doing things

Calling something easy doesn't make it easy

I see a lot of people (especially disabled people hate themselves for struggling with things that they think of as easy, often along these lines:

  • Person: I need to do this thing. 

  • Person: It’s not hard. This is so easy. Why don’t I just do it?

  • Person: I know I need to do the thing. It’s been weeks. What’s wrong with me? This isn’t hard. I need to just do it already.

If you’re having trouble doing something, the thing you’re struggling to do is not actually easy. There is no objective difficulty scale. Tasks aren’t inherently easy or difficult — it depends on the person and the situation. Different people find different things easy and hard. Sometimes you will struggle with things that other people find easy. That doesn’t mean you’re failing to do an easy thing. It means that for you, the task is hard.

Sometimes things that are hard at first become easier with practice, or become easier when you learn new skills. Sometimes things never get any easier. Sometimes solutions that work for people who can do the thing without much trouble will work for you too; sometimes you might need support that other people don’t need. 

Sometimes you might need to find an alternative to doing the thing. Sometimes the only solution is to have someone else help you do the thing or do the thing for you. It doesn’t matter if you think it ’should’ be hard or easy, if you’re having trouble doing something, that means the thing you’re trying to do is hard. (And sometimes, it might mean that the thing is impossible.)

Calling something easy does not make it easy, and you can’t make hard things easy by hating yourself. Hard things become much more possible when you accept that they are hard, stop trying to overcome the difficulty through sheer force of will, and seek out solutions that will work for you.

“Calling something easy does not make it easy” in a graffiti font on a brick wall background.

“Calling something easy does not make it easy” in a graffiti font on a brick wall background.

Open Letter to People Who Do Things

If you do things that others know about, you will attract a lot of criticism.

People will think you’re wrong a lot. Sometimes you will actually be wrong; sometimes you won’t be.

Sometimes people will be vicious. Sometimes people will try to hurt you as badly as they possibly can.

No matter how well you do things, there will be people who are disgusted by what you do and think you’re a terrible person.

No matter how politically neutral the thing you do is, people will attack it for political reasons. (Either a specific reason, or they’ll say it’s frivolous and that you should be fighting global warming or poverty or something instead.)

If you charge money for what you do, people will be outraged (including people who would never work for free.)

No matter how much you charge, people will angrily tell you that it’s too much.

Even if you work for free, people will be angry with you for addressing some things but not others. Or for not giving them what they want fast enough.

No matter how well you consider other sides, someone will angrily accuse you of censorship or refusing to listen.

And so on and so on. No matter what you do, there are people who will be angry and disgusted by it. There will be people who will hate you. There will be people who try to hurt you to make you stop. This happens to absolutely everyone who does things that a lot of other people know about. It is possible to live with that.

(Part of the way to live with that is by learning to keep perspective in the face of other people’s anger.)

A note about criticism - it’s important to be open to criticism, because sometimes you will be wrong. In order to be truly open to criticism, you have to get past the desire to appease everyone who is mad at you. If you try to please everyone, what ends up happening is that you end up deferring to whoever is the loudest and meanest. Listening to criticism in a good way means you have to be selective — and it also usually means disengaging from jerks.

You don’t have to be perfect to do things that matter. If only perfect people could do things, nothing would ever get done. Everyone who has every done anything has also been flawed in a serious way. Because that’s how people are.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t owe the world a heckler’s veto. There will always be people who don’t like you or your work. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. It doesn’t mean you have to engage with them. It just means that you’re being noticed, and that some people don’t like what they’re seeing.

tl;dr If you do things that people notice, some people who notice will be mean to you and try to convince you that you are terrible. That happens to everyone who does things. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible. It means you’re visible. Being open to criticism doesn’t mean giving the world a heckler’s veto. It’s ok to do things even if you’re imperfect and sometimes people are angry at you.

It’s ok to do things you suck at

If you give yourself permission to suck at things, you open up the possibility of learning new skills and becoming good at stuff you’re not naturally good at.

The only way to get good at most things is to start out doing them badly and gradually learn the skills needed to do them well.

You don’t have to know what you’re doing (beyond basic stuff like safety). You don’t have to be talented. You don’t have to be aesthetically pleasing. You can do things and flat out suck at them over and over and have that end up being a good thing.

If you try something new, and find that you suck at it at first, that doesn’t always mean you’re doing something wrong. Usually, it means that you’re doing something *hard*.

Being willing to do hard things is good. Being willing to suck at things until you get enough practice to do them well is how you get to be good at stuff.

You don’t have to know what you’re doing (beyond basic stuff like safety). You don’t have to be talented. You don’t have to be aesthetically pleasing. 

tl;dr It’s ok to do stuff you suck at. Sucking at something is often a necessary step in learning to do it well.