Being a beginner surrounded by experts is intimidating. Not to state the obvious, but seriously… it can be enough to make you want to pack it in and retreat to your comfort zone.
I experienced this recently and I wanted to do exactly that: hide within the safety of my comfort zone. I wanted to ignore the amazing mountain before me and curl up with a new book. I wanted to put my running shoes on instead of my cycling helmet and feel the familiarity and confidence that striking the trail beneath my feet gives me.
Yet despite my fears, I went ahead and donned my jersey, my shin guards and my helmet. (I felt like the only person in the park without a full-face helmet!) I stepped up to the lift, pushing my bike awkwardly onto the lift bars and rode up for my very first lift-served downhill bike ride.
Have I mentioned that this particular weekend just happened to also be the exact same weekend of a hugely popular, International mountain biking competition and festival that attracts the very best downhill and free riders the world has to offer?
Yeah. So there’s that. I was surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of experts, enthusiasts and professionals in the realm of mountain biking. I wasn’t just a teensy bit intimidated. I was quite definitively feeling out of my element. Wondering what in the world I was thinking biking amidst this crowd.
If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you know I’m just starting out mountain biking, gaining experience and skills little by little. I’m not a natural, but I really enjoy it. The better I get, the more I like it.
And that weekend? I enjoyed it. I learned a lot—not just new skills on the bike, but off the bike, too. Things like how to muster up my courage and do it anyway, despite feeling intimidated.
So I thought I’d share these lessons. I plan to use them with each new experience—whether it’s being in a roomful of entrepreneurs, public speakers or mountain bikers. I think you’ll find them helpful, too.
1. It’s Okay To Be Intimidated: Do It Anyway.
It doesn’t matter what you’re beginning—there’s always going to be someone better than you. And it’s easy to get intimidated. Especially as an adult.
When we bypass the stereotypes and actually look closer, really look at the people in the crowds, we see so many different kinds of people. Sure, the majority of them might be men who are fit, strong and talented, willing to huck themselves off a 10’ dirt jump. But there are bound to be plenty there who don’t fit that description at all.
I saw so many more women than I expected to. Both fellow beginners learning the sport and pros crushing it. I realized that I was more inspired than intimidated by all of these women.
I also noticed a variety of different sizes and shapes. Not everyone was super-fit. Not everyone was fast. In fact, there were a lot of folks soundly in-between. I even overheard a lot of guys talk about those aforementioned jumps in the same sentence as “intimidated.”
It’s okay to be intimidated. In my experience, it’s a pretty natural reaction when you’re in a new situation and everyone else seems so much more comfortable. But the trick is to do it anyway. Remind yourself that you deserve to be there just as much as they do. You belong, too.
2. You Won’t Be The Best: Let It Go.
Another obvious-yet-not-so-obvious statement here. So many times we begin something new and want to be an expert right away. Then when we’re not, we get frustrated and discouraged.
We somehow believe that we need to pick up the skills quickly and effortlessly. That we’re not “good enough” if we can’t learn immediately.
Even though we know in our minds that they’ve had more time to practice and experience things, it still makes us hesitate and wonder if we should enter the fray.
To this, I say of course you should. Absolutely!!
Let go of your expectations toward perfection. Now. Remember that with all things, practice and time are the most important components to success. Spend time on the bike; Practice your skills; And have fun (‘cause that’s why you’re doing it, right?).
3. People Are Inherently Friendly and Want to Help: Talk to Them & Ask Questions.
So often I see beginners afraid to ask questions or show any indication that they’re learning. They might boast that they’re better than they are (which, in particular situations, might actually be dangerous—ahem, big jumps).
We tend to assume that because we feel like our beginner status is tattooed on our forehead for the world to see, that everyone knows our level of inexperience.
Not necessarily so. We might be better than we think we are. Or we might look more fit than we are. Maybe we’ve dressed the part really well. Regardless, most people aren’t going to know your level of experience (and really, it’s all relative anyway).
If you don’t know something, ask.
People love to help. And they love talking about their passion and sport. So ask questions. Lots of them. Some of the answers will be really helpful. Some of them might not be. (I had folks assume I was at a much higher level than I was that weekend, and recommended trails that weren’t appropriate. But their enthusiasm was infectious and I was able to take what information I needed and move on.)
And if you don’t have questions, don’t let that stop you from talking to people. Smile and act like you’re one of them. (‘Cause, you know… you are.)
Most people remember what it was like to be a beginner. They remember how hard it was; how awkward it felt; how grateful they were when others were kind. Trust in that and don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it.
4. Be Confident In Yourself: You Belong There.
Respect yourself and be proud of being a beginner. As a beginner, you have a lot of wisdom to share. Your pure enthusiasm and dedication is something that more experienced and (at times) cynical brethren could use more of.
Beginners tend to notice more and bring a unique perspective to the sport. They are awed and amazed by the smaller nuances, and often recognize baby steps more clearly and celebrate progress more often.
And really? The most important thing to remember is that you belong there. So what if you’re not as good as others? So what if you’re not as experienced? Maybe you’re slower and less graceful. So what?
Are you having fun? Are you smiling? Are you learning and cultivating a new passion within?
Yeah, I thought so. Keep on learning and getting out there. Before you know it, you’ll be a lot more experienced than others and you’ll be in a position to pass on your own knowledge, enthusiasm and excitement you’ve gained to them.
What about you? We’ve all been beginners at one time or another in our life. What words of wisdom do you have to share with us? What have I missed? I’d love to continue this conversation (it’s so important!). Please take a moment to comment below.
If you’re new here, welcome. I’m delighted you stopped by.
Sign up for my monthly newsletter for more inspiration and practical tips to help you get—and stay active. You’ll also receive a FREE email series sharing the 10 Essential Elements of Adventure.