While on vacation, I tried wakeboarding for the first time in my entire life. In fact, it was my first time on a boat like that. My first time tubing. Yes, I'm 26. Shut up.
My wakeboarding pretty much consisted of me getting pulled by the boat, trying to stand, and then falling. Then I'd get to float in the water while they pulled the boat around so I could try (and fail) again. I didn't get up. I probably looked like an idiot. But I tried.
For me, that was the most important part.
You see, one of my major goals as a teenager was to avoid looking stupid at all costs. I'm not kidding. I didn't dance or sing in public because I didn't want to look stupid. Even if I knew the answer to a question, I didn't raise my hand in case I was wrong and didn't know it. I didn't make small talk or try to meet people for fear I'd sound like an idiot.
I never, ever tried anything new because I'd look stupid if I didn't get it right immediately. I mean, I live in Utah—some of the best snow on the continent—and I've still never tried skiing or snowboarding, etc.
I'm not proud of this, but it's the truth. I think it's the truth for a lot of people. Even now I still have lingering fears:
I'll make a fool of myself.
I'll fall on my face.
I'll never be good at anything.
People will laugh.
Everyone will stare at me.
They'll think I'm stupid.
But here's the thing—if you want to learn or grow or gain skill in anything you have to look stupid at some point. It's part of the process. Of course you don't know how to do it at first. Of course you're going to make mistakes. Yes, you ARE a n00b.
We were all once "n00bs," which is why it drives me crazy to see supposed n00bs treated harshly. So what if someone is brand new to writing, blogging, drawing, running, cooking, etc? Does that give us a right to laugh at their mistakes—some of the same mistakes we've made on our journeys? Who's to say they won't surpass us in time?
I'm not saying this for any reason except that I've been thinking about it since trying wakeboarding. Why did I find the courage to try? I knew Kasie and Jared wouldn't make fun of me, even if all I did was fall. And every time I did, they told me I was doing a good job, even though both of them were more seasoned and skilled. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that. Because with them I didn't feel stupid, even though all I did was mess up.
It reminded me that I always want to be that way—I want to be there for people who are learning. I don't want to be the person who intimidates or criticizes or otherwise makes a beginner feel like they should give up. I want to encourage and teach and help. I want everyone to feel like they can master something if they just practice, because it's true. Some may take more practice than others (hi, 12 finished "novels" here), some may take less.
In the end, trying is what matters. Trying is the only way to get better—the only way to eventually not look stupid. And it's much easier to try when people are cheering you on instead of laughing.