Self-doubt is a beast. It sneaks up behind us, hijacks our thoughts, and tells us things we would never say to a friend or a loved one.
What’s worse, we believe all the terrible things self-doubt tells us. We believe we can’t write. We believe we’re not good enough to go for that new job. We believe we can’t run that marathon because we’re too out of shape to make it to the finish line.
Self-doubt keeps us from trying the things we’ve always wanted to do. The question is, why do we allow this?
Because for some reason, it’s easier to believe we can’t than to believe we can. It’s easier to give up on a dream than to put in the effort to make it come true. It requires us to go up against self-doubt. It’s a battle. But it’s one we can win. All we have to do is act.
Action kills self-doubt.
Okay, it may not actually kill it, but it can silence it for a while. Long enough for us to work on our dreams.
A Writer’s Struggle
Many people have told me that they’ve always wanted to write a book. When I ask why they haven’t done it yet, I hear all kinds of excuses.
I don’t have the time right now.
I’ll get around to it after the kids go off to college.
It’s something I plan to do once I retire.
I’ve heard these excuses many times. I’ve used these excuses myself. In my case, I know they’re not true.
I know it’s self-doubt paying a visit.
I have self-doubt every time I begin to write. Every time I begin a new book. Every time I begin a new chapter. Every time I begin a new sentence.
Self-doubt is always there, lurking in the dark, ready to attack.
I have written and self-published three novels and I’m in the process of writing two more, and it’s happening again. Self-doubt is in my head, saying things like:
What makes you think you can write?
No one is going to want to read this.
What you just wrote makes absolutely no sense.
After I finished my first book, I thought it would get easier. But now that I’ve finished three, I know it doesn’t. Each book has a unique story, one I’ve never told before, and because it’s new and different, my self-confidence takes a hit.
And more questions arise:
Will the story make sense?
Do the characters work well together?
Is there enough imagination left in me for another book?
I eventually get past this stage and write for several days, sometimes weeks before self-doubt makes another appearance. The mere act of writing keeps self-doubt at bay. But when I take a break from writing, self-doubt shows up again and I have a strong urge to give up.
But somehow, I press on and finish writing the book.
Then comes the pure joy of editing. This is when self-doubt cranks up the heat.
Sometimes, I’ll read one of my chapters and think, That’s not bad.
But more often, I’ll read a chapter and think, This is garbage.
I wish I could say these varying thoughts have to do with my mood, but they can occur within minutes of each other. One minute, I think what I’ve written is pure gold. The next, I think it resembles something the cat coughed up.
Once again, I feel like giving up.
When I get to this point, and I begin to feel like it’s not worth the effort, I remember that even well-known authors — the greats and the most prolific — often suffer from self-doubt.
So, what I’m feeling is nothing new. It’s not just me. It’s every writer. And it’s not just writers. It’s anyone who decides to move beyond their comfort zone and work on a dream.
I’ve heard some great creatives say that if you’re not feeling fear, you’re not pushing yourself. Not feeling fear means you’ve become stagnate, with no new thoughts or originality finding their way into your work and your life. If you’re not feeling any fear, you’re not doing anything new and exciting.
This is true. When I’m not feeling any fear, boredom sets in. This is when I feel the urge to try something new. This is also when self-doubt makes another appearance.
I don’t like fear and self-doubt. No one does. But this is the process. If there wasn’t any doubt or fear, then finishing a book — or any other activity — wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling.
There are just times when I want it to be less of a struggle. I relish the days when the words pour out, when my fingers are flying across the keyboard, capturing all the words that are in my head and getting them on the page.
I know writing is not an easy task, and I accept that. I would just like to have more days where the words flow like water and self-doubt takes a back seat.
Truth is, these moments can occur more often than they do. All it takes is sitting down and getting the job done. Self-doubt can be silenced with action.
What’s Stopping You?
If you’re waiting for self-doubt to go away, forget it! It’s not going anywhere. You just have to find a way to distract it long enough to finish your book, go after the new job, or run that marathon.
We may not be able to kill self-doubt, but with action, we can silence it.
At least for a little while.