Learning Through Awkwardness

Anytime we learn something new there is a predictable cycle we will go through. This cycle starts with awkwardness which can immediately awaken feelings like self-doubt, fear, guilt or even our inner critic. When we are aware of how this cycle works we can move through it quite easily…when we are not aware, the extra pressures it puts on us can feel like quite a burden. Watch this brief video from the Bringing Out The Best in Yourself & Others series and see what a difference it can make in your life. Feel free to leave comments here on on Youbube.

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Learning to Get Past Awkwardness

Any time we try learning something new we are faced with a sense of awkwardness.  This in itself is not a problem as there is a natural cycle involved in learning new things and awkwardness is step one of that cycle.  What is a problem however is the fact that this awkwardness often opens the door for what I call the Big 5, which makes learning harder and increases our chance of quitting before moving out of the awkward stage.

The Big 5 refer to the following:

  1. Self-doubt – wondering if we are doing it right, feeling like we are the only one who doesn’t get it, sure people will ridicule us for not knowing something “obvious”.
  2. Uncertainty – this type of uncertainty is when we are not sure if we are good enough, questioning if we have what it takes to really succeed or if maybe we are just fooling ourselves by trying.
  3. Worry – wondering if our behaviour and inability to do things well might hurt other people, like our kids, our spouses, our clients…as well as worry that we might never get it, that we are one of the few who are destined to fail.
  4. Fear – this is really the underlying factor for all of the above; fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of ridicule. A main problem with fear is it resides in the very same place as trust so the two cannot comfortably co-exist.  Trust is exactly what you need to get past fear, but fear is pretty pushy.
  5.  Guilt – this feeling arises as a result of all the others; if only I was better, smarter, quicker…if only I had tried harder…if only I had more patience…

The problem with the Big 5 is that they are drainers.  They are often an “all or nothing deal” that strive to take our full attention when they are around.  They rob energy from us and make it impossible for us to do our best work.  This means that right when we are trying to learn something new and should be cutting ourselves some extra slack, these things interfere and make us less capable and less understanding.

They also like to awaken their friends—inner critic and limiting beliefs. The inner critic is the voice that plays in your head and reminds you of all your “apparent” shortcomings, while your limiting beliefs are ideas you have inherited and think you must follow to be safe. Both of these things get in the way, protecting you from really growing and reaching your potential.

An interesting thing about the Big 5 is that unlike the natural cycle of learning, they are a human-made product.  They are not a natural part of learning, but a by-product of a society that judges people on what they do or don’t do well.  This type of society points fingers of blame when things go wrong causing people to shirk responsibility for their actions and minimize or justify their mistakes.  It is one where criticism and comparison are the norm causing people to feel that if they don’t measure up to society standards they are failures.

I bring this up because it’s important for all of us to recognize that the Big 5 are not a natural part of our world, but one we have created.  Blaming society will not do anything except increase the problem we already have.  Awareness is the key.  If people are aware of the Big 5 they can begin to take steps to rid themselves of these draining energies – or at the very least know these feelings come in through a doorway only they can close.

When we refuse to allow these feelings to determine our actions and learn ways to stop them in their tracks, we are putting ourselves in the driver’s seat of our lives and are ready to really benefit from all that we learn. 

Learning something will always be awkward, but with practice and determination will eventually lead to authentic and even automatic behaviour.  With the Big 5 getting in our way, our learning struggles to even get off the ground.  

Which one do you think offers a better journey?