How to Identify & Navigate What Brené Brown Calls “Terrible First Times”


I don’t know about you, but this last year was a year of firsts for me.  Some allowed me to stretch and grow and as I came out of the other side of the newness I was able to realize that they were positive firsts. Others shook my foundation, they were hard, making me question everything I knew and left me wondering if I would ever find a sense of normalcy again. As everything about my job and how I do my work was changing and feeling very uncertain, and I knew I was in the midst of one of those foundation altering firsts, I listened to the inaugural episode of Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast and learned about Terrible First Times or TFTs.  

What are “Terrible First Times”?

Terrible First Times are those moments when we are on the edge of something new, when it may seem like turning back to what is comfortable is the better choice because the awkwardness of learning something new is not worth the pain.  Brené teaches us that if we embrace the suck, or drive head on through the TFT’s that often something so much better is on the other side.  The challenge this year has been that those TFT’s have been thrust upon us.  They just kept coming one after another, sometimes more than one all at the same time, and often without us actually knowing we were in the midst of a TFT.  

How to Identify & Neutralize TFTs

Here is the thing about terrible first times, they have a lot of power, they can completely change your perspective on life and the world around you, until you take that power back.  Lucky for us, taking the power back isn’t as hard as it may seem. Brown teaches us that taking the power back from TFT simply starts by naming it. Once we know we are in the middle of a TFT we can normalize it, put it in perspective, and reality check expectations. 

Think about it, we, as moms, do this every day with our children and don’t even realize it. We stand alongside them as they have new experiences, telling them that they are nervous about trying that new sport or joining a new club because it is something they have never tried before (name it), but that they will catch on and it may seem hard, but that is how they learn and it won’t be new forever (put it in perspective), and reassuring them that everyone is going to mess up now and then, but that they will get it and soon enough they will find their rhythm (reality check expectations). 

For those that are navigating grieving the loss of a loved one without being surrounded by your family and friends, or you are struggling with how to celebrate a beloved holiday without any of the traditions you hold dear, or the landscape of your work and how you do it has completely changed give yourself some grace and realize that you are in the middle of a terrible first time. 

It is going to be hard, uncomfortable and painful, but that it won’t last forever, you will find your rhythm and eventually it will be a little less terrible because it will no longer be a first time.

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Samantha Jacob
Samantha is a Kansas girl through and through. Born and raised in a rural community near Topeka, KS, she moved to Wichita in 2002 to attend WSU. Obtaining her graduate degree from the Wichita State School of Social Work, she loves her job as a pediatric medical social worker. Samantha calls East Wichita home with her husband, two beautiful children, and dog. Having lived in Wichita for over a decade she has enjoyed rediscovering Wichita through the eyes of her children. When time allows Samantha enjoys spending time with friends, trying new restaurants, and re-watching episodes of the West Wing.


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