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Wednesday Wellness - Brené Brown's FFT's

clare lopez wednesday wellness Feb 14, 2023

Firsts are f*cking hard.

A "first" is why I would much rather order my favorite item on the menu rather than trying a new dish. It’s why I always gravitate towards that favorite color in the clothing store, and avoid that strange color I’ve never worn before. It's why, if I’m not immediately good at something *cough* *cough* Ice Skating *cough *cough,* I tend to avoid doing it whenever possible.

Familiar feels comforting, safe and cozy. New just really sucks. And new is constantly happening. Anytime we set out to launch into something new in our careers or in our personal lives it feels really scary. It's vulnerable because we have no idea what we are doing, if it will work, or what even works for us as we step into this new territory. This might be when we signed with a new agent, or recently joined the union, or moved markets. Or as humans, it might be the first time we start work after having a baby, or the first time we buy a house, adopt a dog, or even go through a pandemic

Whether we want to or not, we are all going through a MAJOR first right here and now. We are entering into this space between virtual & in person work, between gatherings and vaccinations and masks and testing– all of it feels like a big wad of uncertainty. And as we start into our work in MOST and these Daily emails, all of us are entering into some uncharted territory. Learning how to navigate a new kind of self-tape set up– or learning a new camera - or navigating a different type of script or audition. Right now we are in the thicks of starting something new. But the good news is, we are in this together. We are not alone.

Over a year ago, I encountered one of my most beloved authors, Dr. Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us Podcast. In the early months of the pandemic, she bravely decided to undertake and unpack what she calls FFTs (or F*cking First Times).

‘’FFT stands for F*cking First Time…The first most powerful part of the strategy is naming the FFT when you’re in it, “Hey, what is going on right now? Why am I… Why do I feel out of control? Why do I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing? Why am I in a shame spiral? Why am I so confused?” I’m like, “Is this an FFT? I’m in an FFT.” So naming it is key to understanding it, because we’re meaning-making species. We’ve got to have the meaning and we have to have language as a handle. So first we identify that we’re in an FFT and we name it.”  Dr. Brené Brown - Unlocking Us Podcast 

I just totally flipped out. I think so much of our work as actors feels like we have to project so much confidence and excellence. And our culture tends to embrace a ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset which makes it feel like we’d be CRAZY to show up and admit when we don’t know what we are doing. But at least in the realm of our deeper learning, of a new class, a new skill, or a new path in our acting career, Brené empowers us to name what is happening. Right here and now as a FFT. And what a big relief that is. It’s something about even launching MOST that I found so courageous and vulnerable about Jordan’s work- he's named right from the gate: “Hey! This is new! Come try this out with us while we continue to build it” this is a FFT at Book From Tape - and it's such a great example of the kind of courage I need to inspire me to do the same. 

This is my FFT writing daily emails. This is my first time writing THIS much content to such a wide audience. And I am FFT’ing around balancing virtual and in-person commitments. I am FFT’ing around a new audition calendar and on-set Covid protocols. Nothing about this ‘new normal’ feels familiar - but I am just so deeply grateful and honored to know I am not alone in it. And I invite you to do the same: to name your FFT - whatever it might be for you.

I love Brené’s advice on how to move through an FFT in 3 steps: 

 “One, we can normalize it, ‘Oh, this is exactly how new is supposed to feel. This is uncomfortable because brave is uncomfortable. Two, we can put it in perspective, ‘This feeling is not permanent, and it doesn’t mean I suck at everything. It means I’m in the middle of an FFT around this one thing. Three, I can reality check my expectations, ‘This is going to suck for a while. I’m not going to crush this right away.’ ”  Dr. Brené Brown - Unlocking Us Podcast

To recap:
    1. We can normalize it
    2. We can put it into perspective.
    3. I can reality check my expectations.

As we get going, we will be talking through building new habits, and I think it's so crucial to allow space for what FFT’s can feel like as we move through them. For me, normalizing means I hope to actively acknowledge that I am exactly where I need to be. That as I attempt a new skill, or process, or tier of work –  I don't have to rush to the result, and to the ‘product’ of an actor/person who’s been doing this for years. 

I think back to my first self-tape EVER (in circa 2008). And WOOF. My face blushes just *thinking* about it. But I had to go through that first self-tape and a few years after before I really got the hang of it. And everything that I am, and have built in my self-tape set up and technique is a product of the freedom to step into that FFT. 

As a clinical catastrophizer - I think in the past, I’ve had the habit of thinking any hardship or struggle of difficulty would be unending. And I think, it's also been a trend, that I would assume I was the *only* one suffering though something - as if no one could ever know the hardship I’d be in. And this is why that ‘put it in perspective’ piece is SO powerful. The reality is, that nothing that happens to us is permanent. Nothing that we undergo will be forever. My new go-to reality check statement is this “Will I care about this problem 5 years from now? A year from now? In a month? Next week? Tomorrow?” Because 9 times out of 10, the thing that is stressing me out and causing me anxiety – is actually a really really temporary situation. 

And finally, I love being granted permission to “Reality check expectations”. I think so much of the limits I’ve faced have been self-imposed. That perfectionism beast is real. And I think by setting the expectation that I have to be flawless at everything right from the gate, has always been an unrealistic, and untenable task.  By reality checking an expectation, I have permission to let myself fail. I get to say “I don’t have to be good at this right now” and that's the standard I get to meet while I get the hang of things. It frees me up to let go of any need to self-flagellate each time I struggle, and offers me the energy to hang in there while I watch myself stumble and try again. 

None of us would watch a 5-year-old ride a bike for the first time, watch them lose their balance, and then say “Oh my god, you suck at this! Why do you even bother? What an idiot you are.” We would NEVER even think such a thing. But for some reason, we do this to ourselves, day in and day out, when we haven’t taken the time to reality check our expectations around where we are and what we are capable of. 

So what if, instead, we speak to ourselves like that 5-year-old and say “So this might take some time to get the hang of... but I will be right here if you fall. And we can try again tomorrow”. 

Imagine what kind of FFT that might feel like?


  • Name 3 FFT’s you are in right now.
  • Walk yourself through the same 3 steps: Normalize it, Put it In Perspective, and Reality Check your Expectations.


Warmth & light to you!

- Clare 

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