When we feel as if we are not good at anything, what should we do to stop thinking that way?
Natalie Stoner, M.Ed., CLC
Life Coach | Writer | Entrepreneur | Founder, Bloom Where You Are Academy
Put aside value judgments and consider what you’re passionate and enthusiastic about.
Enthusiasm can fast-track you to performance mastery. There are opposing views on passion. The first suggests that passion is gifted to us. It accompanies certain activities that give so much enjoyment, doing them generates more energy than it uses up and we lose time when engaged in them.
The other view of passion is that we should be able to generate it for whatever activity we’re doing. In this view, we’re urged to be present with everything understanding that sincere commitment leads to enthusiasm. Both of these forms of passion work in much the same way. The former can teach us how to create (and recognize) the latter.
Bottom line, one path to passion is a gift and the other is a practice, but passion is passion no matter where it comes from.
Use this exercise to uncover your passion.
Get a sheet of paper or journal and write the words, My Life’s Purpose. Be bold and confident.
Write a single item or a bulleted list of whatever comes into your head.
Don’t edit yourself. When you’ve finished, walk away. Grab a mug of tea, take a walk, or sleep on it. Come back and read what you’ve written. Does it ring true? If not, keep what does and revise the statement. Do this as many times as you need to until it feels right. This will give you direction.
If you love something but aren’t yet good at it; take a class, join a club, start your practice. They say 10,000 hours of practice at anything leads to mastery.
You may find that you’ve written something that summarizes the life you’re living but doesn’t make you feel enthusiasm. In fact, that will be the case for many people. If this happens, write it again.
If you’re stuck, think about the thing you do for pleasure that you can’t get enough of. Is it gardening? Rock climbing? Reading books about anthropology? Write that down. Make sure your list includes the hobby you could never make a living doing (if you look hard enough, there is probably a simple way to incorporate that into your daily life).
There’s a danger in putting too much stock in natural passion because some people don’t know what they’re passionate about.
I worked with a woman who was upbeat, friendly, and well-liked, but in conversation, I observed that she didn’t add much original thought, parroting what others said because she wasn’t sure what she thought about things. She had a terrible break-up and was devastated.
I suggested ways that she could start investing in herself to refocus her energy. When I inquired about her interests and hobbies, she said she didn’t have any. I asked what she was passionate about, and again, she looked baffled. She’d never had a passion. I work with a lot of people, but this was the first time I had encountered a person with no inclination toward anything in particular. The following questions helped get her on track.
What did you love doing when you were younger?
What activities are you doing when you feel most like yourself?
What would you do if you came into a great fortune tomorrow?
What would you do if you were guaranteed success?
What would you do more of if you were told that you only had a few months to live?
If you feel like you’re not good at anything, chances are, you’ve never followed your passion. Spending a bit of time following the path of your greatest enthusiasm can help you see what you are passionate about and where to focus your energy.
Emily Kikue Frank, M.A.
Career Counselor | Founder, Denver Career Catalyst
When I get this question, I always suggest we put the issue of what my clients are “good at” on the back burner so we can first consider what they enjoy.
The truth is that everyone is good at many things, but too often people who are feeling confused about jobs haven’t identified what they like and need. For instance, some of them may be really good at organizing files but really hate doing it, so it doesn’t feel at all like a skill.
So we start with what they like doing or what they’ve liked in the past, with the understanding that if they enjoy something, they are much more likely to be willing to put the time and effort into getting good at it. Nobody starts life as a good dental hygienist, for instance, but people who find that work fulfilling have been willing to learn what they need in order to become skilled. But because we have taught most people to focus on skills, there are lots of folks who aren’t able to identify what they enjoy– they’re too distraught about not being “good at” anything.
In those cases (sadly, not unusual), we have to go back further. What did you enjoy when you were in high school? Can you tell me about a time you enjoyed a job or volunteer position? If we can tease out the common threads of things they’ve enjoyed in the past, then they can think about how these things might come together in a job.
Think, focus, and improve your values and what you really care about.
As a culture, we over-focus on skills and abilities, but each of us is a person first, so we really ought to teach people to start by thinking about their values and the things they really care about.
I find that, most often, when clients can identify things they enjoy or find worthwhile, the skill part follows– not necessarily natural, but at least the effort feels good.
For instance, someone who enjoys program management may not love learning the details of a company’s particular software, but since they can see how that software is valuable, they are usually more willing to suffer the vagaries of the system because the rest of the work is interesting. Or, to go back to my dental hygienist example, learning the X-ray camera work might be frustratingly difficult for someone, but since dental X-rays tell us so much about the overall health of a person’s mouth, getting those photos is worthwhile, and then fighting with the camera becomes worthwhile.
