Being a beginner
There have been a few times recently when I’ve ended up feeling very frustrated whilst attempting to learn something new. Especially when whatever I’m learning isn’t immediately obvious. In the past, I’ve felt proud of myself for being able to figure things out, without too much input from other people. But these last couple of weeks have found me in the position of being a beginner and a struggling beginner at that.
I guess that I felt frustrated because I felt I should know how to do whatever I was learning to do. That I was supposed to simply pick it up like I have other things I’d learned in the past. Intellectually, I love the challenge of figuring things out for myself. Whilst I appreciate that there are plenty of online video tutorials on absolutely anything and everything these days, I love it when I can intuitively figure things out, without having to sit through hours and hours of online tutorials.
A natural..or not?
Growing up, my dad used to tell me that so and so was a ‘natural’ at *whatever* making it seem like you either naturally had this ability pre-installed within you. Or you didn’t. He never really ruled out the idea of working hard to get where you wanted to be, but a lot of his thinking was based around people having a natural propensity for doing x,y and z (or not as the case may be!) I used to love it when he told me I was a natural at *whatever*
As an adult this has got me thinking. There have been times in my life when I’ve not wanted to learn something new, especially if it’s a bit hard (and if I don’t appear to have that innate natural talent my dad was so fond of!) I find it hard being a beginner. There I’ve said it. I don’t like it. It makes me feel uncomfortable and cross and brings out my inner petulant toddler. I want to be good at everything immediately and dislike the process of going from a unskilled beginner to a fairly competent person.
I’ve been afraid of the discomfort of not knowing exactly which button to press to get it to do what I want it to do. The frustration of knowing how I wanted something to look but the inability to make it happen. And that’s ok, it’s only part of the process we go through from beginner to competent.
How do you cope with the frustrations of being a beginner?
Firstly, be kind to yourself. No one figures everything out immediately. It’s ok to not understand how to use the equipment or the software at first. Especially if the company providing the software or instructions haven’t made it very intuitive to use.
Secondly it’s ok to play. Often what we need to do to figure out how to move from being a beginner to being a competent person is to play. To see what the software can do. To see what notes we can make out of our musical instruments, or to experiment with ingredients in a recipe. It’s ok to look up tutorials (if only to keep blood pressure levels down and to prevent incidents of low flying laptops and smashed windows!)
It’s also ok to make a few mistakes, to reassess and try again. Apparently it took 10,000 attempts to get a light bulb to work in the way we experience it today. No one has invented anything big during the first few minutes of trying. So you don’t have to either. It’s also ok to walk away for a while and to come back to it. When we get anxious or frustrated or close to having a tantrum, it can be hard to think in a logical way. So taking a break, moving around the room, getting some fresh air and coming back to it later are all great ways to help break the frustration cycle.
It will get easier
As I found when trying to recreate a latte during lockdown, it does get easier. The first day I tried creating a latte I got the milk/coffee ratio all out of proportion and ended up with a very weak, milky mess. The second time I tried it I used a larger coffee to milk ratio and whilst it wasn’t perfect it was better. By the third day I’d figured out I needed x amount of milk and y amount of coffee and whilst I was no where near winning barista of the year award, it was pretty drinkable. It still didn’t quite beat the hiss of the proper coffee machine but it was fine. It made me realise that actually practice and being kind to myself were what made all the difference to the whole process. So I would say be patient and kind and you will get there in the end.
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Over to you!
What’s your experience of being a beginner been like? Please leave me a comment and any tips you might have for making the process of being a beginner easier
Sarah Cooper is a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner, Aromatherapist and Writer based in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, England.
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