The Rider’s Mind Podcast Episode 139: Getting Good At Feeling Like A Beginner

If you’re working on something new right now, if you’re learning something new, you may feel like a complete beginner and I’m with you there. But I’ve got a good reframe for you here today that will help you through these uncomfortable feelings. Stay tuned and listen up.

Thank you for joining me for episode 139. We are getting ready to take a summer break here. I was going to end on this episode, but I’m not a real big fan of uneven numbers, so we might have to do another one for 140, but there might be a week or two gap here before I get you something else. I have an interview, guest, interview in the works and actually, as I decided that I was taking a summer break, I had some good ideas for some summer episodes, so we’ll see, but no promises.

Today I want to talk to you about something I’ve been experiencing that I’m sure many of you can relate to and understand. I’ve been doing some new things. I’ve been doing some learning, I’ve been doing some fine-tuning. I haven’t in the past done a lot of round pen work. It feels very unfamiliar to me. I feel like a beginner. I don’t even know how to hold a flag in my hand or where to hold my reins or where to stand or all the things to do, and I recently attended and hosted a Josh Nichol Relational Horsemanship Clinic here at my house and some of the work that we did was in the round pen and also some in hand work outside of the round pen. You can do it anywhere in any kind of space and I guess I have done some in hand work following Josh’s methods through his membership over the winter. But it still feels totally awkward to me and it still feels new.

I’ve also been taking some riding lessons with Kathlyn Hossack and Kathyln is an equitation riding biomechanics expert and between her and Josh we’ve been changing some things in my riding and both of them picked out a bad habit of mine or a habit that was not serving my horse well or helping her find her balance. So I’ve I have been working at changing some things there and then also learning some new things, and it feels like learning the new things as awkward as it is, like it’s bringing up some things for me, some stories, some beliefs, some boxes and, as is changing some things. And I would say the changing things is harder because I have a default, a point of reference that my body wants to go back to and then it just feels like I’m a fish out of water trying to incorporate these new methods where it’s like I know I don’t want to do the old way, but I don’t have the neural connections or the programming for the new way quite yet. So my head, my hands and my legs, my body, my seat, they’re not all working at the same time, doing things as they should be, and this is challenging for me because I’ve been a fairly natural rider. It’s not something that I’ve had to work on or have worked on to ride in a quiet way. That I do. I mean I’ve had a lot of hours in the saddle, but it’s not because I took a lot of lessons or had a lot of disciplined instruction. I did learn to ride from good riders, so that was helpful. But it’s not something, it’s something I’ve taken for granted, I guess, is the way I sit in a saddle. It just works and it’s natural.

So now I’m having to create these new connections and override these pathways that are so strong, because they’re just there at a subconscious level. And now I’m trying to program new ways to be the new subconscious. But there is the conscious effort that has to happen to get these things to reconnect and it’s easy for me to feel like I really suck, and part of this, I think, is I wanted to say, is who I am, but how I am in that, because a lot of things come easy for me, I lean towards doing those things. I don’t find a lot of joy in doing things that I’m not that good at. Like golf, for example, I don’t really like golfing because it doesn’t come natural to me. It is not easy for me and I am good at a lot of other things, so I would choose to do them instead of golfing, if that makes sense, whereas if I was just awkward all the time and everything was a struggle and I had to learn everything new every time. Well, I would probably be used to that and I wouldn’t be so in my head about these fish out of water feelings when things just don’t work for me right away. It’s hard for me, I don’t love it and I imagine there’s some of you that can resonate with this uneasy feeling and it’s like, I think our nervous systems are kind of triggered by it.

