Doubt. verb \ˈdau̇t\: To fear, suspect. To lack confidence in, to consider unlikely.
Within twenty-four hours of making The Big Announcement, a monster jumped out of my closet.
Well, you’ve done it now. Guess you’ll actually have to write the thing. If you can. What if it was a mistake? What if the publisher meant to send the contract to someone else? An oversight caused by bad cheese or a virus? It’s only a matter of time before everyone figures out you’re a fraud. It’s all over for you. All. Over.
Enter Doubt, otherwise known as the committee in my head. One moment, I’m celebrating. The next, planning my certain and very public demise.
[I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say my self-talk smells like rotten garbage.]
With shaking finger poised over my therapist’s speed dial, I somehow stumbled upon THIS GLORIOUS AND INSPIRED PIECE OF WRITING:
The worst time in any writer’s life is the two months before publication. ALL writers become mental and pathetic, even those of devout faith, who have some psychological healing to lean up against, and gorgeous lives. All writers think that this time, the jig is up, and they will be exposed as frauds.
Two months before publication, all writers worth their salt have days where they hate everyone, and wish everyone would just die, especially their best friends, who have responded inadequately to the book that is coming out soon. —Anne Lamott (Facebook post, 9/4/2013)
God bless Anne. She took the edge off my crazy. And reminded me of something I’d almost forgotten.
There are two guarantees for almost any moment of personal success:
- You will throw a party.
- Doubt will crash the party.
Enjoyed a fabulous day of parenting, where you marveled at the stellar behavior of your children and decided you should probably be up for some kind of award? Tomorrow, precious little Jack will rip the heads off the classroom grasshoppers and look under a Natalie’s dress on the playground.
Savored a perfect date night with the love of your life, one that is so romantic, so hollywood-perfect that you are practically in tears the entire evening? You’ll forget why tomorrow, when he leaves nasty laundry on the bedroom floor and forgets your birthday.
Announce to the world that you received your first book contract with great enthusiasm and confidence? By the next morning, you’ll stare at a blank computer screen for two hours, producing the sum total of the following, jaw-dropping words: “It was a dark and stormy night…”
On the heels of success, doubt has the most fun. Get used to it. Expect it. And know how to defeat it. Start by telling yourself the truth:
- Doubt is universal. Lamott’s words confirm doubt’s plague status. You and I aren’t the only one with a committee. We’re in good company. Don’t let doubt convince you you’re the only one.
- Doubt is predictable. Doubt almost always follows confidence and success. Like climbing a roller coaster to plummet off the other side, that which goes up often comes down. And at far greater speed. It’s not personal; it’s science.
- Doubt plays dirty. Doubt looks for your places of tenderness, your vulnerability. It finds the chink in your armor, and shoots his arrows there. Steven Pressfield calls this “Resistance,” the concerted effort to keep you achieving that which you were made for. Be ruthless in return.
- Doubt isn’t the boss. You are. Doubt claims to be a Goliath, but he’s taken down by a single stone. Your stone? The truth. Say it out loud: “Perfection isn’t the goal. Living is. Just do it!”
Doubting yourself today? Doubting your parenting, your art, your purpose, your value? You’re in good company. It’s not fair, but it’s expected. The good news?
You’re in charge.
Tell doubt to take a hike. He’s not invited.
Now, get back to the party.
Where do you doubt yourself most? Work, relationships, parenting, or ?