Wrestling with the Self-Doubt Monster: A Five-Step Guide

This topic of self-doubt is important to me because it is one that I personally fight with on a seemingly daily basis. There is always that doubt monster tugging my gut, constricting my circulatory system, or chipping away in the back of my brain.

STEP 1:

I like to imagine my self-doubt as a squirming tentacle monster that lives somewhere deep in the fathoms of my brain.
This one at least looks perfectly posh with a cup of tea, top-hat, and monocle!

Self-doubt can often lead to things like writer’s block. Your doubt might keep you from starting something because you accumulate fear. You may fear that you will never finish what you set off to achieve. You may fear that people will judge you. You may fear that you aren’t good enough. And, you might even fear that you will fail. All of these fears circulate my brain time and time again.

Moving forward, taking a step and then another step is the way to combat that fear. As long as you keep pressing on towards your goal, those fears cannot touch you. It is often referred to as a leap of faith–– the moment when you jump head first into a goal despite your fears and doubts. If you never start, if you never move forward, then you can never succeed. Your fear and doubt wins.

STEP 2:

Self-doubt is inevitable. However, perspective can be one hell of a game changer. If you can filter judgement as feedback, you are on the right track. Feedback is one of the best ways to improve your craft. But receiving feedback can be tough and it can put you at war with yourself, which is when doubt comes out to play.

Never consider feedback as a personal attack. This seems a bit self-explanatory but don’t underestimate the power of having thick skin. Not all feedback is good feedback. Learn how to take all feedback and trust your gut on which feedback to take. If you make a mistake, you just created a great learning opportunity.

Lastly, there are haters out there. This is when your tough skin and trusting your gut work together to drown the haters out and allow you to keep learning and developing. Feedback is a tool to help you. Never let anyone’s judgement keep you from your personal growth.

STEP 3:

Even as I wrote that header down, I cringed the tiniest bit because I do this all the time. To improve your craft, you are told to write a lot and read a lot. Cool. Anyone else take one look at an excellent piece of prose, consider tossing the book, and think “well I could never do that”?

When you are trudging through your first draft, it is easy to look at a complete, polished work and feel terrified that your work may never be as refined. I also have the tendency to take one look at social media and instantly compare my worth to other writers in my feed.

That is when I take a deep breath, take a sip of my latte, and try to calm the heck down. Comparing myself to a best-selling author with 40K followers will NOT help me reach my goals. If anything, comparing myself leads to imposter syndrome. I’ll tell you what I have to tell myself time and time again: you are unique and no one’s path is quite like yours. Remember why you started writing in the first place, find that spark, that joy, whatever it is, and cling to it.

STEP 4:

Humans are hard wired to mostly share a set of universal beliefs and values. That is why many tropes exist, because a lot of good storytelling cashes in on capturing these universalities.

However, even beliefs and values can differ (look at pretty much the reason behind every war in history). The good news, your writing most likely won’t be so affronting that it starts up some war level debate. But, in a smaller/safer sense, people do not hold a singularity on taste. Some people like things a lot and other people dislike those same things. That is just a basic fact of being human.

Save yourself stress by understanding that not everyone will like your work. It is inevitable and it will happen. The sooner you can let yourself say “heck em”, the better. Finding your audience, your band of respected followers, will be important. No matter how big your dreams, you are not writing a book to be read by every person in the world. Narrow your audience and write for that niche.

STEP 5:

I would be a little suspicious if I went through life without any rejection. That is because rejection is a part of life. We cannot control how and when rejection will happen, but we can control how we handle it.

Obviously, rejection sucks. Rejection or even the fear of rejection is probably the number one reason we all have self-doubt. If we knew for certain that anything we created would be accepted and applauded, it wouldn’t be so scary to submit and to put yourself out there.

But we live in a world where rejection is that constant bite at our heels, the knot in our bellies, and the sting of defeat. If you rationalize with the very real possibility of rejection, and come to terms with it, then you are better off one way or the other. If the rejection doesn’t come, then good for you, you can stop stressing about it! Time to pop that bottle of bubbly! But, if you are rejected, you are better prepared and you can take away one of the most important lessons: learning from rejection.

Whether there is a good reason for the rejection or not, there is always something that can be learned from it. Go ahead and ask for feedback. Go ahead and rethink your approach. Go ahead and go back to the drawing board. Do whatever you think best to help you grow and learn from this rejection. The only thing you shouldn’t do is let the rejection keep you from improving or keep you from trying again.

BONUS:

Get mindful & active!

Thanks to my COVID-19 quarantine I have had the opportunity to run pretty much every day. Sometimes I start a run with the tightness of anxiety gripping my chest. That is when I know I must press on. I know that running, beneficial to both body and mind, will help me to feel a shade better when I am done. That’s why it is called a runner’s high not a runner’s low!

I am not suggesting everyone strap on a pair of sneakers and hit the trails (I do recommend it, but it isn’t for everyone). What I do believe is that much of everything good in this world is based on striking the perfect balance. Having an activity that is balanced both physically and mentally help do wonders for my own health.

This activity could be anything! I have a lot of friends who are into yoga. Some like to just take walks. If interpretive dance is your thing, go for it! Keeping your mind and body active is an amazing way to quiet that self-doubting monster inside you in an exchange for exercise and inspiration.

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