Doubt is often accompanied by fear, hesitation and worry. Have you ever noticed that? Has it been your experience?
Doubting yourself, whether you can do something or be something, can trigger feelings of fear. The fear of failure, of not being good enough, of being criticized, of looking foolish. When we succumb to fear we hesitate. Then as if on cue, worry sets in. The worry that we should, what if we don’t and what if we can’t. One negative feeling leads to the next until we are wrapped up in a cycle of doubt, fear, hesitation and worry.
In my experience, doubt is debilitating. As a woman, I know it well. I spent too much time in my career trying to be overcome doubt. It was not that I wasn’t good at my job. I was, and I thoroughly enjoyed my work. Doubt arose from comparing myself to others, especially men, who seemed to graduate through positions with more ease than me.
There was a time when career women dressed like men, wearing suits (with pants) to fit into the professional context of success. I hated those suits. I did not feel good in them. And I never wanted to look like a man anyway. Yet, the worry was that if I did not look the part I could not be the part.
There were occasions in the boardroom when I doubted my voice. I had something to say but sat there mulling over the validity of my comments, worrying that I would appear ridiculous. I hesitated and lost the opportunity to share my input. As I matured and cultivated expertise and wisdom my self-doubt diminished, and my voice grew strong.
I look at the current “me too” movement knowing how difficult it has been to get here. Women have spent their lives doubting that they would be believed or heard or vindicated. They have lived in fear of what could be, and was, done to them. Men too, of course, but by far it is women who have born inequitable, unfair treatment. How tragic it is to fear sexual assault and then after an assault to fear rejection, blame and disbelief.
So much of life is about what you can’t do, what you should do and what you must do. We hear it from the time we are little children. We grow up fenced in by rules and requirements. We are educated in an environment that fosters pass and fail, win and lose, good and bad. We judge ourselves against others because that is what is enforced through examinations, grades, competitions and clubs. You see yourself compared to others, making a perfect environment for doubt.
As I consider doubt, I conversely consider certainty. If doubt is inextricably linked to fear, hesitation and worry, certainty is inextricably linked to fearlessness, action and confidence. One positive feeling leads to the next, building on one another. These opposites demonstrate a choice and while we may not always believe we have a choice about how we feel, we do.
A friend of mine once told me, “the only thing that can stand in your way, is you.” I remember those words because at the time I was making substantial life changes and they hit a chord. The future was mine to make, or break. I was looking for the courage to write a different story for myself and I did not want that story to be limited by self-doubt. I had to be certain that I could make change happen. Once I was certain, I went forward with bold, fearless and confident actions that rewrote my reality.
Not every day is a perfect setting for positive, can-do, take-on-the-world, can’t-stop-me, fearless living. Crap happens. People leave when they tell you they will stay. Job interviews fail. Age shows up on your face. In the middle of crap, it is easy to doubt your worth. Go there and feel it but don’t stay for long. My revised story came with its share of failures and disappointments. But I learned to accept that while crap happens it will not define me. Endings and changes make way for the beautiful and desired.
I am convinced that if we tell ourselves good things, good things happen. What we think about, comes about. I have said it before and I say it again, my husband is the actualization of me believing and envisioning that love would arrive one day. Everything up to him was dress rehearsal for the real event.
Being certain can require unconditional faith. I can’t always see how I am going to get somewhere or achieve my goals, but I go forward with unwavering certitude. I may wake in the middle of the night, riddled with doubt but come morning I resolve to let it go. When I am questioned on my sanity for giving up my career to write full time, I respond that it was in fact for my sanity that I left to follow my passion. What good would it be to come to the end of my days wishing I had been brave enough to find out where writing could have led.
I urge you to keep doubt in check – along with fear, hesitation and the big bad, ugly “worry.” Give yourself over to generous boosts of certainty. Believe you can and you will. Practice being positive until being positive is your practice.