Self Doubt: Green Light or Dead End?
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield suggests that self doubt can “serve as an indicator of our aspirations.” What a gift that thought is to those of us who often find ourselves frozen in the crosshairs of self doubt! Self doubt can mask itself as insecurities or a simple fleeting thought. It can become so familiar that we stop recognizing it for its potential and start allowing it to stifle us without even knowing.
What if we flipped the script on self doubt? When a doubting thought whispers “are you sure?”, we can pause and see it as a green light to pursue the truth behind the doubt instead of seeing it as a dead end of our potential.
You are driving in your car and the change oil light comes on. Instead of adjusting your schedule that week to change the oil you ignore it and drive around for another three months. You start to notice that your car has been having trouble accelerating and that pesky light is still on. Another three months go by and on your way to the grocery store to pick up MORE FOOD FOR YOUR TEENAGERS WHO ALWAYS WANT TO EAT your engine starts to smoke and the car lurches to a stop, refusing to start again.
Our minds are the car and our self doubt is the light leading to the smoke that causes a complete break down. Still with me? What if the first thing you did when the light (doubt) comes on is to address what it is trying to bring to your attention? What if a minor adjustment in your thinking, schedule, or relationship could prevent a complete break down? Instead of being upended by a doubtful thought, or completely ignoring it, address it.
Self doubt, I see you, I hear your sneaky whispers. Come sit with me and tell me why you’re here. The doubt shows us what needs to be addressed or unleashed. Countless times I have talked myself out of writing or joining a conversation due to self doubt. I started to ask myself why and grace continually shows up to carry me into action and understanding. I ask myself what is true about me and writing. The answers sound like this: I feel lighter when I write. My world feels more sorted and grounded when I write. I continuously receive feed back from people I trust who encourage me to let my thoughts out for others to read. I remind myself about past times when doubt has shown up and the differences I experienced in the aftermath of giving in to doubt or pushing through it. So, I could say no, I will not write my story for a local non-profit because doubt told me no one will care OR I could tell my story with humility in hopes that one more person would find value in the cause. In other words, as someone who believes in God, I like to see doubt as a purposeful distraction that satan has deployed to delay us from operating as who God created us to be. Because of that perspective I also ask myself what part of my purpose am I being distracted from with these doubtful thoughts?
A person who is learning and growing is not someone who is always confident, but someone who refuses to stop pressing forward. As a parent, I find myself in this conversation a lot. How am I doing? Surely, I am messing them up. How in the world am I supposed to have this conversation? Where is the handbook for this? I really want to get this right. I used to see these times of questioning and doubt as failure. A confident parent wouldn’t have to ask themselves these things, right? Wrong. When I start to ask myself why I have these questions, the answer ALWAYS comes back slathered in grace and reassurance. You are a mom who cares deeply about your kids. You work tirelessly to learn how to maintain healthy relationships with them. Asking a trusted pal what they think does not make you a failure it makes you smarter. Admitting that you need help raising humans means that you care enough to try to get it right. You messed up. Now show them how to apologize and get it right. This is how I flip the switch on doubt and turn it into what’s true. This is how I seek out grace.
So, the next time your oil light comes on to the tune of, “Surely, I’m failing as a parent.” “Am I really a writer?” “There is no way I should have a say in this meeting.” “I can’t work out at the gym.” “I don’t know enough about the protests, the pandemic, racism to have any say.” “I’m not…” “I’m too…” “I couldn’t…” Ask yourself why did doubt show up now? What God given purpose am I being distracted from fulfilling? Look for the truth about yourself that illuminates what is meant to be seen. Give yourself grace and engage your doubts. There are so many more green lights than there are dead ends.
Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash