Trapped in a Terrible First Time

Self Help | Self Improvement

We’re in it Together

art-1478831_640 by Free Photos on Pixabay

We all know what it’s like to do something for the first time.

Even though you chose to join that art class or quit that nasty habit, the situation is new to you and that can be scary.

It’s uncharted territory. You’re used to living inside the circle of ‘what you know’. When you venture out of the circle, anything could happen.

I’m in the middle of a few Terrible First Times right now.

One of them is learning how to paint with acrylics.

I’ve always wanted to paint. A few years ago I started working with watercolour, but realized I needed to learn how to draw first. So I started sketching. I took courses, practised every day and tried drawing with both pencil and ink.

At first my attempts were horrible. My drawings looked like stick figures and the proportions were out of whack. Then I took a class.

Sketching in a group was painful. They were encouraging and generous with their comments but I could see they were so much better than I was.

Someone reminded me that everyone starts out as a beginner and that helped me continue trying.

I persevered and eventually got better.

Right now, we’re all in a Terrible First Time

We’re experiencing a collective vulnerability as we struggle through this time of changes.

The Covid pandemic is unprecedented in its scope and scale. Everyone on the planet is affected. It has created havoc in many lives and has resulted in changes that may be permanent.

In her podcast ‘Unlocking Us’, Brene Brown talks about how to manage during a TFT. (Terrible First Time)

The first thing to do when you find yourself in a TFT is to recognize you’re in one. Then you name it. We often don’t like to name a problem, hoping if we ignore it, it will go away. That’s not how it works.

Naming it doesn’t give it power.

Naming it gives you the power. You can’t change anything about a TFT unless you admit it’s there. Shine a light on it. Have a good look.

Our TFT is a Global Pandemic

Here are three steps to make it through:

  1. Normalize your feelings.
  2. Perspective
  3. Expectations

Normalize your feelings.

How do you feel right now. Lonely? Scared? Nervous? You’re not alone.

This is a new situation. You’ve never done this before and neither have your friends. You’ve never lived in a pandemic. You’ve never been locked down in your home, unable to go out and visit people when you want to. You’ve never had to wear a mask, worry about sanitizing groceries or even how to avoid shaking hands with that person who just doesn’t seem to get it.

There is no rulebook to follow.
We’re writing the rules as we go and we might make mistakes. We might have to shift tactics midstream but that’s part of the TFT.

It feels uncomfortable because it’s new. Some of us are scared. And that’s ok.

Name your feelings. If you ignore them they will eat you from the inside out. Try describing what you feel with a single word.
Describe what you’re grateful for with another word.
Feel what comes up for you. Cry, write, dance, shout it out. Reach out to friends. Do whatever inspires you. That’s how you release the emotion.


This is not going to last forever. Nothing lasts forever. Things might be this way for a long time, but realize this isn’t forever. Its going to be hard, but it won’t always be hard.

You will adapt, things will change. New things will result. Maybe they will be better things.


Examine your expectations and give yourself a reality check.

Things aren’t the same as they were so don’t expect the same results.

Don’t expect to come out of the lock down having learned to play a musical instrument or a new language or having written a book. Give yourself a break.

Don’t expect to start flying internationally again right away. Your favourite local business might not be the same. Your friends and family may have a new perspective.

Don’t expect things to go back to normal right away. Some things may never go back the way they were and that could be good.

Reality check the expectations of your family and people around you as well. Talk to them about the TFT situation we’re all in and help them acknowledge their feelings.

Living in a pandemic is harder than you thought. That’s ok. Its going to be around for longer than you expected. That is also ok.

This is a time of collective vulnerability and we are all uncertain.
No one really knows how things will turn out.

We have a tendency to struggle through, to tough it out, to armour up and protect ourselves. That might work in the short term, but isn’t a great strategy for the long run.

Control what you can control and let the rest go.

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This post was inspired by “Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us. She’s one of my favorite authors.

If you are a writer and want to join Medium, use this link to join me there.

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