F*cking first times: 3 steps to conquer uncertainties

Here's an essential acronym to add to your vocabulary. In the first episode of the Unlocking Us podcast from the mind of the ever inspiring Brene Brown (if you haven't checked her out, this is the time to start!), Brene talks about the concept of an 'FFT' - aka, a 'Fucking First Time' for something. In a FFT, you do things that you're not already comfortable doing. Things that freak you out, make you cringe and completely doubt your ability to your core.

Deciding to compete freaked me out initially. I felt under prepared because I hadn't done it before and I assumed I'd have to have it all 'perfect', although of course I didn't have any definition for that to cap my expectations. I fretted about not being lean enough, not holding enough muscle, posing clumsily and tripping on stage. That last one sabotaged my sleep. Then my mind played all sorts of cruel tricks on me, and the 'I suck at this one thing' morphed into 'I suck generally' and I started just feeling negative about other completely unrelated things. Did I have it perfect that first time? Hell no. I winged it. I made lots of mistakes. And I learned on my feet - not falling on my face.


At the moment, we're all sharing an FFT - living in a pandemic amid sudden social isolation. It's going to affect each of us differently because we're attempting to go about our lives as before (or as close to it) although the circumstances have completely changed making that impossible. Brene has a simple strategy for handling an FFT while you're in it. First, name it and normalise it. Identify that you're in one! Then you can take a breath and realise that it's normal to feel unsure, uncomfortable and any number of things you're feeling because you haven't done this before. Pinpoint that emotion you're feeling - anger, shame, disappointment - and talk about it to someone.


'But I can't complain, I have it better than others ...' Sometimes it's easy to deny the impact that an FFT is having on you because you recognise that your problem is really quite minor compared to the looming obstacles that some face. But Brene reminds us that stifling your feelings doesn't make you more empathetic to others - it makes you less empathetic precisely because you're refusing to feel something. It's ok to have significant emotion attached to something that might be 'trivial' on the scheme of things. For example, isolation and business closures has cut my training phase short and disrupted my strength goals for 2020. I realise that breaking my 1RM deadlift or squat record is inconsequential considering that some people may be out of a job, but that doesn't make it any less ok for me to feel disappointed. It makes me human.

Second, put it in perspective. It's a temporary feeling and it just applies to that one thing that is a FFT. You don't suck at life. This isn't permanent. It's going to take a bit longer to find your feet though, because you're wobbling on unfamiliar ground. That's to be expected.

Third, reality check your expectations. Accept that this is going to suck for the moment - you're not going to master it immediately. You can't expect to sprint if you're still learning to walk. FFT? You've got this.