We’ve all been there—wanting to learn a skill, starting it, and having the feeling that you’re way behind everyone else. This feeling brings thoughts of giving up in the face of seemingly unreachable goals.

I know this feeling all too well. I’ve had it many times, from starting to race mountain bikes late in my high school career to transferring schools, joining choir, and currently trying rock climbing.

It can be scary and intimidating, especially when physical risk is involved. However, jumping headfirst into an activity can be rewarding and help you find a community of people you really connect with. I know it did with me. So here are some tips to help you overcome the dreaded learning curve and become comfortable doing the activities you care about.

Embrace the uncertainty and the possibility.

Hannah Bernier

Change your perspective on the uncertainty of your future in the activity. Instead of seeing the unpredictability of the situation as scary, focus on the possibilities ahead of you, and acknowledge that there are opportunities past your current view.

Racing mountain bikes was foreign to me, and I still remember the sharp fear that I wouldn't finish my first race. But I also remember the excitement I felt as the crowd counted down from 10, knowing that in the next few seconds I would have a completely new experience. 

Don’t be afraid to mess up.

Hannah Bernier

I know this is a textbook piece of advice, but it's true. Focusing on what you learned from that experience and how it will change your attitude moving forward will help you begin to see setbacks as stepping stones instead of failures. 

I crashed a lot in my first few months biking, and I have the scars to prove it. Though these setbacks were particularly painful ones, I tried to identify what I did wrong and try not to repeat those mistakes. 

Remind yourself that even the best of the best were once beginners.

Everyone has to start at the beginning. No seasoned professional started at the place they are now. Realize that those around you with more experience understand your position, as they were once exactly where you are now. 

On my team, we have riders everywhere on the spectrum of experience. Some riders' parents raised them in biking culture, while others are completely new to the sport. Having a wide variety of talents shows an activity's dynamic and welcoming nature.

Focus on small improvements. 

Hannah Bernier

Small milestones can have a big impact, and help you move forward mentally. Keep track of your achievements and look back on them when you’re feeling insecure.

I started chronicling my mountain bike rides in a journal, writing down what I accomplished after each ride. Looking back on those entries, I'm amazed at the number of miles I've put into the sport.

Make connections with those around you.

Hannah Bernier

Creating relationships with like-minded people can bring you extra joy and motivation for an activity. The friends I have made through mountain biking support me and push me forward, making each ride fulfilling.

Know your limits, but allow them to be pushed once in a while.

Hannah Bernier

Especially in difficult physical activities like cycling or rock climbing, setting personal boundaries is key to being safe while participating. However, allow yourself to be scared every so often, and trust in the advice of those who have experience.

When I started mountain biking, I did end up walking some difficult sections, but with the encouragement of my coaches I attempted some seemingly impossible climbs and descents. Though I don't find success every time, I am often surprised when coaches know I can clear something, even when I don't know it. 

Let the culture of the activity carry you forward.

Hannah Bernier

The culture surrounding an activity is almost as important as the activity itself. While I enjoyed playing many other sports as a kid, once I found mountain biking I easily connected with fellow riders, and became immersed in the friendly and supportive community. 

Find role models that can give you advice and inspiration.

Role models can be professionals, coaches, and even friends. From reading blogs about your activity to asking for advice from a friend, they can give you the tools you need to grow and succeed. 

When I was a new rider and racer, I constantly asked my coaches and friends for advice, and even now I'm not afraid to ask for help. Mountain biking is a sport where everyone is continuously learning and sharing knowledge with others. 

Get intense. But also enjoy the ride.

Hannah Bernier

Overcoming the learning curve takes time and commitment. Skill doesn't come from one trial, it develops with repeated tries and experience, with successes and failures. Some rides or races will be empowering, and some will feel entirely wrong.

For an activity that's right for you, each step in the journey will be worth it. Sticking with cycling was one of the best decisions I ever made. Going through my beginning stages of the sport was undoubtedly awkward and uncomfortable. Once I was able to find my groove, I never felt more at ease in my life. Mountain biking has given me an appreciation for nature, taught me that I'm tougher than I imagined, and allowed me to make some of my closest friends. 

So stick with it. Find people you care about. Be determined and leap over that learning curve and into the uncertain but exciting future ahead. There's nothing to lose.