Skill more often follows interest than the other way around. (There are exceptions, of course, and some people will develop an interest for things they are praised for as children, but since those aren’t typically folks who say that they’re not good at anything, I won’t go into that here.)
We are all born into the world without knowing how to do much of anything. We can’t walk, talk or use utensils to feed ourselves. We can’t dress or clean ourselves.
Over time we start to pick up these skills through repetitive practice and lots of effort. It’s quite a while before we master these skills.
While some things may come easier to some people, without a lot of trial and error, it’s unlikely we will get far with any particular endeavor. It takes tremendous perseverance, which is why modern parenting philosophy tends to highlight the importance of effort over the final product.
Blind praise can lead children to believe that they are intrinsically talented as opposed to learning to achieve mastery through their serious efforts. I am taking this journey back to our early childhood development to make a point. Nobody starts off being good at anything, except for an exceptional savant.
Pursue the things you truly like.
So how do we get good at things? When we are younger, we pursue areas of interest, and through practice, sometimes these become skills that we may use throughout our lives.
It’s no different when we are older, except that we feel all the pressures of society, as well as our own judgments regarding what has value and what we think is worthy of our efforts. Will we be able to master it? Will it make us money? Earn us respect, etc?
It’s often all these questions and judgments that can keep us from pursuing anything. It can be very helpful to really consider why we are interested in a particular thing. Is it all about external recognition, or is it more about internal goals? Is it about professional ambition, creative expression, financial gain, or something else?
By breaking these goals down, we can start to figure out what’s really important to us, and then direct our efforts accordingly.
Most people can become reasonably good at something that they focus their energy on, with enough perseverance. The hardest part is figuring out what area is worthy of our efforts.
I work with numerous “successful” people, in skilled respected professions, with high salaries, that are unhappy with the work they do but don’t know how to switch directions, after investing so much of their lives in their chosen career path.
Don’t just focus on something because someone else thinks it’s a good career or one that will earn you respect, as well as a high salary. Find a direction that really makes sense to you, whether it be a career path or personal exploration.
The closer you are to identifying what is right for you, the more likely you are to find something that you are really good at, and that you truly enjoy.
Stephen and Sonji Millet
Motivational Speakers | Life Coaches | Founders, My Blisstopia
Change your thinking to change your life!
Much of the information we believe about ourselves is not true. Because you accepted information that was contrary to who you are, you believe that you can not do anything. To become a more empowered, positive and confident person, is no small task. Here are three steps to help you change your thinking in order to change your life.
First, you must identify where your negative, limiting beliefs came from.
Without understanding the source, these beliefs will continue to dominate your thinking. Your old thoughts were reinforced by years of habitual practice and will take time, consistent effort and determination to reprogram them.
Related: How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts?
Second, you must change your narrative (the story you tell yourself about yourself) to replace those old, negative limiting beliefs with words and actions that empower you.
This is the hardest step of the three because much of our identity is tied to our story.
For the third and final step, you will need someone to help hold you accountable.
This could be an individual and/or group. Because we often fall back into our old patterns or habits, you need someone to remind you of who you want to become until the new thinking takes hold.
Leadership & Career Coach | Owner, McKay Coaching & Consulting
I don’t believe the statement “I’m not good at anything” is true for any of us. It feels true, but it’s not the truth. It’s a reflection of how they’re feeling about their own worth at that point in time.
The first step to remedying this is to commit to finding the evidence of their talent.
One of the exercises that I give these clients is the Golden Moments exercise. I ask my clients to think of times that they felt really good about themselves – times where someone was really grateful to them, times that they accomplished something that seemed like a major challenge, times they were called a “life-saver.”
I ask them to write it all down. What was the situation? What did they do to address it? What was the result? I ask them to make the list as long as they can and look for the common threads, the abilities or characteristics that lent value in each instance. I ask them to reference old emails, performance reviews, thank you notes, and consult friends and confidantes to round out their lists.
Finally, I would have them take that information to a mentor or a coach to begin exploring the careers that might best fit their talents and desires. Once they have a path, they can navigate life with renewed purpose.
Thomas R. Harris
Owner, The Exceptional Skills
You need to question yourself about what you mean by “anything”.
We sometimes discount what we can do because we are comparing ourselves to others or what we think others would consider as “something”. Take another look at your skills and talents, no matter how “small” it may be without worrying what others may think about it.
Think back through your life.
Think of the different stages you’ve gone through – elementary and before, middle school, high school, young adult, and so on. Get a piece of paper and write out every success, every good thing that you’ve ever done. It could be something as winning an award for best speller in your class or being able to take care of your dog. Take the time and try to write out at least 100 successes. Doing so can help you see what you have been good at in the past.
