Stop Saying You Are Bad At Things
How self-deprecation & criticism masquerade as humility and hold you back
Hi Hi again, I am Jackie Courtney the Founder & CEO of Nearly Newlywed, the global destination to shop the best new and nearly-new preowned wedding dresses, jewelry, accessories & gifts. I am also a writer, startup advisor and avid supporter of female founders & entrepreneurs.
Since turning 35 (ah!) I have been trying to share more of myself, my experience and the experiences of other female business owners I’ve met with a transparent and honest lens. My hope is that it can be helpful and empowering to other women on their own journeys.
so so so, quick quizzer… what are you really, really good at?
Write down as many things as you can in 60 seconds….
Now, what are you not so good at? What are your weaknesses or flaws?
Another 60 seconds, write them down….
Ok, where did you net out? What was easier?
Are any of them more familiar to your inner dialogue than others?
If it was all stuff you are awesome at then you can click & close and that is rad and you should probably be writing this article instead of me.
If not, and you found your way easily to your flaw list and like me, your awareness easily hovers more acutely over things you’re not as good at, read on.
First of all, don’t get me wrong, identifying your ‘weaknesses’ can be great –
You can realize/turn them into advantages! (best option, more on that another time for sure for sure)
You can work on improving on them! Ask for help! Learn new skills!
You can be aware of potential weak spots when assessing business approaches!
And it all seems fine and good, because it can seem more polite and self aware to acknowledge where you aren’t as strong. It can be a badge of humility and honesty.
But there is a difference to admitting things you don’t know much about or that you want to figure out and work on, and to using those ‘weaknesses’ to create a dialogue of I can’t and I’m not good at for an excuse to stand still.
Let me explain. I was going through a tough year with Nearly Newlywed. The velocity and newness of starting had well worn off. Shark Tank, Brides & our other big press hits were well in the rearview mirror. We had hit a lot of our initial milestones for sales and traffic but were beginning to level off rather than grow up, up, up like in the beginning. We were entering that incremental area where nothing was acutely wrong and nothing was going super right either.
In my experience that is the hardest kind of time. Critical moments and fires provide the necessity of response so you spring to action to fix them and put out the flames. Successes and big wins are obviously fun and thrilling and fill your sails. The hardest part is the flat. The middle. The indecision and uncertainty and questioning. The questioning of your business, the questioning of your resolve, the questioning of… you.
So, I was going through that for a good year or so in year four of my business and was saying to a fellow entrepreneur in the bridal space ‘well I’m not good at business modeling... well I’m not good at the financial stuff... well I’m not good at...’
She was listening for awhile and then said, ‘jac. stop saying you aren’t good at things. look at all you figured out how to do so far. what you started, what you built… you can either learn how to do those things or find someone to help you. but stop saying you just aren’t good at stuff or can’t do stuff. it’s not really true and it’s definitely not helpful’
I remember at first I bristled. She was being kind and honest and helpful, but it felt like criticism. Like, well hello, maybe I am not good at these things and just let me be not good at them. Then I paused, and I let it sink in.
And you know what. She was right. I was using this default responses of, ‘oh, well, I am not very good at that so….’ and putting myself down and my business down, and on and on. I was wallowing in my ‘oh i can’t do this’ spiral so that I didn’t have to face and execute and try to do these hard, new things. It didn’t feel good, but in a way, it was an uncomfortable comfort, comfortable in the familiarity, in the excuse shield that it afforded me. And it was causing me to just, stand still. Stuck. I was immobilized and stuck in a circular thought pattern of well I can’t, so I won’t, because I’m not, so I can’t, so I won’t, because I’m not.
And honestly, it was that simple and almost instantaneous moment that I was like, ‘huh, yea. wtf jackie why are you spending all of your time telling yourself the same story of can’t. When and how did that become the pervasive dialogue and how much time have I wasted telling this story to myself?’
And so I stopped it. Well mostly. And it Made. An. Actual. Difference. Immediately.
It still is.
Instead of defaulting to ‘well I’m not very good at…’ I got back to figuring out the way forward. Taking apart the problem. Or asking for help. Or learning something new.
So now it is one of my primary mantras. Something I have posted on my wall, that I remind friends of and that I repeat when I start to feel stuck or frustrated or unsure.
‘Stop Saying You Are Bad at Things’
So go back to your list if you are still reading along with me, I know, I get long-winded. Take a look at those weaknesses/flaws/negatives you compiled. And assess if and how they may be impeding you from moving forward not because they are actually impediments but because you are using them as reasons to not tackle or reshape the roadmap. At best they are actually strengths (more on this next time it’s been a recent game changer for me professionally and personally) and at worst they are areas you should ask for help or decide to unpack and work on yourself.
I know it isn’t the most groundbreaking advice. The most valuable advice I have collected and learned from over the years isn’t particularly novel really. The magic is in remembering it and practicing it and re-sharing it, any of it, on a regular basis. Until you believe it in your bones and change your narrative that is stopping you from moving forward. And I am passing it on in hopes that if you, or someone you know, is feeling a little stuck. Or a little scared. Or a little bit in their own way, you just stop it. Because you can. Change the script and get back to moving forward.