The First Time Around Always Sucks: But That’s Growth

If you ever look back on your old creations — sketches, journals, dance moves, videos, or that squeaky song you wrote for the girl in sixth grade who didn’t know you — you will always cringe at your amateurish recklessness.

The first time through your masterful brilliant brainchild, you probably thought it was the greatest idea in the world. Now you run from it as fast as your friends bring it up to you.

But: we all go through this. It’s a clumsy, gaudy, lumbering phase of growth that requires a purging of all your awkward first moments, and it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s also okay. You can embrace the process and shed the old skin and keep pursuing your perfection. You’ll look back a year from now and possibly hate what you’ve made today — but that’s only a natural part of your growth. One day you won’t look back on any one single thing you’ve done, but rather see an entire mosaic in a single-hall museum of your creative journey: and that’s life. It’s a collaboration with yourself.

If you are your own worst critic, you’ll fall into a self-destructive misery about your entire progress. You’ll listen to too many negative voices and open the door for a multitude of imprisoning changes that isn’t really you. You see this happening spiritually with churchgoers or creatively with artists: when they allow criticism to become a straitjacket of rules and restrictions. Such a low self-estimation can only paralyze you.

If you are your own best supporter, you’ll gravitate into an inward self-orbit that protects itself against every sort of helpful suggestion. This is either from an unstable insecurity of shattering your own ego or a hostile anger towards anyone who dares to differ. It’s the prideful woman who can’t stand to hear about how she raises her children; it’s the angry man who “knows what I’m doing” and buries his company in mediocrity. Such a high self-estimation is like speeding a hundred miles per hour in the wrong direction.

The point here is to balance both in tension: to have an extremely high and extremely low opinion of yourself at the same time, so that you can both hear what’s right and maintain your integrity. That’s true freedom: to run in both directions.

Sometimes you’ll need to humble yourself. Other times you’ll need to protect your core and run with it.

We’ve seen what happens when people implement these extremes at the wrong time.

I’d imagine most sophomore music albums are terrible because the fame put them in a slump. Most Hollywood types swing wildly between snobbery and suicidal madness because of their career flow. Most of those insanely good authors kill themselves. And the everyday churchgoer fluctuates between religious arrogance and fearful despair, always hoping that “tomorrow” they’ll finally get it.

Tomorrow might not be the point: and that’s why it’s called tomorrow.

When I see those politicians who have old dirt dug up on them, whether it’s racist quotes or bad policies — I have to wonder if that even represents them anymore. Possibly. Or we could consider: we are not always who we once were. People are in flux all the time. Change is inevitable, whether for the good or bad. So often we end up disagreeing with our former selves because that first time through, we just didn’t know any better.

Then what if the first time around is always every time around? What if it’s simply okay to feel like a rookie at life? Because even our very best doesn’t guarantee a great outcome, and every success has its own sloppiness.

Maybe we’ve been riding on a false sense of progress and hoping for some future “final” version of ourselves, instead of enjoying the suspense of the moment. We might have lost that childlike wonder which reaches for the sky instead of tracking the mileage. From where I’m standing, the horizon is no closer than the day I started. And maybe that’s okay. Going for the horizon has been really awesome.

Maybe it’s better to just examine what the moment calls for. If it’s a good day, then thankfulness and joy: and nothing more. If it’s a bad day, then encouragement and perseverance: and nothing less. All the while, we power through our icky growing pains, expecting them and embracing them — because that’s all a part of who we’re becoming. You don’t have to hide your old diaries and childhood videos. There’s a raw realness to them that maybe you’ve refined too much. Look back only to learn from it; look forward to the unreachable with freedom.

You are not where you could be: but so long as you stumble forward, you are never who you once were.

Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6

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