How to Deal With the Discomfort of New

From small things like trying out a new work out class or recipe to big things like having a baby or starting a new job, being new at things is hard. Even if we are excited and looking forward to it, being new is vulnerable. Brene Brown, an author, professor, and emotions researcher, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It is that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control. When we are new at something, we have no relevant experience or expertise to pull on to help our brain “predict” how an experience might go. This can feel awkward, uncomfortable, and scary. Yet we often forgot that these feelings are normal whenever we do something we have never done before, it is apart of being new. We also often forget that mistakes are also apart of being new, it is how we learn. Yet showing up and moving through the awkward learner stage is how we get grow, develop, and get braver. The more we are willing to embrace the suck and try new things, the more new things we are willing to try. This is not because new things get easier but because we learn to normalize the suck and stay standing in the face of uncertainty. This is what develops courage, or the ability to overcome and face fear, over time.

In Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, she did an episode related to this concept of the difficulty of being new and shared with us a strategy she uses to embrace the suck and move through the difficulty of new. She calls this strategies FFT or “Fucking First Time.” 

Here are the steps of using FFT:

  1. Identify and name the FFT when you are in it
      • Ways to recognize you are in a FFT:
        • You feel out of control
        • You feel like you don’t know what you are doing
        • You feel in a shame spiral
        • You feel confused
        • You feel something is hard to do
      • Name that you are in a new experience
        • Naming something does not give the discomfort more power over us but instead when we name and own hard things we experience, it gives us power or the ability to effect change over those moments
  2. Normalize it
      • Tell yourself things like:
        • Doing new things is hard, this is what new feels like
        • Doing new things is brave and brave is uncomfortable
        • Doing new things requires learning and learning is a process that occurs over time
        • Making mistakes is apart of leaning to do something new, it is how learning occurs
        • It is ok to feel hard feelings, it is part of being human
        • I am doing the best with the information and skills I have in this moment
  3. Put it in perspective
      • Remind yourself: This feeling is not permanent, and it does not mean I suck at everything, it means I am having a new experience
      • Ask yourself: When was the last time I did something new?  How long did it take me to feel comfortable with that? 
      • Think about: What might be different in a week, month, or year from now?
  4. Reality check your expectations
      • Remind yourself: This is going to take time, I am not going to crush this right away- This is a heavier lift than I thought or expected
      • Ask yourself: What would I expect from someone else doing this for the first time, am I expecting the same for myself?
      • Think about: Can I keep my expectations fluid for where I am each day?
      • Reality check your expectation with others around you.  What do they think about the expectation you have for yourself during this new experience?  How do their thoughts differ from your expectations?
      • Emotional health requires us to be gentle towards ourselves as we experience difficulties in life, such as facing a new thing along with the inevitable mistakes that come along with doing something new.  Do my expectations allow room for gentleness towards myself and others around me?

Often times our focus during “new” is more on the discomfort, the awkward, and the disappointment of the inevitable mistakes we will make while learning that we often miss focusing on the opportunity in front of us to grow. We forget that we become more resilient by overcoming our mistakes. Being human means we will make mistakes, they are unavoidable throughout life. But by practicing naming the discomfort, normalizing it as apart of being a human new at something, putting it into perspective on your learning journey, and checking your expectations of yourself with gentleness, facing new experiences can be experienced in a new way.

If you are interested in hearing Brene talk about her experience of moving through FFTs, check out the episode here:


By: Malinda King, MA, LPCC
Photo: Victor Santos from Pexels