Fear of trying new things

I heard on the radio recently that a significant number of New Zealand 12-year-olds refrain from an activity they would like to do, out of fear that they won’t be good at it. That’s sad, not just because kids are missing out on something they might enjoy, but also because avoiding things you’re nervous about is likely to make you even more fragile.

I would encourage everyone to make a point of tackling at least one activity that you know you won’t be good at (preferably something that doesn’t feel too important to you). Treat the experience as an experiment, knowing that your whole identity doesn’t depend on your performance. This frees you to practise the important life skills of dealing with failure, learning from others, accepting help, laughing off minor indignities and developing a growth mindset.

Having said that, I traced the source of the news story and found that the situation is nowhere near as dire as reported. 97% of 12-year-olds engage in extra-curricular activities and most find time to help with household chores and do their homework as well. New Zealand children engage in a range of interests including sports, reading and art. The number of children surveyed who didn’t try something for fear of not being good at it numbered a mere 238 out of 4,500 children – less than 1 in 200. Twice as many gave ‘not having enough time’ as their main reason for not trying something.

In fact, there was so much that was positive in the report that the radio journalists must have deliberately gone looking for something negative. Might they be afraid to try reporting good news for a change?

Stephanie Hills ©

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