We grow up surrounded (sometimes suffocated) by others' opinions, pronouncements, and ideas of who WE are. Like an invisible scaffold that shapes our facades, we evolve unaware of the frontiers and contours of our own domains - busy as we are trying to read other people's maps.
Awareness can be a lot of fun. Trust me. I used to be one of the most serious Beings on this planet, but now I know I can be goofy too (see silly photo for concrete evidence of this). Of course, one cannot be quirky if one cannot honour the fun we ALL have as part of our human nature. This is why a little introspection can go a long (and fun!) way. So in that spirit, here are my top 5 things I always thought I sucked at... but then discovered otherwise!
1. Dancing. We just don't give ourselves permission to truly inhabit our bodies and give them a good shake every once in a while. Who cares if you've got any trendy moves or if you can cha-cha-cha? I owned up to the fact that I love dancing and moving about to music and, to my surprise, it freed me up to actually do it (in a group) as part of my weekly routine. What had held me back since childhood was a fear of ridicule (a particular theme of mine). Once I started dancing because it felt good to me, and it was a joyous activity for my body, I never cared again about anybody else's opinions on the matter.
2. Remembering names. Yes, I'm awful at this and I suspect it will only get worse with age. However, I'm now proud of being able to mix up all kinds of names into often silly combinations. Like Justin Timberland (better put on your Timberlakes if we're going hiking). This was a sad story with a happy ending: I have embarrassed myself at work meetings in the past, but now I love the laugh-out-loud moments I create by being a bit loose with people's names. It's become a "thing" my friends and family are aware of, and I've a reputation to maintain! ;-)
3. Poor hand eye coordination. When I was four, my dearest and nearest declared me a "queasy duck" (literal translation from Spanish). I was deemed not so great at most sports, especially those requiring hitting anything with anything. And I duly obliged. I've never been one for sports generally, or any team sports in particular (or any sports requiring running after anything or in any way exerting myself - you get the drift). But then a few years ago I dropped expectations and I started enjoying the kinaesthetic side of it all. In other words, I got my mind out of the equation (as much as possible) and started doing a bit of sport.... wait for it.... for the simple heck of it! Groundbreaking.
4. Sense of humour. Well, this is very relative right? Someone's joke is someone else's insult. As I said before, I used to take myself (and the world) very, very seriously. No fun for the hard-working. Luckily I've always had a penchant for the Brits and have now lived amongst them long enough that some of their humour has permeated through my avoid-ridicule-at-all-cost Spanish mentality. It's like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. If I'm struggling, I can always turn on the TV and catch someone making fun of themselves in a witty way and it just brightens up my day! Who knew taking the piss was so enlightened, right?
5. DIY (or any fixing of things you really, really need). It was basically a question of trying and, more importantly, of being kind to myself. I allowed myself to make mistakes and learn from them (and there's always a funny story in there). Being patient and actually taking it as an opportunity to be mindful helped too. Sometimes it's in the humblest tasks, such as painting a wall, or adjusting a tap, where I find the simple joy of being and doing in the present moment. It helps me to keep the mind busy and therefore "quiet"!
Many of our inherited notions about what we can/can't do come from our parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. In most cases, the censure we encounter in our young years is intended to protect, prevent or serve us in some way or another. The real balancing and rediscovery work comes years later when we give ourselves permission to try. Not to prove anything but because there's an inner yearning, or a calling, or a curiosity to be satisfied.
It's taken me years to move from "I can't do that" to "Let me try". In the process, I had to shed an overactive sense of shame at failing, tone down my rampant perfectionism, stop seeing myself through projections of what I thought others saw, and, most importantly, quit taking it all so seriously. It also required me to do things differently: practice "beginner's mind" (see the potential novelty in everything, even in things I'd done millions of times before), be curious in a playful way to appreciate the simple pleasure in so many of the activities we carry out, let go of my and others' expectations, and truly practice self-compassion (we have all started at zero in absolutely everything in life!).
Have you ever paused and thought about the things you suck at but wished you didn't? Would you have another go at them? Do you give yourself permission to try something new that has piqued your interest? Do you dread being "new" at something? Or do you see it as a good excuse to give it a go and enjoy the learning process? Do you see and value the resourcefulness in you?
If you are up for it (go on!) let me know in the comments below. This is not about sharing embarrassing stories but an exercise in reclaiming your innate curiosity, your openness, your imperfections and... ultimately, your true strengths.