Self-doubt is a confusing aspect of human nature. It’s unfairly perceived as a negative, counter-productive, selfish trait and the hallmark of low self-esteem. Just as easily as we can laugh, we can feel down about ourselves. I argue that feeling in a funk and “less than” is healthy in manageable doses, because it’s actually a key component to growth and personal change. But aren’t we supposed to be happy, fulfilled and complete 24/7? Our culture shuns self-doubt and is quick to label it a disorder or dysfunction. This assumption then perpetuates the belief that something is wrong with me. While self-doubt is really uncomfortable, exploring it is one of the best opportunities to learn more about ourselves.
As a coach, a majority of what I help people with is their inner judgement about themselves, which typically boils down to a feeling of not being “good enough.” The process to understanding and accepting ones self-doubt can be intimidating and is often met with resistance, anger, fear, hesitation and even denial. A sense of inadequacy is felt by each and everyone one of us at some point in our lives. We’ll do whatever we can to distract us from feeling that pit of despair. Whatever habits we’ve created to ignore it, our doubt doesn’t subside for very long. Left unchecked, that gnawing sense of inadequacy chips away at all the things we’re proud of about ourselves. At its worst, the self-critical voice tells you to not even try because it’s just not worth it. Not to yourself. Not to anyone. We guard our hurt selves with anger, with self-sabotage, jealously, self-hate and try everything in our power not to come face-to-face with what we fear most. So what is this voice trying to do? It’s actually serving a really important purpose: it wants to protect the most tender and vulnerable parts of our being.
I’ve had 25 plus years getting to know my inner-critic and the lines between that voice and my own were often blurred. Years ago, mine cautioned me to keep people, especially those I really cared about, at an arms distance. The [inevitable] rejection would be too painful. The intense longing to be close to people was repelled by the underlying belief that I couldn’t risk being close to anyone. This voice got so powerful and strong, that by the time it reached a climax, I genuinely believed I was incapable of loving anyone. And more heartbreaking, I was incapable of loving myself. As I became engulfed with an overwhelming anxiety about being fundamentally flawed, something shifted. I’m not really sure how it came into my mind, but in that moment of utter despair, I learned the difference between fear and truth. I faced what I was terrified of and saw the fallacy in it. I wasn’t incapable of loving, I was afraid to because I didn’t want to lose something special to me.
It was incredible to sink that deeply into the darkest part of yourself and discover what you had long assumed down there too terrifying, was actually trying to hold you together and help you survive. My fear was based upon not wanting to feel rejected and alone. So simple, yet it became embedded into various parts of my life that I am still untangling today. All my fear wanted was to be acknowledged and validated. The ignoring, denying, and avoiding only fueled it. It simply wanted me to visit and pay attention to it. It needed the love I was afraid to give.
This single realization opened up a whole world to me, and I knew instantly that I wanted to travel along the path of self-development. Before, I felt helpless, victimized and powerless again my inner-critic but I now had something to work with. I became a significantly more confident and affectionate person and made a great effort to show the world all the love I had to offer. I was Rachel 2.0. I’d love to claim that I’ve permanently put this voice in its place, but I’ve not and that is missing the point. Self-doubt isn’t anything to be ashamed of and a major reason why I became a coach was to help others understand and explore their inner-critic. I’ve accepted that this tender part will always be with me – it’s an aspect of who I am. It’s just as real as my charisma, intelligence and courage. The difference is I’m not afraid to explore it and when it flairs up [which it often does] and I’m able to meet it with compassion and learn from it. It helps me be a more loving person. Knowing where your boundary lies is powerful because it becomes the doorway to your freedom. Self-growth isn’t only nurturing the best part of yourself; it’s knowing how to hold the fragile parts too.
And who better to sing about the topic? Duh, Peter Gabriel.