They say that confidence is everything. Yet our ability to manipulate that confidence is also very powerful.
Alastair Campbell wrote a beautiful piece recently which explores his struggle with the beast of self doubt. Surprising, given most of us assumed he had unwavering self-belief.
Confidence is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we doubt ourselves, our friends or our environments, then these thoughts often manifest and solidify.
A speech will often go better if we’re not worried, a date better if we less concerned about what the ‘other’ person thinks – the more difficult the situation, the harder it is to act in a natural way, even if being natural is most needed. There have been plentiful examples in my own life where my self-esteem has robbed me of my enjoyment and my abilities.
Self-doubt isn’t rational. It doesn’t always respond to reason. A healthy, wealthy and wise person can feel paralyzed by doubt, despite the evidence to the contrary. Someone who would seem to have nothing can be all-powerful, if they believe in themselves.
Self-doubt, despite what some people think (even those who know me well) features large in my life.
I have grappled with its irrationality, suffered its poor timing and, have also at points managed to quieten its voice to a bare whisper.
However, I know that it will always be there – an eternal enemy.. Accepting this, I am better able to deal with it – to work with it and to diminish its drag on my soul. Like Mr Campbell, doubt can also enable action and therefore become a useful tool.
In my own case, self-doubt has, amongst a host of other things, prevented me from performing more music live, from offering more complements to others and pursuing some of my dreams. Self-doubt is to blame for many of my regrets and failings. It is self-doubt that forces a defensiveness that can also construe as independence, confidence or even arrogance. If there’s no doubt, it is much easier to accept criticism.
Yet I’m trying hard not to curse the doubt. That would only serve to reinforce its power. Instead, I’ve been working, very slowly but surely, to quieten this voice.
Most importantly, I’ve been trying to recognize that it’s often an irrational voice. When I hear the voice I have begun to distance myself from the words spoken – to try to make it someone else’s voice, rather than my own. Sometimes, I try to give the voice a silly accent in my head, or to mentally push it away, or just to giggle internally at the voice and its madness. By lessening the hold it has on me, by listening less, no matter the volume, I am able to begin to ignore the voice. It takes a bit of obstinacy, but if you reinforce this process I’ve found that I can slowly remove much the negativity.
So… if you catch someone looking concerned, or if they’re a bit rough with you, perhaps they’re just doubting themselves. Don’t read too much into the interaction. They might be suffering an irrational moment of self-doubt. We should, if we can, work on our own truths and not be subjected to the, often irrational, moods of others.