For those of you who don’t know this about me, I am a huge fan of Brene Brown. Brene Brown is a Research Professor who specializes in writing about vulnerability, shame and empathy. She has a gift for writing and speaking about these topics in ways that enable people to transform their lives. I am a fan of her podcast “Unlocking Us.” One of the episodes talks about what she calls TFTs. These are “terrible first times.” (She also calls them FFTs but the F stands for a word that would not be appropriate for a Minister’s Message!)
TFT describes the particular flavor of stress and overwhelm that comes along with doing something for the first time. Starting a new job, a new school, a new exercise class, parenting for the first time, all of these can be reason to experience an TFT. Starting something new can be fun and exciting, and it can also be really hard. This is because when we are new at something, it is vulnerable and awkward. And the only way to get through the discomfort of the new thing is to push through to the other side.
As Unitarian Universalists we engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and encourage one another in our spiritual growth. Doing these things means we are willing to be new at things and to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. We support one another in the process. Brene Brown’s approach offers one strategy for supporting one another as we deal with the discomfort that comes along with spiritual growth.
Brene offers three steps for dealing with TFTs. First, normalize it. If you feel overwhelmed and unsure of yourself, ask yourself if it is because you are in a TFT. Remind yourself that it is normal to feel uncomfortable when you are doing something new for the first time. Second, Put it in perspective. Remember that things will not always feel like this, you will learn and over time feel more confident with the new activity. The yucky feeling is not permanent. Three, reality check expectations. Remember you won’t be a rock star at the new activity for a while. Practice having compassion for yourself while you are still struggling with being new.
As I am starting a new half-time ministry during a pandemic for the first time, I am definitely using all of these strategies! Beginning this new ministry is fun and exciting, and it is also uncomfortable at times. These strategies are reminding me to have patience with myself and practice compassion towards myself in the process. If there are areas in your life where you are doing something new for the first time, remember that it is normal to feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. I invite you to practice acceptance and compassion with yourself. You might see if these strategies are helpful to you as you try new things. And, as a community, we will be trying new things together. We can support one another as we experience feeling vulnerable during changes. We can help each other put things in perspective and remember that our feelings of discomfort are not permanent. I look forward to being on the journey with you.