Have you ever found yourself in a perfect situation but afraid to take advantage of it? Have you ever passed an opportunity to talk to someone in a foreign language, out of fear that you would make a mistake? Do you ever downplay your studies or your skills out of fear that your reputation is better than your skill? If so, I've got the secret answer to cure your problems, erase your stress, and help you be better, happier, and more successful.
Perceptions are everything!
The demands of the modern world have us running around like rats, trying to squeeze out every last ounce of productivity from every moment of our day. We buy food from drive-thru windows so we can save the precious minutes we'd have wasted actually walking into the restaurants, which sell us fast food, because we don't even have time to sit down and eat!
We're using the latest buzz-words, and wearing the trendiest new clothes and sporting the most fashionable haircut, looking for that little bit of edge... some signal that will show people we really mean business.
It feels like we're all working overtime at jobs we hate, for bosses who don't value us, just so we can fill our lives with the new cars and the expensive clothes, and the big TVs and fancy computers that act as a signal of our success to other people.
And now you want to learn a new language! Maybe you tell people you want to learn it because it will make you better at your job, but you hate your job and really you don't really want to be better at it. Or maybe you have your eye on the foreigner who just moved in down the hall, and you want to impress them with by speaking in their language. Or maybe you just think knowing a foreign language would make you cool.
But where are you going to find time? You're already too busy working hard at your job, or studying at school, or keeping up other social obligations. And you really want to practice more, but you're afraid to make a mistake and look like an idiot in front of your friends, or that you'll embarrass yourself with the cute foreigner down the hall. Maybe you feel safer just letting people be impressed with your study, rather than letting them see you make a mistake and shattering that image you've been working so hard to build.
What's it all about?
All of this — this whole rat-race — it's all built up on the expectations of others. You're doing so much work to impress the people around you. You're demonstrating to everyone you meet that their opinion of you is more important than your own opinion of yourself!
You're showing your boss that his opinion is more valuable than yours by dressing to impress him, hoping to get noticed. You show your peers that their opinions are more important every time you use a really big word to try to impress them. You show your neighbors that their opinions are more important than your own when you buy a flashy car to park in the driveway. You're showing the girl/guy at the bar that their opinion is more worthy than yours when you talk about your job, or your salary, or your business trips, or your fancy car.
You may think that this is supposed to be impressive, but it's not. This message you're sending is all wrong! If you're showing people that they're more important than you, what do you think they're hearing? From their perspective, they're seeing someone go to great lengths to demonstrate a lack of value! Can you imagine that? All this time, and money, and energy, and effort, putting on a show of value, and all it does is demonstrate a lack of value!
There is a solution so revolutionary it will blow your mind
The answer to everything is so simple that you're going to think it can't possibly work. How could anything as simple as this possibly be the secret? And what's worse, it's so completely contrary to common sense, that you'll think it's crazy. But it's not crazy.
The secret is to stop thinking about everyone else and just think about yourself. Stop acting. Stop pretending. Stop worrying about the opinions of everyone else, and just do what makes you happy.
Now that doesn't mean you should quit taking showers and changing your clothes — if you did that, no one would want to be around you, and you'd be unemployed and alone.
But it's okay to put on clean, comfortable clothes and just go do your job. You don't have to have the latest, most fashionable, Italian leather shoes. You don't need this season's Armani fashions. You don't have to drive a BMW to get respect.
In fact, if the people who are around you expect you to do all those things, you should recognize that they do not value you, they only value the show you put on. You'd be happier to lose the show and find some better friends.
What does this have to do with languages?
So what exactly does this have to do with learning a language? Everything. The hardest part of learning a language is learning to be honest with yourself. If you can do that, language learning is easy. But if you're worried about appearances, you'll pass up the best opportunities.
When you're trying to impress someone with your language skill, you actually end up saying less, because you only say things you're confident about. And ironically, you end up failing twice: once because you're demonstrating a lack of value, and once by using those language skills in a very unimpressive way.
However, when you accept and admit that you're not the master you become free to make mistakes. There is no more pressure to be perfect. And without all that pressure, you not only become free to study less, but you will end up talking more and practicing more, and learning faster. You will also laugh more and have more fun.
And here's the best part: you will also demonstrate more value! When you're not worried about what others think, you show them that you have value. People will see your confidence — not the arrogant confidence of someone who is stuck-up, but the comfortable, amicable confidence of someone who is a lot of fun to be around!
Imagine that. No more stage-fright. No more self-consciousness. No more shyness or fear. Being imperfect is liberating. Being yourself is relaxing. Making mistakes can be fun. Being confident is attractive. And learning to value yourself makes your whole life better.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.