If there is a certain area you want to become “good at”, take the time and do it!
Whether you buy them or get them from the library, start pouring through books on the subject. Watch videos. Listen to podcasts on the subject. Learn as much as you can about it. Take notes as you go along. Writing about what you’ve learned or teaching it to someone else can help it stick. And start applying what you learn. Practice, even when it’s not “fun”. If you do this, you find that you can become “good” at just about anything.
First off, celebrate. The things we are good and bad at were almost always dictated to us by parents, teachers, and peers. Many people are good at things they have never questioned if they like but spend their lives doing it because they are good at it. You get the gift of really knowing what you like and then becoming good at it.
This statement, however, comes from a place of not feeling we have value. As we look out at the world and judge how other people value things, we don’t see ourselves fitting into those values. If you have survived long enough to read this, there are things you are good at, so the statement holds no weight.
You might not be looking for deep inner journey insights but that is where your talents lay. I would suggest to anyone that thinks they are not good at anything to create something.
Get a coloring book, a cross stitch pattern or a pen and a piece of paper and just spend time with them. This is not because you’re an artist or crafter, and please don’t feel like you need to get caught up in the making, just make, with your hands.
The outcome doesn’t matter and just have fun while making it.
You still may judge yourself but if you continue to just make stuff, for one hour every day for a week, you will get to know yourself much better than you do now.
This is just an activity; you could do this activity with others or alone. Either way, put down your phone, put away the judgments of others, and step away from the idea that it is important for you to be good at anything right now. Maybe you’ll be good at something tomorrow, so until then just make a little something with your hands.
Develop an old skill.
Some people do have natural talents, but most people have to work at something to get good at it. You might feel you’re not good at anything, but there will be something that is your strongest skill.
If you want to get good at something, it’s easier not to start from scratch. Put aside some time every day to work on this skill. Whether it’s trying new recipes, practicing piano or having conversations with people, there are little things you can do to get better every day.
When people say they’re not good at anything, it’s usually because they’re comparing themselves to others. There will always be someone better than you – even if you’re an Olympian, you won’t win gold every year. So stop comparing yourself to others, instead, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
Every day, just aim to be better than you were the day before. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big step or a small step, but they all add up and eventually, you’ll realize that you really are good at something.
Stand up for yourself.
If your best friend, or a family member, said to you ‘I’m not good at anything!‘, what would you say to them? How would you reassure them? You’d be able to come up with things they’re good at, you’d probably remind them that they’re better than loads of people, even if they’re not the best, maybe you’d try to help them improve.
If you hear yourself, feeling that you’re not good at anything, argue back with the voice in your head. Let it know that actually, you are good at some things. Tell yourself, what you’d tell someone else. Try and do this every time you feel negativity towards yourself. Treating yourself as you treat others, is a really good way to build your confidence and self-esteem.
You may be a multipotentialite.
A multipotentialite is a bit of a ‘jack of all trades‘. Some people, just don’t have one clear talent or purpose. Often they have a broad range of interests and skills, but they struggle to focus on just one to develop. They’re great all-rounders, but without a particular strength, they can feel they’re not really good at anything, compared to their more specialist colleagues and friends.
If you’re a multipotentialite, your strength is the variety of your abilities. Sometimes, that can count for more than a single talent and you’ll probably find it gives you a unique perspective and insight, that others just don’t have.
Academic & Career Coach, Life Lived by Design
Whether you are just starting your career or you have been a jack-of-all-trades for years, the struggle of determining strengths or professional expertise is a challenge faced by many. While you may feel as though you’re not good at anything, it is likely that those around you view your circumstances differently.
If you have found yourself doubting your abilities, try one (or all) of these ways to gain clarity on your skill set.
Ask a peer.
Choose a variety of people in your life who know you well and can answer this question honestly and transparently: when am I at my best? To gain a broad perspective, ask two friends, two family members, and two co-workers. After asking this question, take time to listen and continue asking questions for more detail. Avoid any desire to minimize or dismiss their claims.
Take an assessment.
There are many career assessments available online. While they are not definitive, the results are useful as a starting point for exploration. With the guidance of your results, find opportunities to volunteer, apply for an internship, or sit down with a professional in that field to ask what their career entails.
Work with a career coach.
If you feel at a loss without direction, consider working with a career or life coach for guidance. Certified coaches have many resources and tools to help you identify not only your professional goals but also identify a plan of action. Coaches tend to offer everything from individual sessions to programs lasting several months and many coaches are willing to meet virtually.
Most importantly, know that it is not that you are not good at anything, but rather that you simply need support uncovering your abilities and building your confidence in them.
Author, Not Your Average Cup of Joe
Not believing we are good at anything is a common affliction. Not knowing what to do about it is a common response.
