I was walking in my local neighbourhood of Shoreditch, East London recently when I came across this piece of street art.
‘Be Bad Until You’re Good’
Something stirred within me as a read it.
Whether it was the meaning that the artist intended, I don’t know, but for me it seemed so pertinent.
It mentally transported me back to school, where we’re often told to be ‘good little girls and boys’; where high attainment is celebrated and doing badly is at best ignored, and at worst disciplined, whether it’s in sports class, art class, or reading aloud in front of the class.
A particularly un-inspiring game my Year 5 teacher used to have us play was intended to help us to learn the times-tables.
Every time you got a question right, you took a step up, on to your chair, or the table, while a wrong answer meant you took a step down, first on to your knees, then squatting, and then finally, for the really numerically challenged, lying down flat on the dirty floor, amongst the dust, hair balls and pencil sharpenings.
Needless to say, Maths was never my strong point and I spent the entirety of the game lying on the cold floor, shamefaced and alone.
For you, maybe it was the embarrassment of getting picked last for team sports that meant you got your Mum to write you a sick note. Maybe you had a competitive school environment where boys and girls vied to be the prettiest, the smartest or the one with the most expensive trainers. Or perhaps it was a fumbled performance in the school play, leading to a strong sense that to be ‘bad’ at stuff, was bad, baaaad news.
I see this loads in my clients and I know I’ve done this myself in the past. I’ve held myself back, declined opportunities or stopped myself from trying new things because, hey, if I can’t be awesome at it beyond words, what’s the point?!?
Often we tell ourselves ‘at least if I don’t try, then no one will ever have to know that I’m no-good’.
So, what I’m calling for is for us to start to reclaim ‘bad’ – to really own it and embrace wherever we are as we journey through this life of experience, growth and learning.
I’ve realised, that being bad at stuff is a vital step toward getting better and is actually an amazing place to be, full of potential for getting better and making progress. The fact is, when we practise stuff, we get better. Read about my experience with snowboarding here.
Often in movies we’ll see the main character going on a journey of self discovery, making mistakes, making progress AND having fun and adventures along the way.
Often if I’m trying something new, and I’m a bit rubbish at it at first, I imagine myself as the character in a movie in some kind of training montage, basically sucking at first, but gradually getting a bit better as the movie progresses.
By seeing being ‘bad’ in a more light-hearted way, being kinder to ourselves about it and knowing that it’s just a first step and that everyone starts somewhere, we can start to embrace ourselves at whatever level we’re at and have the courage to move forwards anyway.
So, I invite you; Be Bad, Until You’re Good.
Are you holding yourself back from something for fear of being bad at it? I’d love to know in the comments PLUS let us all know what one small step could be to get better at it. Your story could inspire someone else so please do share it.
The street art was by the wonderful Lakwena (picture used with permission) and you can find out more about her here.