I want to encourage you to do something you are bad at. We all include the full range of wonderful qualities and attributes, but we rarely identify with them all. I might see myself as creative, but not patient for example. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t exercise my patience, however. One wonders what happened early on to make me stop identifying myself as patient, but something did, leaving me apologetic or frustrated. But I can become more patient by doing it more, and it behooves me to do so.
I have never seen myself as athletic. Growing up, sports were only valued as played by professionals in a big stadium, and I was not always much interested in that, and certainly never did it myself. There were some disparaging comments about dumb jocks too, and being dumb was not a good thing.
So in elementary gym class, as a tall kid twice the height of my peers, when I couldn’t climb the rope to the rafters of the gym like those that were lauded as the (tiny, lithe and fast) favorites in the class, I was humiliated. Add to that the fact that I could not do the “bent arm hang.” When despairing about it at home over dinner, I was reinforced by what I was good at; yay, I was smart and creative, and reassured that sports wouldn’t matter compared to those things in the future.
How different my life would have been if instead someone had encouraged me to do more of what I was bad at, and taught me the power of effort, and the benefits of discipline applied to achieve improvement. Who told me I had it in me and brought it out? No one. I was told I had my other places to shine, and that it didn’t matter if I was always the last one picked for any team game that required physical fitness.
This unenlightened approach handicapped me until recently, when I’ve joined a gym, and am showing up for what I do badly. The more I go, the better I do, and I wish I had done this sooner, like from high school on. And I’m seeing just how temporal and flimsy are the ways we negatively identify ourselves, and just how pervasively limiting they are.
When you face head on what you are not good at, it is a wonderful boost to one’s character, and should not only be seen as a “dignity chaser” (ie potentially threatening to one’s sense of dignity). People worry about being inept, and embarrassing themselves, but honestly folks, perfectionism is over rated, while courage and frankness are not.
So what that I’m the oldest, fattest, clumsiest person in my gym class. So what that in my cardio class I couldn’t get a heel move that they finally had to describe to me as either Igor or Frankenstein, because that’s what it looked like if you weren’t up to doing it bouncingly! So I laugh and do my best Igor impersonation until someday when I can be as jaunty as them.
I’m not dragging down the class; they are buoying me up. I’m giving them an opportunity to be kind, just as someone paralyzed by a paintbrush gives me a chance to be endlessly encouraging of them. Thank God we are not in elementary school anymore.
We all know we all have vulnerabilities and deficiencies. What is inspiring is to be around someone that is facing their inadequacies instead of putting up with them, or worse, continually being beleaguered by them. Similarly, we all also know each of us has amazing qualities too. So when you work on what you’re bad at, certainly no one assumes you are bad at everything, and it can help to remember that.
When pursuing what does not come easily to you, it also gives others more permission to face their own ineptitudes, freeing up the whole world by incremental ripples echoing outward. Someone has to stick their neck out first to be thought the fool, before everyone can be enlightened. Who better to start this chain reaction of healing than you?
I’m not a good knitter. My mother was an amazing knitter, and I was always in such awe of her, which is why I felt like I was all thumbs when it came to knitting. She was intuitive about it and I got the basics, but never went farther, intimidated by a lack of explanation. But now, I enjoy going to a knitting club full of awesome knitters, and I bask in their kindness and tolerance of my starstruck but innocent questions.
I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a great knitter– so many rules, too much attention to detail, and not enough making it up on the fly. Innovation, and reflective listening together with responding, is more my thing. And while knitting isn’t really for mavericks, it sure is wonderfully cozy and companionable. After spending all my professional time helping others, I doubly appreciate these knitting ladies patiently teaching me things I am terribly inexperienced about.
So other than telling you to work on what you do badly in order to free yourself to overcome your limitations and to be more fully all that you are, I really want to tell you that the new skills and abilities you obtain in the process may not be as much of a boon to you as the unexpected relationships you forge with others, based on your willingness to risk being wet-behind-the ears and defenseless with them. Those refreshing relationships are so terrific, you wouldn’t want to miss them by remaining stoically closed within the confines of your former comfort zone. Those relationships are very different than when you are the expert, and can be more rejuvenating.
As they say, go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is.
Yummy delicious fruit.
Go for it.