First times are uncomfortable because they are new and uncertain, but what would happen if people started to normalize these feelings? Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, studies vulnerability, shame, and empathy. In her new podcast, “Unlocking Us,” Brown explores her studies and their application in everyday life. The episode “Brené on FFTs,” discusses FFTs and the three
steps to deal with them.
Brown describes an FFT as a new experience; they are uncomfortable, but necessary to continue growth. Everyone experiences FFTs whether it’s living in a pandemic, going to college, or starting a job. Brown illustrates three steps to take when in any type of FFT.
The first step is to normalize the FFT. Brown explains that in order to normalize a first-time experience, we need to tell ourselves “this is exactly how new is supposed to feel” and “this is uncomfortable because brave is uncomfortable.” Instead of sitting in the discomfort of a new experience, society must learn that the negative feelings surrounding the experience should be viewed positively.
The next step Brown discusses is to put the FFT into perspective. This means that it’s important to understand that the feeling of being in a first-time experience is not permanent, even if it is uncomfortable or scary. The first time a person tries a new hobby or activity, they won’t always be successful. Brown illustrates the idea that if a person fails at an FFT, they need to remind themselves that it “does not mean I suck at everything.” The idea of failure pushes people away from new experiences, but this is how one experiences all that the world has to offer.
The final step in being in a new experience is to reality check expectations. Brown offers the ideas that “this is going to suck for a while” and “I’m not going to crush this right away.” As a society, expectations are often set to unrealistic levels. A first-time experience is meant to be challenging and difficult. First times come with mistakes and failure, it is with time that people can learn from these and grow. By reality checking expectations, Brown believes that people give themselves more opportunity to be vulnerable to FFTs.
This podcast broadcasted on March 20, right around the time that everything we knew was changing due to Coronavirus. Schools and universities sent their students home, nonessential workplaces were shut down, people all over the country were losing their jobs, and all we could do was sit at home and watch it happen. It was scary. It was uncomfortable. It was an FFT. Brown released this podcast during everyone’s first worldwide pandemic.
Some people tried to stay productive by taking up new hobbies or projects, but the truth is, it was a hard time for everyone. Brown stresses the point that this was, and still is, okay. Brown normalizes the feeling of being uncomfortable and unproductive in the pandemic. She then put the pandemic into perspective.
Brown puts the feelings of stress, anger, and anxiety into perspective. She illustrates that these feelings will not last forever, but it is okay to have these feelings at the start of such a new experience. Brown then reality checks our expectations for the pandemic. Brown explains that we do not have to be as productive or as optimistic as we want to be. At the start of COVID-19, there were so many uncertainties,
and there still are. Brown demonstrates that we cannot have high expectations for ourselves during these times when knowledge and answers are rapidly changing. Despite the newness of the pandemic even still, Brown challenges us to live in this moment of the COVID FFT.
In her podcast, Brown discusses the importance for people to put themselves in first-time experiences
to grow and learn as individuals. Brown ventures into the ideas of vulnerability, shame, and empathy in her other podcast episodes as well as her books “The Gifts of Imperfection,” “Daring Greatly,” “Rising Strong,” “Braving the Wilderness,” and “Dare to Lead.”
Sources: Unlocking Us, “Brené on FFTs”