Doubt is a harsh task masker. Some people wake with confidence, moving forward with sureness and unwavering sense of purpose. They walk through life knowing without a doubt that they matter, that they are doing important work, and that the world is happy, grateful and lucky to have them in it.
And then there are the rest of us.
At times, we all feel confident and capable. We know, in our deepest heart of hearts, that we make a difference. We know we play an important role and feel gratified to be able to accomplish important work. We have witnessed moments where we understand our own brilliance, we acknowledge our God given talents, and we have glimpses of the incredible life the we are meant to have.
Then doubt creeps in. Sometimes the gremlins sneak up on us, other times they take over the voice in our head and attack like a bunch of screaming banshees.
“What do you think you’re doing? Do you honestly believe that you can do this? You are too stupid. You will never get this right. You don’t deserve this. You don’t have the qualifications for this. You always mess up.”
And then there is my personal nemesis: “Who do you think you are?”
The negative messages in our heads are loud and persistent, filled with phrases that start with “You can’t,” “You should,” and “You ought to.” These are the voices that tell us that we are not enough.
Author Steven Pressfield says that most of us have two lives, the life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.
Doubt is the resistance within us. It will tell us anything to keep us from shining our brightest light. It’s toxic, and leads to unhappiness and unfulfillment. It can paralyze us and prevent us from moving forward in ways that will help us live up to our potential.
What do you do when doubt creeps in? You can quit. You can drink too much wine and cry on your friend’s shoulder. You can have a little pity party or lock yourself away from the world, play sad music and revel in your misery alone.
As an alternative, you can take a more proactive approach. Recently at a workshop, we were asked to make a list of all of the things we had accomplished so far that day. For example, most of us listed that we had gotten out of bed, showered, dressed and driven to the workshop. Some had done yoga, made breakfast for their families and walked the dog. No one had cured cancer, but still, making the list gave us a sense of accomplishment. As I looked around the room, I saw a lot of smiling faces and people were clearly feeling pretty good about themselves.
Take this one step further, and make a list of all of the things you have accomplished in your life. You can do this in your head, but if the doubt is strong enough, try writing it down. We have all accomplished things. We’ve grown vegetables in our gardens, learned to ride a bicycle, and taken care of our pets and our families. We have held jobs, created spaces to live in and cultivated friendships. That is just a start, and you will have many things on your list.
Don’t just think of things that are huge and important and special to you alone. What you perceive as ordinary and unimportant are often a big deal to someone else. Yesterday I was sharing with a friend that I just learned how to track expenses in Quick Books. My friend, who has used this and other bookkeeping programs for years, was incredulous that I didn’t know how to use the program. She might not have put that skill on her accomplishments lists, but I would. If you can make Crème Brûlée, write it down and know that I am jealous.
Making a list of your accomplishments will feed your soul with positive messages, things that say, “I can,” “I did,” “I’m going to,” and “I will.”
That ought to set you in motion and keep the doubt gremlins at bay.
I hope the voices in your head are positive and serve you well,
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” Steven Pressfield