Well, here’s the perfectionist in me that wants to come up….the recovering perfectionist. But as you go to deeper levels, trying to move up in your skills, you’re also moving into deeper levels of your patterns and nervous systems and I think my nervous system, my ego, my consciousness, is like; “Why would I want to be a beginner at something when I can get by it”? You know being decent at, or why would I want to be a beginner and put myself through that when I don’t have to? Because I can just be pretty good but consciously I want to be excellent. Take things to the next level. My horse squiggles is driving me to that because she is next level and she tells me she is telling me that she is frustrated through how she’s riding and she tells me that she’s happy when I am riding better. So it’s making me push myself to be better for her and there’s a lot of growth that I’m experiencing here that will take me to the next level as well in my consciousness and also in competition.

While I’ve been in this awkward place, I received a great piece of wisdom from Josh Nicholl that I want to share with all of you that I think that will help as well, and this was to me saying that I feel like a complete beginner, and he said:  “It’s not that at all when you’re learning a new skill. This is where your body goes back to the initiation phase. It does not make us a beginner. It means we’re working on something new that your body does not have reference to for.  Once this becomes normal, your body will then integrate it into other skills of knowing you’ll be kicking ass in no time. The key is to program the initiation phase with joy instead of frustration.

So those were Josh’s words and I took that to heart and I am working at adapting this new reframe for myself. And I can’t say I found joy in the initiation phase. But from now on, when I feel these totally uncomfortable feelings of not being awesome, because who doesn’t love just being awesome and things going well and trying something, and just being good. You’ve got the feather in your hat and you’re like yeah, woohoo – I’m killing it! And then of a sudden you’re not… you have to recognize that this is an important part of the initiation phase.

So this I can wrap my head around and you know, oh, here we are, we’re in the initiation phase again. I see what’s happening. It doesn’t mean like, oh, here we are back to you sucking again, not being able to do all the things that you should be able to do because you did it once, those of us that are high achievers or hold ourselves to high standards. You know you probably have heard this train of thought in your head before and it gets to you. So this is just the process that we’re going through and it’s part of something great. This is part of this is a phase that we need to go through, this feeling that is totally normal as we create these new neural pathways and create our new normal and create this knowing within our body that then becomes our new subconscious that we go to.

And it just happens as we’re embodying basically how we want to show up in the saddle with our horse. So I would say, just from that reframe I feel like I’ve been able to go from frustration to maybe curiosity. I’m aware and curious about what’s coming up for me like: look, isn’t this interesting, how I’m feeling right now? It’s bringing so much for me and this is better than feeling kind of tortuous.

And what was pulling me through is my faith in Josh and Kathyln, and that what was on the other side was worth this feeling of uneasiness as I went through what Josh calls the initiation phase. So here I am feeling more curious, aware and curious. I would say it’s triggering my perfectionism, definitely showing up at a deeper level. More healing needs to happen there and I’ve noticed that I’m quick to find how I’m wrong or how I’ve done something wrong or to doubt my ability to persevere through this. So those are just all things that I’ve become aware of and that I’m recognizing and they’re all part of growth right?

I’ve noticed how I appreciate and recognize the support or the validation that I would get from others to help get me through this, and I judge myself for that because I feel like I should not need that. That’s kind of interesting. So all of this is growth and I’m grateful that I have this keen sense of knowing that this is where I need to go, like it feels right, it feels so strong that this is all going to be worth it, and that is overriding my desire to just throw my sucker in the dirt says I can’t do this and just be okay with how I was before and like I was fine before. I see that. But I also recognize that this is where I want to go and have a strong pull to improve in these areas, learning these new ways of relating and connecting and riding.

At the same time, I have huge compassion for anyone learning something new right now, because I am in the thick of it too, and as I would say to you, I will say to myself that you are strong and brave and I believe in your ability to get through this initiation phase. Together we will learn new things, we will become more aware of our bodies, how we tick, how we operate and we will have these strong frames, and I hope that by sharing this one that’s been impactful for me will help you as well, because you are not alone out there and I’m with you in creating these new neural connections as well.

We will get our body working together in sync and soon it will be ingrained into our subconscious, and it won’t be something we have to think ourselves through any more. We can just step into that energy, and so it is so it will be. I hope that my reflections on this have been helpful for you as you work through anything new that you are growing through as well.

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