Updated: Oct 13, 2020
If you've never heard of Brené Brown before or better yet an FFT (effing first time) let's start there. Brené Brown is a professor, researcher, and storyteller sharing about vulnerability, courage, and how to live life wholeheartedly. You can listen to her speak more about how to love wholeheartedly and feel what it means to be alive in her viral TED Talk.
FFTs, are our fucking first times. They are experiences we've never had before like starting up yoga, working a new job, going through our first breakup, and even navigating life during a pandemic. These are the times where we find ourselves saying, "I have no idea what I am doing." You might feel embarrassed, anxious, frustrated, or scared during these moments. Whatever your personal FFT is, Brown has a 3-step process to helping us navigate these uncharted waters.
Step 1: Normalize
Name it so we can normalize it! Call out the experience for what it is, an FFT, a new experience. By putting a name to the experience you are giving yourself a permission slip that says you are doing something new and trying the best you can. This can look like saying, "I am having an FFT right now. This is my first pandemic." "This is my first time starting my own business." "This is my first time experiencing heartbreak." "This is my first time in this job position." "This is my first time holding a meeting over Zoom." "This is my first time working from home." "This is my first time experiencing a family member being sick." Putting a name to our new experiences won't make the unpleasant feelings from our FFTs go away, but it will normalize our feelings and help us to put the experience into perspective. Yes this first time feels difficult and scary, and you're allowed to feel disappointed, sad, or anxious, but just remember our first times don't stay firsts forever.
Step 2: Put It Into Perspective
Let's gain some perspective around our FFT. We can get really stuck in the unknown and anxiety loves to have us thinking about all the worst case scenarios that can happen in the future. Anxiety also can trick us into thinking that we can't adapt and get comfortable in a new experience. Putting things into perspective around our FFT looks like reminding ourselves that things will not be this way forever. Although you might not have been in the situation you're currently experiencing before, this step is about noticing how you have experienced these feelings of struggle, anxiety, frustration, and uncertainty. You survived the moments when those feelings showed up for you and they too, eventually passed. Put your FFT into perspective by noticing how you have been living despite the discomfort from your FFT. Ask yourself, how was I able to show up for that yoga class, that Zoom presentation, or that job interview whereas the day before I might not have?
Step 3: Reality Check
When we feel stuck, sometimes the story we tell ourselves is that we will never see the light at the end of the tunnel or we aren't good enough. When these narratives are playing, we must ask ourselves, "Where is the evidence to support this story?" If you're narrative spotlights the belief that you'll never be able to get back up on your feet again, where is the evidence to support that? Reality check this narrative by reflecting on the times that you have overcome struggles in your past. If you're reading this right now, I'm guessing you've known struggle in your past. Reflect on how you overcame those struggles. Reality checking also allows us to get curious about our expectations and alter our standards. If you're struggling to reality check your narratives on your own, reality check the narratives that tell you you can't overcome struggles with those who support you and reflect your strengths back to you.
Use these steps as you navigate uncharted waters. Use these steps to be a little more compassionate to yourself and others navigating something new. You've overcome new experiences before and I hope you use this tool to help you navigate uncharted waters again in the future.