Self doubt. And what not to do with it

It's only natural to experience doubt. It's one of those pesky human emotions that surfaces from time-to-time. Life, hey? It's messy and complicated.

Life is Messy

You know when you have a troubling thought causing you grief? Perhaps your mind is up to some mischief. Or your stomach is an acidic mess?

Perhaps you aren’t even worried about yourself. You might be worried about the kids. You might be feeling guilty leaving them with a babysitter to enjoy your Saturday night out. Or perhaps it’s your adult daughter or son you are concerned about. You might even be blaming yourself for their problems; at work, or in a relationship.

Whatever the circumstances, it’s only natural to experience doubt. It’s one of those pesky human emotions that surfaces from time-to-time. Life, hey? It’s messy and complicated.

My moments of self-doubt

Moving abroad without definitive plans is quite a stretch when, like me, you are a Capricorn. Us ‘sea-goats’ like as much certainty as we can get, which is why this period with expansive Jupiter in our sign feels a tad uncomfortable. Okay, granted, not everyone likes or follows astrology, but bear with me.

Leaving comfort behind

A few weeks ago, I blogged about leaving my comfort zone Challenging one’s comfort zone.

And the process continues. I have joined improvisation (acting) classes. These invariably involve working without any great thought-process to adopt completely random roles. You might be an assassin, a butterfly and the human embodiment of fear in the very same class. Which is just ideal when you are a natural introvert!

Last Thursday, I was having “one of those days”. I wasn’t sure I would attend as I hadn’t been experiencing the best of days. Family situations. I went along looking for a boost. I certainly got a boost in terms of energy. Gosh, after one or two small scenes, I was out of breath!

In the eye of the class

My teacher corrected a number of things I was doing. The group are certainly sympathetic and friendly, but some of the other students seem more experienced. I was told I was “mirroring” another student too intently. On another occasion, I wasn’t occupying the role of a Fagin-style beggar nearly authentically enough.

I felt like the proverbial seven-year old, recalling the episode when my French teacher, Mrs Maynard, harangued me on my pronunciation of the word, “un”. In front of other seven-year olds who likewise couldn’t tie together a word of French. ‘Why me?’ my seven-year old soul screamed out. “I don’t want to be taken to task in public like this”.

Dealing with the most minor of comments

I have received one or two other pieces of unsolicited criticism this week, all of it completely valid and truth be told, helpful.

But I still have the thin skin I had when I was a kid. I try my very best to leave my comfort zone, but sometimes I wonder what the hell I am doing. I get mistaken for being confident, but inside, my seven-year old self calls out (quite immaturely) for constant validation.

When I am in this kind of mood, the most innocuous or innocent of exchanges are source material for nightly rumination. ‘Oh Gosh! I can’t believe I asked that woman from Canada where she is from in the States!’

‘Oh strange, why has that former colleague not emailed me back?’

‘I thought that pitch I sent to the journalist was well-researched. What did I do wrong?’

‘I shouldn’t have introduced myself to the guy at the pub as a life coach in training. Of course, I was going to be met with a pair of rolling eyes!’

Don’t be Gwen Stefani

In the famous 1996 song from Ska band, No Doubt, singer Gwen Stefani wishes away hurt.

Don’t speak, I know just what you’re sayin’

So please stop explainin’

Gwen Stefani
The famous singer from 1990s ska band, No Doubt


I recommend we don’t take her advice.

The key is not to try and wish away the thoughts, questions or concerns that occur to us. Unless we are experiencing obsessive ruminations, a form of OCD which I have lived with for twenty years and plan to blog about in the coming weeks (altogether different strategies are needed which I will write about).

But back to the point, tricky thoughts are neither intrinsically good nor bad. Sit as comfortably as you can with a feeling of self-doubt. Incidentally, that doesn’t mean having to give it credence if you feel the thought or concern does you harm.

Generative coaching

But my point is, don’t wholesale reject it either. The self-doubt is trying to tell you something. Most likely, not about the kids, your teacher, the new bloke at the pub, but yourself. And the more you try and push this inner message away, it likely pops up somewhere else in one’s body, or later in life, with other consequences.

After the first module of my generative coaching course the other week, I have started to trust my emotions that bit more. To listen to the mischief in my mind, to the acid in the pit of my stomach. Not to celebrate or absorb every single thought or emotion as if it’s somehow a permanent new state of affairs. But nevertheless, to sit with it. Try and be okay with it, don’t fight it.

I have been reflecting on why I have been feeling so sensitive this week. Who knows, as an astrology buff, maybe it has something to do with the position of the moon!

Learning the right lessons

But, rather than hide away in a cave, blame the world it doesn’t “really get me” and vow never again to confront new situations or take new risks, instead I have been looking to listen to the self-doubt, play with it, ask it what it really wants me to do or comprehend.

And I think I am meant to know I am still a very sensitive soul, but it’s also important to separate criticism from a lack of warmth or kindness. The former is necessary for growth. It’s the latter you might want to actively avoid.

If we don’t do this work, referred to in generative coaching as holding the duality, or multiple aspects of our lives’ in balance and looking at them truthfully in the mirror, the mischief in our minds can soon turn into deeper problems elsewhere.

To conclude, then, I must turn again to the great Gwen Stefani, who sang in rather more effective lyrics for the purposes of referencing ‘Don’t Speak’,

‘We gotta stop pretending

Who we are’