Self-doubt is a black hole. Just ask NASA, they will tell you that nothing escapes a black hole, not even light. And in their words, a star’s end is a black hole’s beginning. Meditate on that thought for a minute. Like a black hole, self-doubt’s gravitational pull is so strong that unchecked, it will devour you whole. Call it what you may- a saboteur, your very own “Doubting Thomas,” gremlin or even your eponymous private label if you will—it plays havoc with the mind and paralyzes it into non-action.
I am not going to recommend any shelf help lit or recommend a motivational Ted Talk or two. Quite the opposite. I am going to ask you to speak over the voices of dissent that continue to feed this parasite. In fact, these voices have a symbiotic relationship. Those voices may have begun impacting you since your childhood—a critical parent, a teacher who never believed you would make it, a bully, a two-faced friend or even a manager.
In addition to the standard ups and downs, as a first-generation immigrant, I have experienced the classic fit in or stand out dilemma one too many times. When I was new in the country, I was firm on not chipping away at my sense of self just to fit in.
Then when I had my daughter, things changed. I tried really hard to ensure that she has some sense of community and the fear of not being included was always a track in my mind. A few painful and gut-wrenching experiences later, I came a full circle with my truth. And that is to never doubt yourself, your instinct and dim who you are to accommodate the people in your life. It’s a recipe for failure. The thing about the “right” people is they have a knack of showing up when you least expect it.
Given the current news climate, where there is discussion on race, gender and all things not being equal for everyone, it has become more critical than ever to move past the shadow and the gray world of self-doubt. To stand up for yourself requires a mental discipline of getting into the habit of believing in yourself, especially when the chips are down. It’s a hard and tedious journey, but one that is worth undertaking.
Personally, inspired by The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron I started with a small exercise. I enlisted my personal gremlins and wrote down their opinions about me. Then I balanced that piece of paper with all the positive feedback I’ve received by some amazing bosses, mentors, colleagues and friends from the present day. It got me thinking about how important feedback truly can be. Done right and constructively, it can add to growth. Done wrong and poorly, it can misjudge a person’s true potential.
I write this a day after my daughter’s graduation as she moves on to middle school. And if there is one important legacy, I would NOT like to pass on to her and my son is that of self-doubt. I’d like her and all the young women and (men) to always believe in themselves and be humble enough to be open to feedback which helps them become better. I hope they build up the inner strength to tune out the eviscerating assessments that they might sometimes face through the course of life.
Be discerning about what you internalize, as discerning as reading a nutrition label. You only what to take in the stuff that makes you healthy and whole, especially if it’s helpful and corrective. Careful of the high fructose fake syrup (aka the ubiquitous ‘good job’) or a senseless ‘GMO– you can’t do that’ without any context.
Think about the financial implications of the confidence gap, put a dollar amount on every interaction where you may have sold yourself short and you’ll be amazed at what the Excel sheet reveals! I hate to say it but that right there could be your kid’s college fund or your dream to retire in Paris. So, don’t kiss it au revoir, just yet. It’s never too late to turn this ship around.
When you break it down to financial and emotional implications of this blackhole called self-doubt, you realize that it’s so much better to live in your light. Stay resilient and no need to dim it for anyone.