What is the one thing that holds people back more than anything else? What prevents people from doing the the things they really want, whether it's learning to dance well, or trying a new style of clothes, or learning a new language?

The answer is self-consciousness. More than anything else, I believe self-consciousness holds people back. Most people have fragile egos, propped up by some meticulously constructed self-image, and they would rather give up on something completely than be seen doing it poorly.

When you meet a Spanish-speaker, instead of trying to talk to him in Spanish, it's easier to speak in English because — heaven forbid — you don't want to be seen not speaking Spanish well. Right?

Well not only is this ridiculous pride preventing you from doing what you really want, but it's also wrong! Do you really think your friends, who don't speak French at all, are going to be able to tell whether you're speaking French well or poorly? No! They're all just going to be impressed by the fact that you're the only one they know who can do it!

Do you think my coworkers are critiquing my pronunciation when I greet them with a hearty buongiorno in the morning? Do you think my friends are taking note of my lack of vocabulary when I greet them in the evening with a cheerful Ciao, amici! Come voi siete? They're not.

I'll tell you what they're thinking: "Gosh, I wish I had the time/ patience/ talent/ ability to learn a language that fast." They're a tiny bit impressed with my persistence, but far more aware of themselves. They're not thinking about me... they're making excuses for themselves!

And that is the point. Most people don't really care about what you do. So get over it! They're not mocking your bad German pronunciation... they're sitting there making excuses for themselves for not learning along with you.

Quit being so self-conscious and start practicing.



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