Yesterday, I was chatting with a good friend who, late into the conversation, confessed to having a personality that was entangled in doubts. She had been writing an article and was wondering how to position it. She was in doubt over her original positioning and this thought was eating her mind. I connected her frustration over her doubt to her frustration with her team, which was the starter topic of our conversation. Being humans, it is not easy for us to disconnect from our deepest emotions and we often end up spreading it. Just the way the Christ spread love, the Buddha peace, and Gandhi, his anger. We all keep spilling and spreading our emotions in our own ways.
But I am diverging.
Back to the topic of self-doubt
I felt for and with my friend, because I am a pathological self-doubter myself – have I chosen the right dress, am I taking the correct turn, have I the written right answer, should I eat Indian or Chinese tonight, did I enrol my son in the right school – my doubts have always been endless. And as far as my memory goes, I have always been this way.
So, what gives?
Imagine you were someone from the ancient times. You are looking at the sun, the moon, and various other heavenly objects. It is around this time that you go – if all of these things that are strung in the heavens are round in shape, then how the heck can the earth be flat? Of course, you will be paraded naked for trying to prove that an otherwise flat earth is in fact, a lovely round. But the point is, your question arose because of a doubt.
A doubting mind is also a questioning mind. So yes, it is only human to doubt.
Ahem, we are talking about self-doubts here
When we can question the world that exists around us, why cannot we question the world that exists within us?! After all, all we are trying to do, is discover an answer that works best for us. Yes, the answer may be correct, or it may be wrong. But the confident answers and decisions of the non-self-doubters will leave the same effect. They too may hit the right or wrong buttons. The only reason we are in awe of these people is that we have conditioned our mind into believing the mass perception that self-confidence is right and self-doubt is wrong.
Self-confidence is right, but it does not mean that self-doubt is wrong.
How is that?
My husband and I are trying to enroll our son in cricket coaching. While we had selected one center, a friend suggested that a different center would be a better option because of the lesser traffic in the area. And along came the doubt.
My husband and I talked about it, and decided to go with the coaching center suggested by our friend. But right before we made a final decision, I sat down and wrote out the features of the two centers. While doing this analysis, I understood that our original choice was the better one. Not only did it offer indoor coaching during rainy days, it also offered us the flexibility of choosing the days of coaching, which the other center did not offer.
Dealing with self-doubt is as simple as managing the math of calculating our options and deciding to proceed with the better answer. Of course, every choice that we make may not be the correct choice, but we will always know that we gave it our best shot.
But the best part about self-doubt is that it helps in self-preservation.
Have you seen how nature protects itself – how the rabbits run into the burrows upon being chased by a fox, how the bears walk into their caves for hibernation during winter, or how some plants turn dormant during extreme temperatures. It is nature’s way of teaching us that not every threat needs to be fought, and sometimes, it is only common sense to turn back and run.
My son, like me is a pathological self-doubter. This has led him to question himself a lot. At the same time, it has also led him to the understanding of how much is too much for him. He stays away from doing things that he knows are not his domain of work. His self-doubt has only led him to calculate his own strengths and weakness, as it has led me to calculate mine.
On the other hand, the self-confident people always believe that they can do anything. The problem with self-confidence is that it always keeps moving ahead. But since we are living inside a sphere, self-confidence is also bound to hit the circumference of this circle. And from here the only way forward is somewhere backward. As the world is reeling under the sheer extent of climate change and waste mis-management, it is only a backward movement that can lead to a better future.
During these moments, it is self-doubt that helps us decide whether to take the next step forward or decide that the next step forward is in fact, a few steps backward.
To fight or to fly – the answer to this question always comes from within.
Here’s to defeating mass perceptions and learning how to figure out ourselves! Warrior-hood is also for the self-doubters!