Are You in a FFT?

The other day as Mike and I were sitting on the couch watching the news, we happened to catch each other’s eyes and had one of those soul eye gazing moments.

“Your eyes are just so beautiful,” he said, breaking the eye trance we found ourselves in.

Not one to take compliments, I admitted, “I love my eyes” — and it was true. Out of all the things I’ve struggled with body-wise, I’ve always loved my eyes.

“Do you remember when you said you’d never get contacts in?” he laughed.

I let out a light laugh, “I do.”

Of course I remembered.

It seemed like just yesterday I was learning to put contacts in. At the time, I thought I’d never learn how to do it.

From hours at VisionWorks and testing the patience of their onsite technicians to crying in frustration because it took me over 20 minutes to get my contacts in and more than that to get them out, I had just about given up trying.

At the end of January I made the decision to try contacts for the first time in my life. Despite the fact that I was always told it couldn’t be done and I wasn’t a good candidate — despite the fact that I couldn’t put water in my eyes or touch my eyes — I was hell bent on wearing contacts and not having my glasses slide all over my face as I taught my fitness classes.

When you’re a first time contact wearer, they spend time with you at the end of your eye exam helping you learn how to put in and take out your contacts.

I struggled as I sat in the seat, as the contact fell off my hand, as I was afraid to touch my eye. The technician, god bless her, was so patient and guided me every step of the way until I could do it. And I did it…but only with her help. I couldn’t look at myself as I did it and I never mastered the “pinch and grab” technique (still haven’t by the way), so without her there to help me later that night at home, I simply couldn’t get the contacts out.

20 minutes turned into 30 which turned into an hour and with every minute my frustration grew to the point I gave up. Too frustrated and too proud to ask for help, I rationalized and told myself I was getting up at 3:00 AM for a morning class so I would just sleep in my contacts and deal with it in the morning (Yes, I know…I slept in my contacts).

One night of sleeping in my contacts turned into two when my busy day of teaching conflicted with my doctor’s hours. Suffice it to say that by day three I was hysterically crying outside my doctors office convinced I would never be a contact wearer and that I had ruined my eyes…the one thing I actually liked about my physical appearance.

Turns out, my contacts weren’t stuck. My doctor literally popped them right out (maybe all that crying helped?) and she told me I just needed a different type of lens and more practice.

Being new is hard and the reality was I wasn’t willing to embrace the suck of being a beginner.

It’s what research professor, acclaimed author and TED talk speaker Brene Brown calls the FFT: Fucking First Time.

In her podcast, Unlocking Us, Brown says FFT’s are the intersection of fear and excitement. It’s the place of new things — a place of exploration — an entire vulnerable frontier of “all the feels”. It’s ugly and messy and uncomfortable. It’s all the things we don’t want to experience or feel.

Whether it’s big things like a new job, having a baby or moving into a new place with your partner for the first time — or small things like learning to put in contacts, taking a new class or starting a blog — “new” pushes us to the ultimate tough decision: do we stay where we are, where it’s comfortable and with what we already know we can do well, or, do we embrace the suck, agreed to be awkward and allow ourselves grow?

Can you embrace the suck?

In her research over the last 20 years, Brown says that exploration is the secret sauce of life. Without it, we simply stop living a full life. Moreover, she noticed that when people get too afraid of the discomfort of vulnerability and of doing new things, they stop trying and when they stop trying new things, they stop growing.

But, if we’re willing to embrace the suck of being new, we normalize discomfort and we realize that we’ll come out on the other side. Beyond that, we’ll realize those uncomfortable moments are not just growing our lives, they’re also growing our hearts. The discomfort of exploration is also the foundation of courage.

With the onset of Covid-19 and quarantine, you may find yourself in quite a few FFT’s: homeschooling, working from home, not working and trying to make ends meet, among other things.

Covid-19 is a collective FFT — and we’re left trying to live normal and find a sense of normalcy when nothing in our lives is normal.

When we find ourselves in a FFT, Brown says the first thing to do is to identify that we’re in one.

We often think that naming the struggle or the hard thing will make it harder, but it’s actually quite the opposite. When we name the FFT, we strip it of its power over us and we empower ourselves to see that we are separate from the struggle — it’s just something we’re facing.

Naming the FFT gives meaning to what we’re experiencing.

Embracing the Suck

Once we name the FFT, we can employ three strategies that help us embrace the suck, normalize our discomfort and build courage.

Strategy 1: Once we name the FFT, we can normalize it

Normalizing our discomfort sounds like…

  • Oh, this is uncomfortable because brave is uncomfortable
  • I don’t know how to navigate Covid-19 because I’ve never lived through a pandemic before so it’s OK to not know what to do
  • I’m anxious, uncertain and afraid…and all of those feelings are valid

Strategy 2: Once we name the FFT, we can put it in perspective

Putting our discomfort in perspective sounds like…

  • What I’m feeling right now isn’t permanent
  • Just because I don’t know how to do this thing, doesn’t mean I suck at everything
  • It’s OK to be safe and healthy and have resources and still feel upset and disappointed

Perspective is a function of experience

Strategy 3: Once we name the FFT, we can reality check our expectations

Reality checking our expectations sounds like:

  • This is going to suck for a while
  • I don’t know when this will end
  • It doesn’t have to (and it won’t be) perfect

Expectations are just resentments waiting to happen

Being new is incredibly hard and vulnerable, but the more we are willing to embrace the suck of being in a FFT, the better we can navigate our discomfort and live a more courageous life.

What FFT’s are you up against? Where in your life are you embracing your suck? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

to being awkward and messy and brave,