THE Importance BEIN G RUBBISH (At Something)
New Year, new you? Screw that, says Rebecca Reid, because being awful at something is actually quite good for youé
It’s Friday night. My friends are in the pub downing Sauvignon Blanc, swapping lipsticks and planning where they’re going out. Me? I’m in basement, on a treadmill, sweating. Luckily the music is so loud no one can hear me gasping for breath. All around me are perfectly tanned, toned women in matching bralets and shorts. I, on the other hand, am lumbering along in a Hard Rock tee which has stuck to my three-year-old sports bra.
So why am I, the girl who once got a taxi to the end of her road to buy more brownie mix, spending my Friday at Barry’s Bootcamp, a high-intensity workout favoured by celebs such as Ellie Goulding, the Beckhams and Kim Kardashian? Because, despite the agony, I totally love it. And more importantly I’m really bad at it.
Doing something because you’re bad at it might sound weird, but I’ve realised that it can be very liberating. I’ve spent my whole life trying to come first – at school and then at work – and it’s a huge relief to stop competing and just focus on me.
Psychotherapist Samantha Carbon explains why it can be so powerful to do something you don’t excel at: ‘By trying new things outside of our comfort zone we’re effectively expanding that zone. Sheer grit is replaced by an acceptance of who you are. And then, as the benefits of committing to a new activity begin to unfold, you get to know parts of yourself that you may never have challenged before.’
I’m not the only one who’s discovered the power of doing something I’m not good at. Lucy, 23, from Norwich, told Look how taking a computer science degree when she’d never written a line of code changed her whole outlook: ‘It was incredibly hard to start with. People on my course had a lot more experience than
I did. Even though we were learning the basics, I felt like I was playing catch-up. But because I was behind everyone else, I couldn’t worry about being top of my class. It made me more focused on my own progress.’ Chloe, 31, a charity worker from London, shared a similar experience when she took up roller derby: ‘I was used to competing at a high level – I’d done judo for my county as a kid, and then rowed for my university. It was always about winning. Roller derby didn’t have any of that pressure. I wasn’t trying to beat my previous performance and there wasn’t this expectation of getting to a really high standard quickly – I just focused on staying upright! I wasn’t obsessing with competing so I got to socialise instead and ended up making brilliant friends.’
Striving to be the best can be counterproductive
So how do you make sure that starting something you’re not talented at is a positive experience? Samantha explains it’s about the mind-set you bring to the challenge. She says: ‘It’s important to create a more accurate perspective about your own capacity and the task ahead. Striving to be the best can be counter-productive.’ Being the best won’t ever be an option for me when it comes to bootcamp. I love wine and bacon sandwiches too much. But I’ve realised I don’t need to beat anyone to feel good about what I’m achieving. As long as I keep seeing progress within myself, that’s good enough for me.