If I had a dime for every project I’ve abandoned, I would be able to retire at the ripe ol’ age of 29. I’m not proud of it by any means, but it’s the truth.
There are a couple of reasons for it. First, I hate being bad at something, even if I’ve never done it. Second, I was never taught how to be resilient or to not give up when I couldn’t get something right.
The Phases of Giving Up
I go through phases when it comes to trying new things, and they usually work out like this:
- Think of something I want to learn/be better at/do;
- Become very passionate about whatever it is;
- Spend a lot of time and/or money on it for a couple of weeks or months;
- Completely lose interest and/or drive and abandon it.
I hate it so much. It’s even happened with this blog and other projects related to this blog, but it’s not just this. I have a real problem with giving up the minute I’m not good at something. If I’m not a prodigy who can just do it without practicing, I don’t want anything to do with it.
I enjoy singing, and I’m not half bad, but because I refuse to practice I’ll never get better. Recently, my husband (who is a musician) was teaching me something on the piano. The part he was teaching me was pretty simple, so I got it right away. He exclaimed, “Awesome! You got it the first time so maybe now you won’t give up!” He was wrong; I haven’t played since. The reason being that the next thing I tried I couldn’t get right away. So, although he was joking, there was truth to his statement.
How My Childhood Affects It
Growing up, I didn’t get much encouragement to not give up. My dad was never home because he worked out of town. My mom had health problems that unfortunately made it almost impossible for her to be the parent she desperately wanted to be, so she wasn’t there to push me along. And my older siblings had their own lives to live.
When I tried something and failed, there was no one there to tell me that was okay and that I should try again. Therefore, from a young age I learned to just give up when the going got tough or I couldn’t figure something out.
How Self-Esteem Affects It
I have always suffered from low self-esteem. Even as a child, I hated myself. I saw myself as a fat, annoying, stupid kid who would never amount to anything, and those opinions didn’t change much as I grew older. I have better self-esteem today than I did even six years ago, but I still hate myself more often than not.
I am my own worst critic and enemy. I say things to myself that I would never say to another human being. And when I can’t get something right away, I berate and belittle myself over it.
Because I go into every new hobby knowing that I will fail, I fail. In my mind there is no way that any amount of practice will make me better because I’m useless. I don’t say this for attention or compliments, that’s not what I want. I say it so that maybe others who deal with the same thing can see that they aren’t alone.
Logically I know that I’m not bad, stupid or useless. Logically I know that if I really put my mind to something I could figure it out. But none of that matters in the moment.
When I record myself singing, for instance, I just tear myself apart after listening to it. “You’re flat there.” “You sound like a dying horse here.”, etc. It’s awful. And instead of saying, “Okay, so it’s not great but with practice it could be better.” I just give up entirely because I’ve convinced myself that I’ll never be good.
Although somewhat hypocritical, I do have advice for those who suffer from the same thing as me: Think about when you were a toddler. When you started to walk you fell down over and over again, but that didn’t stop you, did it? You saw other people walking and you kept trying and eventually you got the hang of it. That’s because there was no self-doubt or negative connotation with continuing to try. The same thing happened with learning how to talk and read and write. You didn’t just give up when you couldn’t figure it out, because not only had you not yet been taught to doubt yourself, but you also had people encouraging you. Whether it was family or in school, someone was encouraging you to learn.
Similar to reading, writing and talking, resilience is something you learn, not something you’re born with.
So, go back to that mindset. Try to forget your upbringing or whatever it is that has made it to where you give up when you can’t figure it out the first time. Try to retrain yourself to keep at it. Even if you fail or falter, don’t give up. It’s hard, I know from experience, but it is possible.
Take this blog for example. I started this blog at the end of last year. At first I was great about posting daily or weekly. Then, my mental block kicked in and I stopped posting because I lost interest, to be honest. When I lost interest, I got writers block and couldn’t come up with any good ideas to write about. So I just stopped writing.
I have twenty drafts in my account. Twenty! That’s twenty ideas that I’ve abandoned because I couldn’t figure out how to finish them. This post was one of those twenty, so now I’ll have nineteen.
My point is that although I have slowed down, I haven’t given up on it. I may not post like I want and I may not have any great ideas, but I do enjoy writing and trying to help others, so I’m proud that I haven’t just given up entirely. A small step is still a step and should be encouraging.
So, the next time you start something, whether it is picking up an instrument or writing a book, don’t give up. You’ll have times when you don’t practice or ignore it, but don’t let that discourage you. Although you may run into writer’s block or other mental blocks, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up entirely. Cut yourself some slack and pick up where you left off.