Recently I treated myself to an advanced lace knitting class. I have lots of knitting experience, or so I thought. The instructor was presenting in an over-caffeinated way, and I was struggling to understand the techniques and jargon she was flinging at the audience. There was very little time to digest one concept before we were off onto the next. “Jabber, jabber, jabber. Everyone got that? Good!” The women sitting around me were all nodding their understanding, flying fingers creating the most perfect stitches. (Unprintable comment goes here.)
Two brave souls spoke up, forming another group: those who had no clue how to do the advanced pattern we were given. Bravo, a courageous act! They were there to learn and they were not leaving without having mastered the necessary skills.
And then there was me.
I understood conceptually what we were supposed to be doing but the brain-to-fingers connection was operating slowly. (I knew I should have stuck it out in the gi-normous pre-class Starbucks’ line.) And I began to notice that I was trying to compete with the knitting dervishes surrounding me.
Without going into detail, and much to the teacher’s credit, everyone learned what needed to be learned by the end of the session. And the bonus? The additional lessons in this class that had nothing to do with mastering a knitting technique.
First, if someone catches on quickly to a new concept, it only becomes a problem for me if a judgment is made. “I must not be as bright.” Or, “I never should have signed up for this. It’s way over my head.”
Second, understanding is not only the responsibility of the teacher. The learner needs to stand up and say, “Help me! I don’t get it.” Silently stewing or wallowing in frustration does not lead to enlightenment.
And, third, learning only becomes a competition if you make it so.
Bottom line? If I’m learning something new, I may or may not get it right away. My pace is my pace, no value statement attached. I need to give myself permission to be where I am. Sometimes that means I pick up a new concept quickly—hooray for me. Sometimes that means I’m completely lost, and I need to ask for what I need—bravo for me. And sometimes, I just need to be me, moving ever closer to understanding, without a comparative yardstick—woohoo for me.
In the end, it’s all about accepting yourself, speaking up for what you need, and honoring the process.
Your call to action:
What might you say to yourself when that inner voice begins to compare you to others? What assumptions are you making when you choose to silently stew and remain frustrated? What one thing can you begin to accept about yourself?