How to Keep Doubt From Crashing Your Party

Sep 25, 2013

Doubtverb \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:

  1. You will throw a party.
  2. 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 ?

13 Comments

  1. Dave Bratcher

    I think you mentioned several of the areas in which doubt creeps in. The first is parenting. I was blessed with two amazing, loving parents. As I think through how I’m doing as a parent of two kids, 5 and 2, I often find myself questioning how I’m doing. On the professional side, I know God has given me with the gift of speaking, but I find myself doubting whether this can be turned into a career. I don’t doubt my ability, but I doubt whether others will recognize it. I told my pastor yesterday, if you could hire me to do what I loved, I would consistently be writing and communicating a message to add value to others. Thanks for being real and sharing what happens immediately following success.

    Reply
    • Michele

      The parenting doubt is the toughest for me to recognize and defeat. I tend to see it as personal failure, rather than the expected ups and downs of raising children.

      Reply
  2. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Michelle,
    I loved this! I used to think it was “just me.” Every time someone commented on something I painted, I’d think, “they missed the mistakes. I fooled them again.” Every time someone commented on my writing, I’d think, “They must not know much about writing.” Someone comment on something I’m wearing? I’d flat out tell them, “Oh this? I actually got it at Ross (Dress for Less).” And I thought, (and told my husband, my sister, and my daughter) “I have Impostor Syndrome.” Everyone I told had it too! So I thought it was genetic. Now I find you have it too! Just kidding…I found out long ago that it is a universal malady. Even narcissists have it…maybe even more so. I love that phrase “telling yourself the truth.” I use it with my clients and distinguish it from “tell yourself positive things.” because sometimes just telling yourself something positive isn’t really the truth of the situation. Congratulations, Michelle…you deserve the contract…and once doubt takes a leave, the words will flow (they already are). 🙂

    Reply
    • Michele

      Such a relief to know we’re not the only ones with “the disease,” isn’t it Linda? 😉

      Reply
  3. Pat Layton

    Michele,
    I LOVE this and am right there with you!! Oh my.
    BTW–Your writing ROCKS! Stay the course I can’t wait to read whatever it is 🙂
    Blessings,
    Pat

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, Pat. I have a big day of writing ahead and needed that!

      Reply
  4. Rachel Proctor

    Michelle,

    I have followed your blog for some time now. And your post today proves one other thing is true. God won’t call you to do something and not equip you with the tools to do it. So when doubt inevitably creeps in you can always rely on that the fact that through Christ you are more than able to accomplish the feat before you!

    God will ALWAYS send a reminder of the grace He has given to us when doubt tries to rear it’s ugly head. Your post this morning was a reminder to me that the feelings I have in my pursuit to become a full-time writer are not uncommon. Thanks for being a messenger!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Yes, exactly. Phil. 4:13. Preach it.

      Reply
  5. Joy McMillan

    Oh, how I needed to hear/read/know this today. Thank you for your beautiful offering of transparency, vulnerability and creativity! Can’t wait to see what’s going to emerge on your pages as you deliver this “new baby”.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, Joy. It’s definitely a birthing. 😉

      Reply
  6. Amy Thedinga

    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15.13. Thanks for the reminder today Michele. I choose belief over doubt.

    Reply
    • Michele

      The perfect verse for today. Thank you.

      Reply
  7. Nina Blevins

    Wow. I needed this. Doubt has been my companion on and off my entire life. Will I ever be good enough, pretty enough, smart enough…you know the story. I’ve recently entered the blogging world as a way to express what it’s like for someone like me who lives with moderate disabilities. I lost my left eye in an accident as a child and I was born with a hereditary degenerative hearing loss. I wear a prosthetic eye and hearing aids for severe hearing loss but I can read lips fairly well. I started a blog 2 weeks ago in hopes of encouraging and inspiring others to live life in the fullness of God’s grace within the boundaries of their physical limitations, learning to rise above weaknesses and claiming the truth,”His grace is sufficient for power is made perfect in weakness.” I’ve found that it’s a battle sometimes to keep doubt at bay. We all need encouragement for the journey…thank you for your honesty, transparency and wise counsel. I’ll be a regular reader. Blessings, Nina Blevins

    Reply

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  1. Links we love: October 11, 2013 : HelpMeet Your Goals - […] How to Keep Doubt From Crashing Your Party (Michelle Cushatt) […]

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