not being good

This story is going to have such painfully nerdy trappings that I’m already cringing, but it’s not like you guys thought I was totally cool and hip, right? You didn’t believe that I was super-slick and totally hipster and down with the hip hopping. Oh no, you knew that I am a nerd who likes video games and reads terrible nerd books about vampires and things. This story involves my computer nerdery.

So I don’t like to be bad at things. In fact, it is one of my top five most hated things, and that list includes communists and baby-kicking and Hitler. I hate being incompetent and I hate demonstrating incompetence, and the idea that people can look at me, note my incompetence, and make nasty, snarky remarks about my exact degree of incompetence and the extent to which I am tragic and lame drives me absolutely batshit nuts to think about it. Oh, I hate that. I hate feeling so vulnerable and wide-open and sockable.



But it’s something I recognize as holding me back, it’s a trait I am
not proud of, it’s a thing I am trying to get over. To that end–I am
not a good photographer. I have not got an especially good eye for
composition and framing, and I am way to impatient to read the little
manual that came with my camera, but I really like to take pictures.
For a long time, the fact that I was (am) a mediocre photographer
prevented me from even pulling out my camera, until one day I said, Forget this. I like to do it. I’m going to do it and load them up on
Flickr and I do not care if they are not great, because they make me
happy.

I’m not a great sartorial master–but I’m putting together outfits I
like, and doing the wardrobe remix thing. I’m a lousy cook, but I am
doing my damnedest in the kitchen to not kill myself and maybe even
pull out something edible. I have fallen long and hard from my comfort
zone as a fiction writer, as someone with ideas and a grasp of language
and an ability to tell a story, from my peak at the end of grad school
when I had the first draft of a novel in hand to now when I can barely
stand to look at three sentences I’ve strung together, and I’m sending
out stories anyway (and getting them published, sometimes!) and I’m writing flash fictions
every weekday, 100 words of story within ten minutes, or bust. And now
that I’ve finally got my postcards in hand, I’m going to write tiny
postcard stories to send out.

I’m not good with people, or talking off the top of my head, or
teaching or being an authority but I signed up to coach them, an
unfiltered segment of the wide, washed masses, how to write. I’m not
especially coordinated between my hand and my eye, and I still screw up
the navigating and I’m not good with the chatting or the silly, fun
roleplaying the people I play these (social) computer games with like
to play (I am self-conscious and awkward), but I play anyway.

It’s all pushing me way, way far out of my comfort zone, these things.
It’s all difficult to do, unpleasant sometimes and frustrating and
worrisome, but I’m doing it anyway, because I’m tired of being scared
all the time. I’m tired of being worried all the time that I’m not good
enough at something. I’m tired of feeling judged not just by the world
but by myself, for not being good enough.

And I’ve been so proud of myself for doing this. But the other night,
we were playing that computer game, and we were supposed to play with a
couple who have been online forever, who are good at it, who make
everyone laugh, who are so fun and great and make every gaming session
a real-live party, and I froze. I completely froze up. There was no way
I could be gamely incompetent, mildly awkward and lame in front of
these (let me emphasize this) complete stranger on the computer. I
panicked, I fled, I sat in E’s bedroom and I cried. Cried! Because I
felt so lame for being so lame; because I had acted so weird; because I
am so weird and I will never stop being weird and awkward and
self-conscious.

E came looking for me. You have nothing to worry about, he said. You’re
not incompetent, he told me. You’re wonderful, he said. It’s not a big
deal, and Don’t worry about it, and It’s okay.

It’s been days, and I still feel ridiculous. I still don’t understand
what came over me, and it still feels like a failure, to have all my
bravery falter at such a dopey time, and over such a dopey thing. It is
a small thing, and it really is okay, that I had a bout of social
anxiety over a dumb game and ran off like a lunatic. But it is
frustrating. And why is it frustrating? Because I am not good enough at
overcoming my fear of being not-good
enough. I think that might be irony.

  5 comments for “not being good

  1. anon
    September 9, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Well, I don’t play computer games, but just about every word you wrote applies to me anyway.

    “I hate feeling so vulnerable and wide-open and sockable.”

    Yup.

    “It’s all pushing me way, way far out of my comfort zone, these things…but I’m doing it anyway, because I’m tired of being scared all the time. I’m tired of being worried all the time that I’m not good enough at something. I’m tired of feeling judged not just by the world but by myself, for not being good enough.”

    Yup.

    “Because I felt so lame for being so lame; because I had acted so weird; because I am so weird and I will never stop being weird and awkward and self-conscious.”

    Yup.

    “Because I am not good enough at overcoming my fear of being not-good enough.”

    Yup.

