When You Just Can't Get Better?

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When You Just Can't Get Better?

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:22 pm

I'm coming up on the end of my schooling, and slowly having to face a very uncomfortable and sad truth: I really, really like programming, but I am just absolute junk at it.

Yet again, I had to repeatedly ask the professor for assistance on basic homework questions that everyone else seemed to be getting without issue. She had to explain the solution several times in very simplistic terms before I even vaguely understood what she meant. I had to email her multiple times last week for assistance in solving the problems with my code, even after spending hours trying to research it online. And let's not even discuss how unpopular I am on Stack Overflow; there is routinely at least one comment pointing out how terrible my code is, and don't I understand <this really basic concept>?

I try. I try so hard and I spend hours and hours trying to understand and get better. Java is my fourth language (SQL, C#, Objective C) and yet I still seem unable to grasp some pretty basic concepts.

I seem to run into this problem with everything I try. I try so hard and yet hit an early plateau that I can never seem to overcome. Sewing, writing, programming, martial arts, weight lifting, belly dancing.... pretty much anything I've put significant amount of work and time and research into, and I still can't seem to achieve anything but base mediocrity.

My mother says that that's just life when you're an average, untalented person. ("You should be glad you aren't exceptional-the more gifts God gives you, the more He expects of you! By being average, you don't have as much pressure to achieve.") Yet I still feel pressure to get better, to do better. You're not supposed to be an unexceptional person. You're supposed to be good at something, anything! It seems like everyone around me is smart, with advanced degrees and impressive jobs and sparking personalities and interesting hobbies they're fantastic at. I try so hard, and yet it seems I can just never get there.

So what are you supposed to do when you're Salieri? That no matter how hard you try and work, you're never going to be Mozart? How do you accept that when so much of our society is built around the idea of the Exceptional Individual? How do you accept liking stuff that you are never going to be good at?
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Re: When You Just Can't Get Better?

Post by Enail on Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:54 pm

Hmmm, for me, there are some things that I can struggle to improve at half the pace other people do for twice the amount of work, and still enjoy it, and there are others that just make me completely miserable. My general enjoyment of stuff improved vastly when I learned to recognize the latter things and decided to not do them anymore. Dance classes make me frustrated, confused and hopeless as a human being, so I'm no longer allowed to take random dance classes, however different and cool whatever new style of dance seems and however slow they promise the pace of instruction is. No more "but this one will be different!"

I find comparison is a big part of it. I'm more likely to enjoy my struggle to achieve mediocrity if all I'm looking at is how high that is above where I am now, if the scale of my comparison is geared to me so that my improvements are noticeable. Solo practice, self-directed learning, one-on-one lessons or single-shot workshops rather than longer courses where you can see your classmates' arcs of improvement and compare them to yours.  When taking up an activity I suck at, I'll lean towards things where that's a decent way to learn rather than ones that mostly need practice with other people. And not spending too much time looking at and comparing myself to other people, the same way one might try not to look in the mirror too often if you're prone to obsessing about appearance insecurities. Sometimes, of course, you want to look at what other people are doing for inspiration or to see what to work on improving and so forth, but I try to keep that at a minimum for stuff I suck at.

It also really helps to give myself a break on improvement from time to time and just play with the easiest stuff for a little while without worrying about challenging my skills or doing something good. Improvement can be satisfying (however small), but just having fun is really important too, and especially when it's something where improvements are tiny and hard-won.
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Re: When You Just Can't Get Better?

Post by Hae on Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:59 pm

Like enail said, I also think that comparison is a big part of it.
Compared to the years I've spent on playing the piano (at an early age), and the months I've spent practicing songs daily.. Now that I think about it, I'm surprised how much time and effort I've invested into it. In terms of improvement, I do suck. I wasn't trying to learn to perform for others however, so I do see where your frustration comes from.

As for your non-school related hobbies where your grade isn't on the line, I envy your ambition to strive to make the best of your abilities.
I do have some hobbies that I've given up on because I can't seem to get anywhere with them. You're not alone. I can even name a number of hobbies that my friends have given up on because they lacked ability. I give myself a reasonable deadline- I will water my plants, check for bugs, and just maintain diligently, and if they still die, I'm clearing the veranda. I need to see it though til the end to give myself closure, and when I can't, I'll keep coming back to it. Sometimes I'll surprise myself when i'm better at it than I remembered.

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