Often we can get conditioned from outside that we have no talent in some area and it is just not our thing. Thus, we shouldn’t even try. It is easy to get into this trap as a kid due to yet low self-confidence. Consider stopping for a moment and explicitly catching all ideas like that. Let’s see why you might discover a lot of new about yourself this way.
Talent is weird
Sometimes it is indeed the case that a person has very strong innate talent and just excels in some area. However, in the majority of cases it is not like that. Skills require time and practice. It is naive to expect immediate results. However, external observers very often forget about this. Yes, a given kid may not sing too exquisite, but this does not mean that they can’t sing well in the future.
One does not require that much of talent, but rather just interest and curiosity about the area. If one desires to practise and get better, this is already enough to do so. You don’t have to be good at something, in order to be able to do it.
What is your main reason?
This brings us to the second point. There may be various reasons to get better at some skill. For example, it is just fun and one enjoys the process. This is a perfectly valid reason to just do the thing. The growth is not important. You don’t have to even show what you are doing to others. If one likes to sing in the shower, please go ahead!
Another reason might be to make money or to impress others. In this case, one has to care about external opinion. If someone says that you should stop, this is just a feedback that what you are doing now is not good enough yet. Take into account negative feedback, but remember to decrease its amplitude. Also don’t focus on the negativity, but try to understand what exactly causes such effect.
Revisiting “I never will be able to…”
I know a bunch of areas about which I can easily say “I never will be able to do it”. For some of them I even spent quite some time in my childhood and even took lessons. That is I had quite enough of data to make my conclusion and decide to stop.
However, with years somehow by chance I went back to some of these areas. To my surprise, a) it wasn’t that bad back then b) I can actually improve these skills further and it goes pretty well.
Since then it has become my personal sport to tackle such areas. If there is something about which I could say “I will never be able to do this well”, I am definitely lured to disprove that. This was definitely hard at first, when I didn’t have any positive examples. E.g. I remember I tried ice skating as a kid. I sucked at it really terribly. But as far as I remember I tried only once or twice. Then I concluded that this was not mine and I should have focuses into something else. After some years, I tried again and it just went fine. I was able to learn to ice skate reasonably well and it is a lot of fun. With each new such example of breaking “I will never…”, I get more self confidence to tackle even harder areas.
In addition to that, you are now quite a different person. You know so much more, you have experienced so much more in your life and the world is different now. There are new challenges, new opportunities. Perhaps something that blocked you back then is now gone. Perhaps the technology has improved. Perhaps the learning materials are now so much better. Thus, it makes sense once in a while to revisit your self beliefs about what you can do and what you can’t.
I can imagine some really serious obstacles on one’s way to some skill (e.g. physical body irregularities). Yes, this may affect the traditional way of tackling the skill, but nothing prevents one from trying something else. There are people, who play guitar with their legs (e.g. video).
Irrationality of “I will never be able to…”
In some sense, “I will never be able to…” is almost always false. Obviously, there are examples where such statement is hard to disprove. E.g. breathing under water. But if it is about some human developed area (like art, sport) and the bar is not too challenging (e.g. not world class or Olympic level), the question is only about how much time one needs to achieve this level. It is also about how much time one is ready to invest.
I suspect that some skills go better due to some innate ability and just general life situation. Perhaps one already has skills which work well in that field. E.g. from math into programming. However, the absence of some skill should never be a blocker. It just means that one will have to spend more time.
So I suggest to rephrase “I will never be able to…” into “I consider it is not reasonable to invest so much time into area X to reach level Y”. This moves the question from your ability into your priorities and decisions. Sounds much better, isn’t it?
Sometimes it goes better once you start
Another benefit of ignoring such self doubts is that one can discover their innate ability once they start working on their skill. Perhaps at first it goes badly, but after some time they can discover that they are actually quite good at it. Thus, one should avoid premature conclusions and dropping stuff too early. Unfortunately, I have no clue when it is the best time to stop trying. Perhaps when it is not fun anymore. But to avoid false positives, it should rather be “when it is constantly not fun anymore for a specific predefined period of time (e.g. a month)”. Otherwise one could drop out by accident e.g. on a bad day.
Why do others do this?
Why do other people seed such self doubts? Obviously this can be malicious (either explicitly or implicitly). If a competition is possible, it is easier for them to just convince you to drop than to actually compete properly. This may happen implicitly as well (i.e. person does not realize what they are doing).
At the same time, they may believe into innate fixed talent (i.e. fixed mindset instead of growth mindset) and even consider their advice very beneficial for you. They may not want you to waste your time. From their perspective, since you does not perform well at this, you never will and should search for something else.
I observed quite a few examples of parents saying this to their kids. Often this is supported by an argument that parents themselves are really bad at this skill and, thus, the kids are genetically predisposed to be bad as well.
Dangers of such self doubts
The main problem with such self doubts is that they become deeply ingrained self-fulfilling prophecies. One just stops questioning this statement. It just becomes part of them and as a result - becomes completely true. Each time one claims that they are not good at something and refuses even to try, they push this self doubt even further into themselves. They self reinforce it. With time they may even fully forget where it actually came from and just live with it as a fact.
Thus, next time you catch yourself thinking that you are not good at something and as a result shouldn’t even try, try to understand where this is coming from and whether this is still actually the case. Perhaps it is not anymore.
Happy self improvement, while crashing your irrational self doubts!