“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” –Sylvia Plath
I have lived my life with a challenging contradiction for as long as I can remember. I freely admit that I am a dreamer, a romantic and a hopeless idealist. All of has filled my life with a passion for my endeavors, and supremely high levels of angst, worry, and doubt as an adult.
Here’s what it all looks like in my head; I have an idea of something I want to do. Let’s think on a creative scale folks. This idea excites me, thrills me and makes me feel energized and that all things are possible. Then along comes a challenge. The obstacle can be perceived, real or in the form of another human letting me know that my dream is not something I can do to create the life I want. It is the words that scrape my soul like a razor sharp blade, informing me that my passion will never be my success or my legacy. And then comes self-doubt.
Sometimes the result of those words and actions are so subtle that I don’t notice its effects and I begin to avoid doing things to make my idea happen. For example, and here’s a personal share peeps, I love to sketch and paint. I decided as an adult to revisit this talent and hobby, not to make a living, but for my benefit. For me, the charcoal sliding across the vellum page is akin to the words bleeding from my purple pen. It’s all that I am or will ever be in my life. It is real. As a child, I would lose myself for hours drawing in the corner or curled in the big orange chair with a blank notebook. All I saw was possibility.
I decided to gift myself a new sketchpad and an assortment of charcoal and smudge sticks. I was so excited to be giving attention to a part of myself that I had been neglecting for years. But as I started to sketch, I faltered and struggled. I began to doubt whether or not I could re-master the skills I had in my youth. I got frustrated, and the pad and charcoals were set aside. I told myself that I had no time to play around, and I forgot about it. The effects of self-doubt were painful. Fear, procrastination, frustration, and eventually I admitted defeat. One more dream sent to fester in the file of unfulfilled potential.
So now, I keep thinking about this cycle. I am tired being frustrated and filled with a strange sense of urgency follow through with my dreams. Sometimes, I feel like time is running out. I realized that my biggest issue was a lack of self-confidence in myself and my ability to DO the things that matter to me most.
I’d love to tell you amazing peeps that this is something I was able to turn around in five easy steps. This one is not going to follow the MBB Rule of Five. My reality is that I am on a journey of trial and error and small successes must be my victories. I am committed to learning, experimenting and putting my talents out there. Now I know the art will never be my forte, but I am brave enough now to sketch and shade again. There is something cathartic in the smudgy black fingerprints, and the dust settled in the cracks of my nails. The change I have is almost an epiphany: I trust myself once more. I am gaining confidence from within and from some unexpected sources of support. And I WILL write. I will compose and submit and keep on putting myself out there for my dream.
So what changed? I rediscovered something that I thought I had lost. The sense of confidence that comes with learning and experimenting without judgment or recrimination. I can (and most likely will) make mistakes, but I feel that I can take a risk. When I send off a writing sample, I feel exhilarated and alive. I feel confident and filled with hope and possibility. There is a writing job out there for me, and my personal project is going to happen. I know it deep in the core of my being. I am going to sustain my motivation long enough to make it a reality.
If my experience resonates with you, then you have the self-doubt habit too. And that’s OK because it means you’re human. If you ever hear yourself thinking “I’d love to do XYZ, but I don’t think I can,” or “That is my dream, but it probably will never happen,” then you are plagued with self-doubt.
Two ideas helped me to recognize this destructive habit and to arm myself to build up my confidence in my ability to do the things that matter to me.
- If you first act confident, then the feelings of confidence will come. I used to work in the theater, and one thing we told the actors was to “fake it till you make it.” We often get stuck when we are afraid that we can’t or won’t achieve our goals. Make this your aha or lightbulb moment folks. Stop procrastinating and waiting to feel confident. Take baby steps and create small strategies to help you get where you want to be. One foot in front of the other, it works.
- You can always get better. I read a book by Carol Dweck, PhD. while taking my classes in mindfulness. The basic premise of her research is that people can be divided into two groups depending on how they view themselves. You can have a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset. People with a fixed mindset spend their lives trying to prove themselves and their worth. They cannot abide failure and believe that their talents are set in stone. Failure created a feeling of self-loathing and proof of not being good enough or being useless. On the flip side, those who have a growth mindset believe that talent and intelligence can be developed and expanded. They take on challenges to learn and grow.
This should be your next AHA moment. If you are like me, then you may have let other people dictate your talents and what you should consider doing or being. It means you (and I) were living with a fixed mindset. Once I learned to recognize my shortcoming and open my mind (we can talk about meditation and body scans later) I realized that maybe I need a little practice. Perhaps I need perseverance. I am learning to reframe my inner struggles to be learning experiences and not personal flaws. I am gaining confidence, and this is letting me take action and control of the rest of my life. Even if it’s in small, baby steps.
The most important thing you can do for YOU to quash self-doubt is to be aware of what you tell yourself. Be mindful and conscious of any self-talk that is undermining because you and me? We can do anything! Practice your new mindset until it is instinctual. Let me leave you today with a book recommendation, “Superhuman By Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a Time” by Tynan. “The main premise is that new habits are things that you DO, but old habits are things that you ARE.”
Stay motivated and caffeinated!
*NOTE: Superhuman By Habit: A Guide To Becoming The Best Possible … (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23206969-superhuman-by-habit