Lately I’ve been thinking about self-doubt and the role it’s played in my own life.
There’ve been many times over the years when I’ve been sure I’ve been taken hostage by an alternate version of myself. One that’s racked with self-doubt. One who literally drives herself crazy with, ‘Should I or shouldn’t it? Is this right for me or is this wrong for me?’
Over the years I’ve come to realise that the reason I’m so good at self-doubt ? is that I’m very good at seeing both sides of an argument. I’m also good at debate. It’s a quality that was in fact, hugely helpful in the legal profession.
It can also be helpful in business. Here’s how; doubtful/risk averse people are very unlikely to run a business into the ground. They’ve probably seen potential risk well in advance of it actually impacting on the business, and they’re likely to have course corrected or put a safety mechanism in place. By virtue of being great questioners, they’re also great innovators. And they’re great teachers. The best teachers know that not everyone is going to learn in the same way. When you have the capacity to see multiple sides of a story, you can bring that into your teaching style. You’re unlikely to leave your students hanging by only introducing a concept to them in one way. Good teachers also make good managers. So it’s likely that your team will be happier than most, because they know you see their perspective. Even if you don’t agree with it, they feel seen and heard.
But here’s where the doubtful/risk averse business owner can fall into a trap; she can hold back too often. She can stymie business growth. She can avoid going into business at all or she can jump in and keep one foot out the door, just in case.
Self doubt stops us from leaping into the great unknown. So when I’m on a precipice, I write to the child who started my habit of self-doubt in the first place. Here’s what I say to her;
Sweet self-doubting child,
I see that you’ve started to question whether everything you desire can really come true.
You’ve heard many times, ‘You can’t have everything you want’ and ‘Just be grateful for what you have’. It’s made you stop believing in infinite potential. It’s made you think you need to settle for what is right in front of you.
It’s made you think that everything you have in your life is there by chance, by accident. You don’t see the role you’ve played in creating it. You’re too young to understand why a soul might make choices that a human being might not, and you’ve come to believe that a child has no power. That you have no power.
I want you to put that doubtful mind of yours to good use and keep questioning that belief. You don’t need to settle in this life. Keep going for your dreams despite other people’s views. Wanting it all isn’t a bad thing, it’s a sign of your vibrancy and excitement for life.
Don’t shrink back. Never shrink back. And don’t let their jealously in. Hiding your light to make them feel better will never serve you, nor will it serve anyone else.
Your job is to shine. While everyone else is trying to direct you toward a path of normalcy and compromise, stand up and speak up and be a model for a new way.
I’m sorry it took you so long to find people who felt like you. People who wanted to make a difference. People who weren’t satisfied with the status quo.
I’m sorry you feel like an outsider so much of the time. Trust me though when I say you will find your people. When you do, spend as much time with them as you can. Surround yourself with people who are really going for it and who believe in themselves and in their capacity to change the world. That’ll be the quickest path to releasing yourself from the paralysis you feel at times.
Society is teaching you in so many subtle ways that females can only play certain roles and expect to achieve little. Society is diseased. It’s ill. It’s not to be believed. This idea it perpetuates that you have to try harder and work harder and that there’ll never be enough – that you’ll never be enough – is corrosive. It’s a lie. You have always been enough.
It’s time for you to understand the power of presence over push, confidence over effort. It’s vitally important for you to know that self belief will open more doors than perfectionism and working yourself into the ground ever will.
Learn to forgive herself. Allow yourself to be human. Respect your struggles and fears without collapsing into them. Remember that life is an experiment, so take risks. Take big risks. Bigger than you ever believed you could.
A small life will not make you happy.
Most of all, please understand that self-doubt is not to be believed and not to be trusted. It’s not reliable. It’s not something you should be giving credence to.
Develop the habit of listening to your body. Your mind is going to send you round and round in circles. Your body, your intuition, those quiet small tugs at your heart; they’re truth. Follow them.
Even when your heart invites you into places irrational and unknown and seemingly unwise, follow it anyway. It’s your compass for what is right and true for you and you should follow it in the same way that Dorothy followed the yellow brick road. Giving too much weight and energy to self doubt will take you off the yellow brick road. It will take you into the forest. Into dark and scary places. So everyday, develop the habit of asking; ‘Am I on the yellow brick road today? Am I skipping along with my friends, in delight at the colour and sights and sounds and in anticipation of great things to come?’ Because every time you do that, you’ll be on a path that leads you home. Every. Single. Time.
With love from the one who had to live through years of self-doubt to realise how unhelpful it really is xx