Humans are social animals. One of the most universal fears among members of our species is looking dumb and incompetent in front of the other monkeys in the troop.
In technological western cultures, it manifests itself in dreams where one goes to work or school and inexplicably finds one's self naked when expected to present a paper or lecture. It's an apprehension about, not just being unprepared, but being unprepared before the group.
This is what prevented me from getting any real firearms schoolin' for many years. I mean, it was one thing to go to a basic safety or preparedness lecture with a half-dozen folks or so, and then maybe fire off a couple rounds while someone made sure I didn't have my thumb behind the slide and kept the gun pointing the right way, but a gun school where I might have to shoot at small targets? Or ones further away? What if I missed?
And so, beyond a few basic classes of the "Step 1: Remove price tag from gun..." variety, I never had any formal gun schooling until that Todd Jarrett class at Blackwater from ParaUSA basically pushed me into the pool. Where I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I didn't drown and, even if I sometimes did miss stuff, it wasn't the end of the world and I learned a lot. And it was... *gasp* ...fun!
Now I have no problem (or at least a much more manageable problem) with showing up at a class with a dozen strangers in polo shirts and khaki pants, most of whom can probably shoot better than me. I'm not there to impress them with my mad skills; I'm there to learn something. If I knew everything, I wouldn't need to be there in the first place, would I?
All these old feelings were stirred up by a recent post by my friend Kathy, who really framed this issue well by comparing it to swimming lessons. Brilliant analogy.
*I think the same thing can keep people from shooting in competition. A
lot of local club-level stuff is very fun and casual and laid back, but
you're probably going to miss the target some, right there in front of
God and everybody. Unless you're some prodigy, it's unlikely you're
going to show up and be winning the game from day one, but if you don't
give yourself permission to risk losing, you can never get better. It's
kinda zen that way.