Have you started and stopped so many interests and hobbies over the years that you can no longer keep track? When we walk away from things repeatedly due to lack of interest or because we get anxious when things begin to get challenging, this can contribute to a feeling of failure.
While it's natural to eventually give up interests when they are no longer interesting, if we can push ourselves when interests simply become challenging, we can achieve a sense of gratification by practicing a DBT skill called "Build Mastery."
This skill involves engaging in activities that make us feel competent and effective so that we don't feed into feeling helpless and hopeless. We transform our situation from feeling like a victim to feeling victorious.
I'll give you an example. Over the years, I've really wanted to learn Spanish. I tried a variety of methods, including CDs and a class at a community college. Whenever it got "too hard" I'd get anxious and emotionally dysregulated, and instead of sticking with it anyway, it became "all or nothing" for me. I'd just quit and come up with lots of different reasons to justify my decision so I wouldn't feel badly. The thing is, I did feel badly that I didn't follow through.
Recently I started the Rosetta Stone online program, and I've been sticking with it! There are some days when I feel so lost on the lessons. I might engage with a coach or another learner and feel quite inferior when I realize that I'm not as advanced as they are. I've been tempted many times to quit and have come up with reasons to justify it. But, despite this, I've continued on with my studies.
I may have taken a break for a day, but then I've gotten right back on it. The emotional payoff of following through, not giving up, and building mastery, has re-affimed for me that:
- We can still follow through even when we "don't feel like it," and doing so will feel great!
- Choosing to practice the Build Mastery skill allows us to enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
You can practice this skill today by picking an activity to accomplish. It should be something that is challenging but still possible. Go into it with the attitude that you will follow through and succeed. Try not to set the bar too high, but if you find you have, try doing something not quite as challenging to start, and each time you practice, allow yourself to do increasingly difficult tasks.
Building Mastery falls under the Emotion Regulation skill set in DBT. Can you see how practicing this skill could help you to regulate your emotions? What can you do to Build Mastery today?
Thanks for reading.