New beginnings (is there any other kind, really?)... I know you hate them. So many people do. No matter what it is that we are starting: a new job, a new school, a new activity - we are at a discomfort, even if it is something we really want to do.
Why do we hate them so much? Well, probably because we are moving from the familiar to the unknown, and us, human beings, are creatures of habit. New beginnings are scary, and nerve wracking, to the point we will sometimes stay in a job\relationship\environment we dislike, and give up on opportunities to feel and do better, just to avoid this discomfort.
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid new beginnings altogether, no matter how much we try. It is an integral part of our existence, naturally connected to the ebb and flow of life: whenever something ends, something else begins.
Nevertheless, because it is inevitable, it gets better as we grow older. No, we don’t necessarily become “beginning enthusiasts” (although one might), but life experience is invaluable in the way it helps us prepare for any new beginning.
It guides us in: making the choice (if it is in our hands), allocating our energy, setting the expectations for ourselves, allowing us to enjoy the unfamiliar new experience, and finally - in how we deal with the result.
How so? We experience successes and failures and learn to manage both; we get to know what we love doing, what we can tolerate doing and what we hate doing with vengeance; we know what it is we’re really good at, what we can get better at, and what we really don’t have any skills for.
For example, starting a blog is huge for me. Not something I would have ever guessed I’d do. Am I scared? Absolutely. Insecure? Undoubtedly. Nervous? Most certainly. But guess what? I am also excited, inspired, almost ecstatic - to do it. Why, you ask? Well… First, because I have some things to share that I hope will inspire, support and help others. Second, because I enjoy the writing process, and third, because I am thrilled to face the challenge whether I succeed or not.
Primarily working with teens, I wonder would I dare do something like this as an adolescent? And the answer is very clear: No way!!! I took myself way too seriously back then. Every risk felt like it could destroy me, so I often avoided things that involved potential failure or embarrassment. I think us adults often forget how hard it really was to be a teenager.
So other than to let life do what it does, how can we get better at dealing with new beginnings?
One way lies in the famous saying “do one thing every day that scares you”. When we do that, we gain life experience quickly and effectively, and we won’t let fear control us.
Another way is to simply accept and embrace the circumstances, without judgment. Tell ourselves something like “I’m starting this new task, I know I’m going to feel uncomfortable for a while and that’s ok. It won’t last forever”. It won’t make the uncomfortable go away, but it will eliminate the elements of surprise and self-bashing.
A third, and very effective way, is to remember previous beginnings, how they felt, how we got through them, and what helped. I strongly recommend writing those down!
And lastly, and this is important: Talk about it! Find at least one person who cares, and confide in them. Finding words to describe our experience dissipates the anxiety, and sharing it with others shows us we’re not alone.
So here’s to new beginnings! Happy 2018!
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Maya is a marriage and family therapist, working primarily with teens, families and adults, in the east bay, California.