I love a good podcast and I love anything Brené Brown, so I was more than thrilled yesterday when my worlds collided and Brené Brown released her first episode on her new podcast, Unlocking Us. If Brené Brown is new to you, you should know she is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Essentially, she is incredible and, I believe, instrumental in leading our society to a better, more vulnerable place.
In her podcast episode, she talks about how uncomfortable we feel when we are new to something, whether living in a new city or working at a new job, or even something like trying a new type of exercise. She also mentioned that in her past 20 years of research, she found so many of us will not even try to be vulnerable at a new activity if we do not have some expertise or are not feeling comfortable. According to Brené, the reason that is a problem is when we give up being new and awkward, we stop growing, and when we stop growing, we stop living.
Brené, in her infinite wisdom, has coined a strategy for times when we have to embrace the suck with a new experience, which she calls F#&@ing First Time, or FFT. The steps for the strategy are as follows:
Step 1: Name the FFT, which is key to understanding it. When you start to feel stressed, upset, anxious, ask yourself, “Why am I in a shame spiral? Why do I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing right now?” Then, once you have your a-ha moment of, “I’m in an FFT!” you can normalize it.
Step 2: Put it in perspective and tell yourself, “This feeling is not permanent and it doesn’t mean I suck at everything, it means I’m in the middle of an FFT around this one thing.”
Step 3: Reality check your expectations and tell yourself, “This is going to suck for a while. I’m not going to crush this right away.”
Brené also mentions that you can teach kids this strategy as well, but you can refer to it as Terrible First Time. The process is essentially the same: normalize your feeling of discomfort, put it in perspective, and reality check your expectations.
After reading Read and Write with Sally’s slice today, I realized how nicely this podcast episode paired with her post. I also laughed, realizing I had gone through my “first time” shame spiral when I commenced my first-ever slicing experience earlier this month. I wish I had known to go through the FFT process on March 1. If I could go back in time, I would have taken these steps:
Step 1: My shame spiral was, “You can’t write. Other teachers won’t want to read your writing. If you do write, your writing will never be as powerful as your colleagues’ writing. You have nothing to write about. You can just leave the SoL challenge and no one will notice.” I wish instead I just told myself, “Publishing my writing is new and uncomfortable and I’m in an FFT!” Simple, concrete, and easy to swallow!
Step 2: Enlightened me would have then put the situation in perspective, “This feeling of discomfort is not permanent and does not mean I suck at writing.”
Step 3: Enlightened me also would have reality-checked my expectations, “This month of writing may not be the easiest experience but it will get better and I will grow from it.”
I write about this today because we all owe ourselves and those around us, a ton of grace and might even benefit from FFT-ing the uncomfortable parts of life that are upon us. Maybe FFT-ing will bring some clarity, hopefully some reassurance, maybe something else unexpected. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a first-time slicer.