    Honestly, I think the worst thing about feeling all these things is that it always feel like “it’s only me,” only I ever feel this way, only I am ever socially awkward, inwardly insecure, a total fraud, a big idiot.

    But I have to say that every single damn time I’ve opened myself up, admitted these things (bravely, as you have here), I’ve been met with a chorus of “me too”s. And, really, what a relief, eh?

    We’re human, we all have self-doubt, we all feel like idiots sometimes. Talking about it is huge, admitting it out loud, letting ourselves be comforted by the support and the me-too-ness of others….

    Good for you.

  2. alysha
    September 9, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Oh yeah. I think that this is something a LOT of us share.
    I am TERRIFIED of being not good at something, especially if it’s something that I think I *should* be good at.

    Case in point… I studied ballet for about 12 years when I was young. I was decent, but certainly not great. Anyway, a few months ago, a friend asked me to take a (beginner) ballet class with her. I immediately agreed and was excited. For about an hour. Then the stress set in, and I literally went crazy with worry that I wouldn’t be good enough. As if it mattered. As if all of us weren’t in a beginner class. I mean, it’s not like we were expected to be good at this. But it was really hard for me to just let myself be a beginner again.

    Sigh.

    Anne, are you a perfectionist? Because while I can be very forgiving and understanding with others, I tend to be really hard on myself. And it sounds like you’re doing that, too. For what it’s worth, I think you’re super-fly.

  3. M.
    September 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    YES, absolutely. I used to have anxiety dreams about failing classes, missing baskets in basketball, not being able to score a single touch in fencing, cracking in the middle of a trumpet solo, taking off my shirt and having some guy just laugh, etc. And it was all horribly crippling. I still don’t perform in orchestras/bands because playing the trumpet for an audience brings back those NYSSMA solos (they grade you on a prepared solo, randomly chosen scales, and sightreading, and based on your grade you may or may not be selected for all-county band, all-state band, etc.) and all the accompanying fear, nerves, and awfulosity.

    I haven’t gotten over the trumpet thing, but learning to get high off the adrenaline instead of letting it own you is really important. I’m not afraid of failure anymore in school, and the naked thing disappeared after I took an art class where a nude self-portrait was the final. (There were ~3 seconds of hardcore embarrassment followed by a wild euphoria when my super-badass picture of myself with my fencing gear covering the necessary bits had everyone speechless.) It’s like when you know the adrenaline is coming, you can be afraid and try to fight it, or ride it out. Like going off the high diving board for the first time when you’re a kid.

    I know for better or worse I’m pretty high-strung, and it’s not going away any time soon. So I can either fight it, or channel it into something constructive. It’s not perfect, and at times I’m pretty certain I’m a candidate for anti-anxiety meds… and prescription strength deoderant. :) But something that’s helped me is knowing that (fillintheblankactivity) is going to make me anxious, so I just go with it instead of panicking that I’m being crazy/abnormal/whatever.

    …Although one time I got REALLY angry at my bf when he gave me one of those 3-D mind-puzzles at 1 AM. I practically threw a fit. I HAD to solve it (take it apart, put it back together). I stayed up until 3 in the morning. But I beat his time! Was that healthy? No, probably not. I still feel vaguely moronic about it, but that’s life and he only teased me once about it… :)

  4. sarah
    September 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    my husband is very into role-playing games (both online & in person). a few years ago, before we were married but after we’d been dating for a really long time, he invited me to partake in one of these in-person role-playing games with his 2 closest friends and their wives. i prepared for weeks, coming up with my character (she was going to be kind of like Jan Brady, only slightly demonic, or maybe that’s redundant), and was kind of freaking out about it because i knew i wouldn’t be very good at it. when it came time to play, i played for 5 minutes, then became so awkward and self-conscious and convinced that everyone saw how stupid and bad at this i was, that i quietly locked myself in the bathroom and cried for an hour, and claimed an upset stomatch.

    anne, i TOTALLY feel you. i don’t garden (except occasional weed pulling) because i’m not very good at it, and therefore, i don’t deserve to garden. rather, i constantly berate myself for not having pretty flowers AND not being confident enough to actually give it a shot.

    your way is so much better. don’t be ashamed, you are wonderful!

  5. nolafwug
    September 10, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Honey, I am so right there with you! I totally freaked out like this at the stupid bowling alley. I couldn’t bring myself to go up to the counter and ask for those bowling shoes – I just froze and I couldn’t stand to be bowling in front of all those people. I was sure I’d look much more ridiculous than all the other people who couldn’t bowl either and of course those who could bowl well. It was so lame and frustrating, made a million times worse by the fact that my boyfriend flew into a rage and yelled at me like I was a child and made me feel sick to my stomach.

    So when I read about E’s reaction I realized that you are extremely lucky to have someone so understanding in your life.

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