When you tackle a new challenge, you operate with the assumption that it’s likely to be, well, challenging. Very few of us try our hand at something totally foreign and expect to knock it out of the park right from the get-go.
That’s realistic and practical, right? In your moments of clarity, you get that. But, that doesn’t mean your brain is always on the same page when presented with something new and difficult. In fact, more likely than not, it goes down a completely opposite path. Instead of boosting you up to grab that new opportunity by the horns, your mind starts swimming with all sorts of negative and self-deprecating thoughts.
Me? Well, I can barely order something new at a restaurant without that pesky voice in my head instantly saying, “You’re going to hate it.” Yes, I know firsthand just how nasty your own brain can be to you and your self-confidence.
So, in the interest of boldly staring your inner critic directly in the face, here are four terrible things you tell yourself when you start something new—as well as why these thoughts simply aren’t true.
1. “I Can’t Do This”
Here it is: The thing you repeat to yourself over and over again whenever you’re struggling to make some progress. We’ve all had those moments when we beat ourselves over the head with the fact that—in our minds—we’ve already failed. No, we’ll never be able to pull off that difficult project or make that major career change. It’s just too hard, too unfamiliar, and too far out of our wheelhouse.
But, chances are good you’ve heard a sentiment that goes a little something like this: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
Mindsets can be an undeniably powerful thing—so, don’t throw up your hands and chalk it all up as a loss before you’ve really rolled up your sleeves and put your all into whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.
You’re capable of so much more than you realize, and you shouldn’t resign yourself to failure the second things get a little more arduous. That’s your moment to shine—not your moment to sink.
2. “If I Were Really That Skilled, This Wouldn’t Be So Hard”
On a similar note, it’s way too easy to instantly start doubting your own skills, smarts, and qualifications. After all, if you were really that great at what you do, wouldn’t this whole thing come easier for you?
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being good at your job doesn’t mean you’ll be good at everything—or even everything closely related to your position.
So, instead of pummeling your own confidence and convincing yourself that this must be an indicator that you’re really not that talented after all, remind yourself that this challenge is completely new to you. Not being great at something right off the bat doesn’t mean you’re an unskilled and undeserving slob—it simply means that you’re human.
3. “[Name] Is Way Better at This”
Before you know it, you’re spiraling headfirst directly into that awful comparison trap. Your mind fills with all of the people out there who do this thing perfectly—as well as all of the reasons why you’ll never be nearly as great as them.
It’s tempting to view other people as the benchmark for what your own version of success should look like. But, what if you used them to your advantage instead?
Don’t just match yourself up and then silently resent them. Figure out ways that you can use them as a resource to help you tackle your own challenge with a little more skill, ease, and know-how.
Can they offer some advice or insights? Go ahead and ask. Collaboration over comparison will make both you and your end result that much better.
4. “I Have to Get This Perfect”
You want to do your best with every new task or challenge you’re given. That’s normal—and even encouraged. But, to expect perfection on your very first go with it? That’s just irrational.
The process works the same for all of us: You won’t be flawless when you’re trying something completely new to you. In fact, you might even totally suck at it. But, if you stick with it and commit, you’re bound to improve along the way.
So, don’t tie yourself into knots thinking that whatever you’re working on needs to be faultless when you take your very first crack. Aim for progress—not perfection.
Trying something new can be scary, and it’s typically enough to inspire plenty of self-deprecating thoughts. A little bit of doubt is natural—particularly when you’re feeling intimidated by a new challenge. However, the key is to not let those seeds of negativity grow.
The next time you take on something new and feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that—no matter what that condescending voice in your head is trying to tell you—you’re capable of giving this thing the ol’ college try.
If you fail, you fail. But, at least you’ll be able to rest assured that you didn’t stop before you even managed to get started.
Photo of person stressed courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author