Most people need a challenge of some sort to stay interested. That’s why people in boring, dead-end jobs get frustrated and restless, and why people in stale relationships start to wonder what else is out there. We’re humans and we like to push ourselves to explore new things. That’s one of the best things about being a human, really. There are a few misconceptions about how the whole “pushing yourself’ thing actually works, however. Not all challenges are created equal, and not all challenges are worth your time and energy.

Myth #1: Pain means you’re doing something right

First of all, it’s important to qualify the difference between “pain” and “ discomfort.” If you’re exercising and feel like you don’t like this and you wish you could stop, that means you’re uncomfortable. But if your legs hurt, your chest burns, and you’re dizzy, that means you’re in pain and you have to stop. There are plenty of athletic apparel commercials based around the idea that “pain is weakness leaving the body.” That’s a gross oversimplification. If you want to run a marathon, that’s great, but don’t go too hard, too fast or else you’ll end up in the hospital with a torn ACL. You have to move at a pace that makes sense for you both physically and emotionally. Rather than starting with a marathon, sign up for a 5k race first. You can move on to bigger and better things once you clear that first hurdle. If you want to be a surf champion, you have to figure out how to stand up on a surfboard before you can start signing up for Advanced Surf Lessons.

In short, listen to your gut. If you feel like you’re in over your head, take a step back and really look at why you feel that way. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect immediately. Most of us need a few (dozen) chances to really get things right. If you decide that it’s time to take more chances when it comes to love, do that in a way that doesn’t feel inauthentic. Marrying someone after knowing him or her for six months is going to feel like too much too soon for most people. Don’t fall into the trap.

Myth #2: You’re too old or it’s too late

Fear of missing out is a very real thing, and it’s easier for that feeling to intensify with age. We think that life has passed us by and now we’re just stuck. We look at people around us and think, “Everyone else is so far ahead of me and I don’t know why I bother.” Here’s the thing, though: It doesn’t matter if you have friends who got married at 25 and had two kids before they were 30. That doesn’t mean you can’t get married and have kids when you’re older. Similarly, there are a lot of people in their late teens and early twenties in college, but you can still go back and get your degree after that. Not being able to afford braces as a teen doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of crooked teeth. Stop making excuses and start making an appointment with an orthodontist to talk about Invisalign and other options for adults looking to improve their teeth. We can feel trapped by circumstances, but oftentimes, the only person trapping us is ourselves.