The Art of Being Really Bad at Something

Written by: Jessica Ortner

Oops-WomanSo many books and blogs are focused on how to be better at something, but fail to share an equally important skill – what I like to playfully call “The art of being really bad at something.”

You see, to truly master something we need to be okay with spending time NOT being a master at it.

This is where many of us get stuck. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, oftentimes unconsciously, that we don’t create the space necessary to grow. We also miss all the joy that comes from trying something new.

The Promise

Two years ago, on my birthday, I told my good friend that I wanted to become a better cook.

Sure, I could make simple dishes and feed myself, but cooking for a group of people was a different story. So the night of my birthday I promised my friend that before my following birthday, I would host a dinner party and cook for all my friends.

The year past quickly and I reluctantly scheduled the party the week before my birthday. The night of the dinner party I found myself standing in the grocery store feeling like the aisles were closing in on me. I felt completely overwhelmed. I walked home empty-handed, picked up the phone, and ordered delivery.

I made jokes about it with my friends, I talked about how busy I had been and how cooking was just not my thing.

The truth was that I broke my promise to my friend (and to myself) and I didn’t feel good about it. I wondered, “Why I am so reluctant to become a better cook?”

The Barrier

I realized that my biggest barrier was my own critical voice. I was scared of being bad at something. If I made one mistake, I would spiral into frustration and drain the learning experience of any joy.

I needed to learn the art of being bad at something!

That began by using Tapping to quiet my critical voice. I would catch my critical voice and simply tap for a few rounds as I stood in my kitchen.

Do you ever notice your critical voice when you make mistakes? Mine would say, “Ugh, you’re so stupid!” or “I can’t believe you just did that!”

I realized I was letting a mean girl rent a room in my head and it was time to kick her to the curb with Tapping.

I began by tapping while allowing that mean girl to vent. After a few rounds of tapping, I noticed that I could say those words without feeling any stress in my body. From that place, I was able to choose a better way of thinking, and actually learn something from my mistake that really helped me the next time around.

I bought a bunch of cookbooks and I began practicing my new art. And not just my new art of cooking, but more importantly, my new art of being really bad at something!

I was really good at being really bad at cooking! ☺

I burned food (and my fingers), I measured things incorrectly and even managed to catch a kitchen towel on fire.

And you know what? I loved every minute of it! By quieting my critical voice, letting go of the pressure to be perfect, and allowing myself to just be bad at something, I realized I was getting better every day!


Jess-dropping-foodIf you follow me on Facebook you know that I finally did host that dinner party and I had a great time. Was I perfect? Nope.

While enthusiastically telling a story, I managed to smack the mini apple crisp that was cooling on my counter, leading to its untimely death on my kitchen floor (picture to the right). My critical voice didn’t even show up and we all just busted into laughter!

Now I host a dinner party at least once a month.

Each time I have my friends together, I realize how grateful I am that I discovered the art of being bad at something because it gave me the opportunity to be good at it.

If I had let my own critical voice stop me I would have missed out on all these nights of having friends I love around my dining room table, enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal while creating memories that we’ll always cherish.

So I invite you to use Tapping to quiet your critical voice, and to go out and practice the art of being really bad at something!

I think I’m going to try pottery next!

How about you?

To help you get started, I’ve included a Tapping script for you to follow below.

Tapping Script to Quiet Your Critical Voice

(so you can enjoy being bad at something!)

To learn the Tapping points, go here.

Karate chop: Even though I’m really bad at this, I love and accept myself and I’m open to making this fun.

Karate chop: Even though I’m really bad at this, I love and accept myself and I’m open to making this fun.

Karate chop: Even though I’m really bad at this, I love and accept myself and I’m open to making this fun.


Eyebrow: I’m so bad at this!

Side of Eye: It’s so frustrating

Under Eye: I can’t believe I keep messing up

Under Nose: I’m so stupid

Under Mouth: It seems easy for everyone else

Collarbone: What’s wrong with me?

Under Arm: It’s safe to notice this critical voice

Top of Head: And to let it go


Eyebrow: This pressure I put on myself

Side of Eye: This fear of what others will say

Under Eye: This fear of my own critical voice

Under Nose: This pressure to be perfect

Under Mouth: It’s exhausting

Collarbone: Good never feels good enough

Under Arm: When this critical voice is in control

Top of Head: I’m ready to take my power back


Eyebrow: I can hear this critical voice

Side of Eye: And simply smile

Under Eye: Because it’s a silly little voice

Under Nose: I allow myself to listen to a new voice

Under Mouth: I’m exactly where I should be

Collarbone: I can enjoy this process

Under Arm: It’s fun to be bad at something

Top of Head: I enjoy the excitement of trying something new!


Eyebrow: There is power in laughter

Side of Eye: I laugh at my mistakes

Under Eye: I let go of any frustration

Under Nose: And hold on to the lessons

Under Mouth: I give myself permission to be bad at something

Collarbone: And to enjoy the process

Under Arm: I am patient and loving

Top of Head: I am free to just be me!

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59 Comments on this post

  1. Jean says:

    Thank you Jessica I am going bowling for the first time with my work colleagues thank you it’s just what I wanted I can’t thank you enough

  2. Ina says:

    I found this article in the exact right moment I need it! So perfect, so true and so pawerful! Thank you, Jessica! I am so grateful for all the work you are doing with your family! Thank you for being such an inspiration and for sharing very valuable tools for others!

  3. says:

    Love this! I was raised as a perfectionist – and I’ve been fighting my overly perfectionistic tendencies all my adult life. I will share this with my students – many of whom aren’t able to see the bigger picture – how oftentimes the process – the “doing” is just as important, or even more important than the result. Many, many thanks.

  4. Daphne says:

    Even several weeks after you wrote this article, it dwells in my mind! I don’t fear being bad at something, I am impatient with the time needed to improve. Still, your script, your sense of adventure and fun with learning, they stick with me. Thank you very much for this article, it makes my goals/hobbies, gardening and mountain dulcimer, a lot more fun. God Bless!

  5. Monika Grendel says:

    Thank you very much! Just reading helped me to feel joy and now I`ll tapp …

  6. Barbara Michalski says:

    After talking with two friends today how our addiction to perfection has robbed us of so much joy of life I found this script a God sent answer to the problem. I will forward this to them and we will do it when we meet next week. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  7. Hilda says:

    Coming from a place in which being bad at something seemed to be like the end of the world, it just feels so liberating to know, by discovering one’s true self, that even this can be an enjoyable journey. I am so ever thankful of this contribution… You have no idea, or you probably do, how much all that you share has so meaningfully been part of my own personal growth! <3

  8. PETER says:


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