether. When we do this, we stop learning. We stop growing. When we stop growing, we stop living.

The more we are willing to embrace the discomfort of new stuff, the more prepared we become to try new things. It’s not because the first times become easier but instead because we start to get used to the feelings first times evoke. According to Brown, learning how to normalize discomfort, learning how to stay and stand amid uncertainty and discomfort is the foundation of courage.

In the podcast, she gives some tips for navigating first times.

  • Name it – Sometimes, we are afraid to name something because we think it gives the thing power. When we name and own hard things, it does not give them power; it gives us power.
  • Normalize it – if it’s your first time doing anything, whatever you are currently feeling is normal. It’s your first time. It’s supposed to feel uncomfortable.
  • Put it in perspective – it will pass. It won’t be new forever. Just because you are not good at navigating this new thing doesn’t mean you’re not good at everything. 6 months from now things will look a lot different than they do today.
  • Reality check your expectations – this new thing is probably going to be harder than you imagine and take longer than you think. You’re going to mess some things up, and that’s okay. It’s your first time.

This episode of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us contains some colourful language, but it is well worth the listen. You’ll hear lots of great personal examples of how she’s used these steps to navigate her own first times.

I know that this uncomfortable feeling I have is normal for a first time and it’s not going to last forever. In the interim, I’m going check and adjust my expectations.

Sue Das, Courage Coach, CPCC, ACC, B Soc Sc (SW)

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