First off, we all have a talent that we excel at, and we tend to see those in action a lot, so we don’t think about them as talents. To someone who isn’t good at them, we look like superstars performing those talents we take for granted.
See the world through someone else’s eyes.
We all have unique and admirable talents; we need to change the glass lenses we are looking at our talents through and see what we are good at from someone else’s point of view.
Start with stopping the pity party.
Move on to getting in touch with who you are, understanding what makes you tick. What brings joy, passion, compassion to you. See which of those elements works best for you and focus on learning and practicing those elements that inspire you.
Our lives are shaped by the actions we have taken or not taken, the experiences we have lived through and those we chose to skip. We think, act, react, challenge, accept and live by our own needs and norms formed through our experiences, but they are not written in stone.
They don’t dictate the ‘what,’ ‘how,’, and ‘why.’ And they don’t define ‘who’ or ‘what’ we can and will become. That part is all on you to define.
Business Consultant | CMO, Maple Holistics
List your hobbies and interests.
The notion that you’re not good at anything is simply not true. Sure, you might not be the best at anything, but everyone is good at something. Take the time to make a list of your hobbies and interests to figure out what it is that you’re passionate about.
Often, we invest time and effort into mindlessly moving from one task to another without taking the time to figure out what it is that we actually enjoy. When you enjoy what you do, this is generally because you’re good at it.
Unfortunately, the way that we talk to ourselves is often not the way that we would speak to our friends. This means that you shouldn’t believe everything that you think. Your mind might be telling that you’re not good at anything but if you look beneath the surface, you’ll be able to pinpoint the underlying root of this lack of self-belief.
This takes introspection but once you’re able to overcome your lack of self-belief, you’ll discover the multitude of talents that you never gave yourself credit for.
Author | Registered Nurse | Founder, A-Mae-Zing Mind Body Soul
The phrase in itself is an opportunity for change. When a thought “I am not good at anything” is repeated, a part of the brain begins to align with it.
A belief is only a thought repeated over and over. The more is it said the stronger the belief becomes.
Henry Ford said, “ Whether you think you can or you can’t- you are right.” When a client presents a desire for a change in behavior, the first thing we focus on is identifying the root belief. To create a shift, change the story. Add the word “yet“. When we hear the word “yet”, it implies possibility. Possibility to become better.
To take a step further, I encourage clients to build a foundation for success. I believe our words have power. Our thoughts are the messenger of who we are and how we think. We can just easily empower ourselves as we can disempower.
Change the phrase all together by saying the opposite, “I am good at everything.”
Make this your mantra. Allow space in your life for successful thinking and the feelings will follow. Change your words to change your life.
In life, sometimes we don’t know where we are and what we should do and that’s okay. Knowing what you lack and having the discipline to do something about it is the first step to a better you.
One of the ways you can feel better about yourself is by starting a new hobby.
Depending on what you enjoy, try a few things like hiking and later you might find out you really enjoy it. Maybe you always wanted to try gardening or wanted to own a business but was too afraid of starting out.
Whatever it is, you should always try to push yourself just a little bit over your comfort zone and do the things that spike your interest along the way because in the end life is full of uncertainty… so why not go with it?
Related: 13 Fun Things to Do at Home
Travel Blogger | Founder, The Chance of Choice
What is the concept of being good at something? Are you assuming you need to be the best at something in order to be able to do it? Do you need to have a degree or be in the industry for years to truly understand a vocation? Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, you no longer need to be the best, or even ‘good’.
Simply showing up, making that choice to try, you are already better than the hundreds of others who chose not to.
‘Being good’ is not like sport, there is no winners and losers. There are many pieces of hundreds of the hypothetical ‘economic pies’ and plenty can feed on it. There is no creativity, exploration, and adventure without failure, it is that simple, waiting on the sideline to find what you are ‘good’ at, probably means you won’t find it.
Did you know on average people now have nine career changes? Yep, nine. That means people are trying, falling, learning and getting back up again.
Brene Browns, to me, puts it perfectly, on which the concept of being ‘good’ is closely linked to wanting to be perfect before doing it.
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
My point is that you do not need to do what you are good at, hell you can do something you are bad at!
I’m dyslexic, my lowest grades in school were English and now 50% of my income is from creating written content. But I do this to facilitate the life I want. I started a website and now make money through it and creating content for others. Prior to this, I had no experience of the web, in photography or writing. The only difference between me and someone else who was just as clueless is that I choose to do it.
I say this because I believe the stress should not be placed on what people are ‘good’ at or what ‘they should do’. I believe the stress should be placed on what makes life good for you, then go on from whatever facilitates that, you’ll very quickly see what you are good at and what you should do.