Well, that's perhaps putting it too strongly. Often we have lots of clues, but we don't put the clues together properly and we walk around with the same tired stories in our heads about what we're "good at" and "not good at."
"Oh, I'm terrible at athletics," say many folks who endured the horrors of high school gym classes--never realizing that they might actually have been perfectly competent at golf or archery or dancing or swimming, had the right supportive conditions been present. "I can't cook," "I suck at public speaking" "I'd make a terrible mother..." Any of these could be true, but there's also a good chance that these declarations are way more about attitude then aptitude.
Now, in my mind, this is not necessarily a problem. There is absolutely no reason to change an "I suck at..." story if it's about something you have no interest in doing. The story makes a nice handy excuse not to do that unappealing thing, right? "Gosh, I'm sorry I can't help your daughter sell 348 boxes of Girl Scout cookies by hawking some at work, I'm really bad at sales!" The hell with "well-rounded." I say embrace your suckage and spend energy on things you actually care about.
On the other hand, what about stuff you think you're bad at that you'd really like to be able to do better? Sometimes it might be helpful to try to teach yourself a new story.
|image: natalie dee|
So here's one idea: Try putting the blame for your previous failures on bad luck, a lousy learning environment, your youth, limited time to practice, a lack of confidence, all those drugs you did back in the 70's... whatever it takes to stop thinking of your lack of skill as an identity, and more as a product of outside factors. Congenital optimists are really good at this! Some of the rest of us may have to work harder at it, but trust me, blaming others for your failures is a really handy skill to have in life.
Then, when you're ready to try again, write a new story! Don't forget that struggling at the beginning is part of any good narrative. Would "Rocky" have been so popular if Sylvester Stallone started off a heavyweight champion from the very first frame instead of a deadbeat loser who needed to gulp down raw eggs and run up flights of stairs accompanied by blaring trumpet music? The fact that something doesn't come easily at first makes it an even better story when you get good at it.
And finally, try to rediscover all the things that you're already good at. It's amazing how easy it is to take your talents for granted or let them languish. Were you the school spelling bee champ in 5th grade? Did you run a 10K race and beat your personal best time? Can you plan and execute a birthday party with a guest list of 37 screaming 6-year-olds? Did you recently survive a morning at the department of motor vehicles without physically assaulting anyone? Chances are you have many accomplishments that point to qualities like perseverance, creativity, empathy, etc. Remember you have these qualities, and figure out how you're going to use them in new endeavors.
Anyone have a awesome or weird talent you forgot to give yourself credit for? Anything you think you stink at that you're tempted to try again?