Can I borrow your talent?

I am terrible at golf. It takes me multiple swings to hit a golf ball off the tee, never mind trying to get the ball to land in any specific place. I am equally horrible at baseball or any other sport that requires hand-eye coordination and a stick. Here’s the thing though: I don’t care. I have plenty of talent in other areas and my hobbies reflect those talents. So beyond forcing my husband’s family to endure my exceedingly long games, being lousy at golf doesn’t much matter. I know some skills come easily to me while others require lots of practice to achieve mediocrity, and that’s just fine.

The thing is we often expect ourselves to be skilled at something just because everyone else appears to be. And when we are not, we feel like the only person on the planet born without the necessary skills to succeed. We feel defective and alone.

The first time I can remember feeling like this was in the seventh grade. I had always gone to school with the same group of kids. But after sixth grade the city’s schools were combined and I was bused across town to join some 500 other children. On that first day of seventh grade I walked into a room of strangers and discovered it was anything but easy. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I went the entire day without talking to a single classmate because I didn’t know how.

Over the years I’ve learned how to talk to strangers, but I can tell you inside it hasn’t gotten much easier.  For my husband (whose career is in PR) meeting people is not only easy, it’s often fun. He’s given me lots of advice on how to approach people and how to feel more comfortable. It is really good advice. But when I’m in the moment, when I’m staring at a stranger, his advice feels like it applies to someone else. Someone who isn’t a fumbling idiot when they meet a new person. Basically everyone but me.

What I’ve noticed is that a lot of people struggle to do something they think should be inherently easy, and they beat themselves up because it’s not. Improvement is a constant fight with missteps along the way. If only we could feel comfortable sharing not just our triumphs but our failures too. We might realize that we are not defective and we are not alone. We are fighting to be better and that is always extraordinary.

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