Permission to Be a Beginner

Perhaps, like me, you’re someone who has long struggled with feeling like you should already know how to do this—whatever “this" may be.

I've had this misguided perspective for as long as I can remember. As a preschooler, I went through an “I know" phase. No matter what someone said to me, my answer was “I know.” My four-year-old brain understood it was a ridiculous thing to say in nearly every situation, but my compulsive response persisted.

As I got older, I realized with ever-increasing conviction how much I had to learn. Yet I couldn’t shake the sense that I should already know these things that I didn’t. I thought perhaps I could learn in secret, not let anyone in on the fact that I didn’t know the thing, and then work hard to learn before anyone discovered me.

Does that sound like the best way to learn? Nope, it’s sure not.

Then, a few years ago, I read about imposter syndrome for the first time.

I could barely believe it: you mean OTHER people feel like this too?? I really thought it was just me—or at most, a few other people here and there. Instead, I learned that SO many other people go through life feeling like they barely know what they’re doing, fearing being exposed as the amateurs—the imposters—that they surely are.

Whoa.

As my dear Paul Simon sings, “It’s not just you and it’s not just me; this is all around the world.

And here’s the really wild thing: the people I know who struggle the most with imposter syndrome are incredibly capable people. Three friends immediately spring to mind when the topic of imposter syndrome comes up. I was completely shocked to learn that they felt this way because each of them is SO smart and SO capable. I know this not because I’ve simply heard them talk about what they can do, but because I’ve seen them in action with my own eyes.

It’s so bizarre! And it gives me a strange sense of hope.

If they feel like imposters, but so clearly aren’t, then there’s also a solid chance that I’m not so bad off either.

But this is also where it gets tricky.

I could work to convince myself that I’m not an imposter, which is good, but I could forget to leave space for myself to be a beginner.

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The latter is a practice that I’m fully convinced I need to incorporate into my life. Maybe you do too?

Every expert started as a beginner. Being willing to be a beginner means giving yourself grace in the not knowing, allowing yourself room to make mistakes, letting yourself risk failure. Those aren’t things I naturally do well . . . but I want to learn.

So that’s where I am. I’ve felt a nudge to start putting words of my own out where people can read them. It makes me super nervous, but I haven’t been able to shake it. I have to start somewhere. If I seem like I don’t know what I’m doing, that’s okay. I don’t especially.

But I’m finally growing to believe that the best way to learn is simply to start. Practice. Fall down; get back up, and learn as I go.

Maybe you can relate?

If this resonates with where you are now, or where you’ve been in the past, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s swap stories, remind each other that we’re not alone, and learn from each other. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Let’s learn together to give ourselves permission to be beginners. 


Related Resources

When I think about learning to embrace my beginner status, Emily P. Freeman is the first encourager who comes to mind. She recently shared about that very thing in episode 31 of her podcast, The Next Right Thing. If you don't already, I highly recommend keeping an ear out for new episodes as they release each Tuesday.