Drowning In Self Doubt? Here’s Your Lifejacket

drowning
Photo credit: Noah Rosenfield

Sometimes a little bit of self-doubt is good for me. It stokes the rebellious fires within me until I’m provoked enough to raise my middle finger and show exactly what I can do when somebody else thinks I can’t – yes, even if that somebody is me. But sometimes that self-doubt makes me feel like I’m drowning.

One particularly debilitating moment of self-doubt had etched itself so vividly into my consciousness that I found myself flung back to that moment again and again.

It was a cold, blustery morning and I had tucked myself into the cosy corner of a quiet little coffee shop. The soft wintery sun kissed my cheeks and warmed my hands as I waited for my next meeting to arrive. It sounds kinda nice. Except there was a storm raging within me, more furious and more punishing than the crazed wind huffing and puffing on the other side of the glass windows.

Self-doubt had, bang-out-of-nowhere, without warning, snaked its sneaky little tendrils around me and unceremoniously dragged me into its murky waters where it squeezed the life out of the big dreamy dreams I dream. Suddenly all I could see were the obstacles ahead of me, the bitter questions clouding my mind.

Just who do I think I am? What am I even doing here? How dare I dream these big dreams? What makes me think I have even a drop of what it would take to make it? Seriously, what’s the point of trying? How am I ever going to …?

It was such a spiteful strike that over the next few months I returned to that moment again and again, hovering over it, studying it, poking it, questioning it. Because I know that I am human. I know that I will feel it again. But I also wanted to know how I could swim to the surface again when it did. I wanted to find my lifejacket.

And suddenly I found myself talking to that ever-so-slightly younger and achingly bewildered self with such deep truth that I wanted to remember the words forever.

‘Firstly, babe’, I said to myself, ‘breathe. Because this too shall pass. Doubt is fleeting. But the dream you’ve cast for yourself: that is always there. It’s not always going to feel this impossible, so don’t freak out, just accept that this is what you’re feeling – for now.

And stop obsessing about all the obstacles, the things standing in your way, the things you need to overcome, the battles you must fight, the thousands of things you have to do to get there, the long journey that it will be. I know that you have your heart, your mind, and your soul trained on the big picture, but it doesn’t all have to happen at once. You know that right? In fact, it definitely won’t happen all at once.

Our journeys are not made in leaps and bounds. Mostly our journeys are made by all those thousands of tiny steps we take every day. So focus on one tiny step. Forget about everything else. Do that one little thing you can do today. Right now.

You may not have the strength to move an entire mountain, but you will always have the strength to turn a stone.’

And it’s true. I will always have the strength to keep doing the little things, those tiny little dream-affirming, life-enhancing, confidence-boosting, forward-moving things. Even if it’s just sending an email, or finding the answer to a question that enhances my skill set in some tiny way.

I focus on that. I give it my absolute attention. And when I accomplish it, I feel good, and I allow myself to feel that goodness. Sometimes I even congratulate myself with a frikkin’ hug. Because I have moved forward. Even if you could only see that movement through a microscope, I have moved forward.

I am a little closer to my dreams because I keep moving. No matter what self-doubt is busy yammering about.

And that is my lifejacket.

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