Sometimes I wonder if there is something existential about us having self-doubt. I rarely come across a person who experiences none of it as thought a complete lack would be suicidal. Perhaps it is. Perhaps self-doubt serves a purpose to us. A similar purpose like fear – something that holds us back from going off the rails as they say. Stops you from jumping out of a two story window. A healthy amount of self-doubt hence may just be a way to preserve your own well being. You may not win that talent contest but instead you may get booed of the stage. It seems like a logical filter in our brains – that I started to ask myself writing this if I forgot what self-doubt actually is. I googled it. The Cambridge Dictionary says:
But if you even think about people who are confident in their abilities in no matter what they do, that genuinely know they will succeed and do not do it to prove anything to anyone, let alone themselves – those are a rare bread. Come to think of it I think I have only come around such a species maybe once or twice in my life and have regarded them with bewilderment. What makes them so much stronger than me? What makes them not question themselves and know when they want something and when they don’t? How did some people learn this and so many of us – how did we not?
If you think about it, a society of self-confident people sounds like a healthy one. Imagine Barack Obama’s walking around, some of them knowing they can become presidents, some of them knowing they can’t and others knowing that even if they could, they don’t want to and being fine with it. Instead, its more common that society is the cause for you doubting yourself in the first place. I read this wonderful novel by Hector Abad called “Oblivion” where he quoted his dad admiring all his efforts in writing because he said, the world would bring him down enough so his father refused to be a part of that (it’s probably best to read the book yourself to get what he actually wrote). As we all doubt ourselves, and try not to doubt ourselves at the same time – we expect others to do the same and are baffled when that is not the case. We tend to think self-doubt is a mechanism for self-protection. A way to make sure we are always in our comfort zone and don’t get hurt by any dangers. Known pain is better than unknown pain – or so they say. Just think about how much it takes for your to relax and laugh out loud – with your eyes closed. That’s how much protection we put around ourselves to sustain our current beliefs. Like the talent show I was mentioning earlier – how damaging could it be to you and your ego to find out you actually weren’t perceived as talented by others?
Self-doubt is a way of keeping us and the people around us in our safe spaces and there is nothing wrong with that. It only gets problematic when it limits us in doing what we want to do with our lives. Then its time to think – Why am I doubting myself so much? If it isn’t helping me then why is it still here? And – what can I do about it?
The first step to confidence is self-acceptance. Get to know yourself – learn to love yourself and all of your abilities as well as the stuff you can’t do. You don’t have to be everything – you just have to be you. Everything else will fall into place.