When everyone is a newbie

Recently, two active social media people I admire, a well-established travel blogger and a travel Instagrammer, engaged in a comment and exchange on Facebook that left me…disappointed. One condescendingly commented on how so many people decided to become bloggers or Instagrammers while in a lockdown, to which the other dismissively noted that most would quit very quickly once they realize it takes a lot of work.  

One can clearly read the air of superiority and mockery in their exchange. 

These comments rubbed me the wrong way.  I was bothered by the exchange for two reasons. 

First, in this difficult time, people are coping as best they can. Some have lost their jobs, their incomes, businesses, or worst of all, the lives of someone they knew or loved. Even if they are one of the rare lucky ones who hasn’t experienced any of these losses, at the minimum, the world they once knew and were familiar with is gone.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the change is, everyone’s life has changed. And that is unsettling. If people choose to cope by writing about it on new blogs or Instagram accounts, why should anyone discourage or look down on it? 

Second, the dismissive comments came from people I admire. Both are well-established in their fields with a lot of followers.

Whether they realize it or not,  their words have an impact. Just because someone has been blogging longer doesn’t make him/her superior to others who are newbies.

Their comments reflected an arrogant looking-down on people with less blog and Instagram knowledge and experience, a position these two once had. The comments were gratuitous and uncalled for. 

In a time like this, what we all need is more compassion and support for ourselves and for others. 

So what if everyone decides to become a blogger/Instagrammer? What is the harm if we have many more new blogs and Instagram accounts, even if some are not well expressed or temporary? There is not limited space on the web, and in fact I think we will all be better for it. In the pandemic situation where most of us are forced to stay home – why not encourage people to explore something new – whether it be blogging or baking or drawing or woodworking or taking a new course – anything that interests them.  

We are all newbies in dealing with a situation of this size and scope.

People are dealing with lockdown differently. Some binge on Netflix while some seize the opportunity to pursue goals that were put off or even long-forgotten but rediscovered. Some start a new hobby or take an online course. There is no right or wrong way to use this time. 

Few will end up “experts” or publicly noted for their new pastime. People are baking so much bread, there is a yeast and flour shortage.  Some of these dabblers may discover a new life-long passion, a few might become professionals, yet most will not become a master baker, open a bakery, or be any kind of threat to established professional bakers. 

Most of them will find a moment’s distraction and respite from the unprecedented world-wide anxiety of the situation while gaining a needed sense of control and accomplishment. 

I always admire people who decide to take up something new. Achieving a goal in an unsettling time like this can benefit one’s psychological well-being, according to  Dr. Vaile Wright, director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association. As Dr. Wright says,  “Gaining a sense of mastery over something does have the ability to restore a sense of control, and that’s important right now.” 

For many people, myself included, getting started is the hardest part. Even a routine that is familiar to me, like daily exercise or my daily Duolingo, is always most daunting right before I start it.  Once I begin something I have been putting off (like writing this article!), however, I am always glad that I did it.  

Inertia, self-doubt, and negative self-talk are greatest just before starting something new, which makes it much more difficult to begin. I am going through negative self-talk right now with my guitar – “I can’t do it, I don’t have a talent for it. I will never be good at it. What is the point?” The last thing those negative voices need is reinforcement from outside parties, and worst of all from established people. 

Jim and I have been blogging for about two years now. We don’t claim to be professional bloggers, especially as we don’t earn money from it. It was something new for me to do after I left my financial career. The experience of building a blog was fun, challenging, and frustrating at the same time.

I can honestly say there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than when one takes on something new and succeeds. 

Often, the persistence, hope, and work of accomplishing something difficult translate to other aspects of your life – if I could build a blog from scratch, I can do X. It is the benefit of learning how to learn which boosts my confidence to do other things…like play guitar or take up drawing. I don’t do it because I want to have my own guitar concert or my own art exhibition but because it gives me a sense of calm, peaceful and meditative benefits gained from doing deep work. 

These psychological benefits are not something new. According to Cal Newport, an author of one of my favorite books – Deep Work – “There’s something incredibly valuable in the deeply frustrating yet rewarding pursuit of mastering something hard.” 

For anyone who manages to get past the initial fear and blocks out negative talk, either from yourself or others,  and tries something new – blogging, cooking a new recipe, baking bread, taking a new online course, gardening, learning music, etc., I applaud you. It doesn’t matter what the motive or the end goal is, or what in the long run will happen.  

What matters is just doing it. 

8 thoughts on “When everyone is a newbie”

  1. Muy bonitas reflexiones Jiab, me ha gustado mucho leerte.
    Yo me he atrevido a pintar un armario y a hacer nuevas manualidades con Martín y en todos los casos ha sido satisfactorio y enriquecedor.
    Saludos de tu vecina de en frente (María, mamá de Martín).

    • María,
      gracias y me alegro de que la pintar un armario y el tiempo con Martin satisfactorio y enriquecedor. Saludos de tu vecina de entrante.

  2. Well, thank you for supporting the newbies. I started my blog about 3 months ago, right when it turned into a pandemic. Ironically, it had nothing to do with being home more. It took me a while to build up the nerve to write for the interweb but I’m glad I did because I’m still enjoying it! It makes me sad to hear experts looking down on newbies like me. We have so much to offer, were so excited and happy about everything! Oh well, haters gonna hate. Thank you for having our collective back.

    • Your blog looks very nice! I am glad that you did it. Most importantly, you have accomplished something. I love what you said on your blog “Let’s journey to a place where we live intentionally, save frequently, and explore profusely. Will you join me?” Yes, we will join you.

    • It is true in most things, isn’t it? Once I get passed the first ten minutes of any tasks (exercise, reading, writing,..etc), then it is much easier.

  3. Jiab, are you spying in my head? The excerpts below describe exactly where I am!! Thank you for these reminders. Thank you for the gentle prodding. Thank you for the reminder of the inner strength that follow- through can bring. And thank you for reminding readers to be uplifting to others. Wish I could have spent more time with you in Granada. You are a breath of fresh air! Linda

    “For many people, myself included, getting started is the hardest part…Inertia, self-doubt, and negative self-talk are greatest just before starting something new, which makes it much more difficult to begin…I can honestly say there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than when one takes on something new and succeeds.”

    • Linda,
      You’re welcome. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you get through your negative self-talk and self-doubt. When we get back to Dallas or when you come back to Granada, we can definitely have more coffee time.


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