What is doubt?
The dictionary defines doubt as the following:
- (a feeling of) not being certain about something, especially about how good or true it is.
- To be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe.
- To fear; be afraid.
Feeling doubt has been one of the things that held me back from so much in my life. It was like doubt was a big red stop sign. I used it as an excuse to not do things. If there was any doubt that I would succeed, then I wouldn’t do it. I quit.
When I was in high school, I took a senior chemistry class and studied SO hard for a test, harder than I had for anything to that point. I found out later that I failed that test miserably, so I quickly dropped the course. Because I didn’t achieve success after studying as hard as I thought possible, I doubted that I could ever succeed in the course, so I dropped it. Years later this memory came back to me when my daughter was telling me that she was trying out different study methods to figure out which was more efficient for her. Study methods? I thought you studied hard, or you barely studied, I didn’t know there were methods. In my experience, I had quit because of my self-doubt and was not open to this possibility of a different method to study. I missed out on the opportunity to learn.
Where would we be…
What if Picasso quit the first time he painted because no one bought that picture and then he doubted his ability to create anything worthwhile?
If Picasso had quit then pieces like the one to this would never have been experienced by anyone.
What if Alexander Fleming, in 1928, doubted that he was creating anything useful and quit his science experiment before figuring out that the mistake he’d made turned out to be Penicillin? Imagine – if it weren’t for all my doubt maybe I could have been a scientist too.
My own doubt…
Doubt also came up for me as I was losing weight and as I became a life coach. I would be moving along and suddenly that feeling would come up and try to sabotage the successes I was having. My first thought was that no one else could be facing this. I was convinced that anyone around me who was being successful at losing weight was FOR SURE not feeling the doubt that I was feeling – how could they? They were losing weight – they were doing it like a boss – so there couldn’t possibly be doubt on their minds. Or could there? Other coaches couldn’t feel doubt, look how successful they are. I promise you this isn’t true, we all feel it even if it doesn’t look like it.
What are you choosing?
Doubt is an uncomfortable feeling. Even by definition, it is uncertain. For me, doubt creates a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach that burns. Brene Brown explains that courage and comfort are choices we make and we can’t have both at the same time. Doing things when we have doubt may not be comfortable, but it is courageous.
I suggest an alternative, that if we get comfortable with doubting ourselves then we can be courageous at the same time. We are told that if we believe in ourselves we can figure things out and be successful. This is why I believe that we can succeed and have doubt at the same time. It’s possible to doubt ourselves and have enough courage to try anyway.
We all have doubts…
On a daily basis, our ability to get something done is brought into question by our thoughts. Do I have enough time? Is the weather ok for my run? Will the grocery store have the fruit that I like? How will I ever figure out how to lose weight? There is doubt in almost everything we think.
Which emotion drives your life?
I decided that doubt is not allowed to be the emotion in the driver’s seat of my life. I toss that feeling into the backseat while I go about my life. When I decide from a place of doubt, I hold myself back. If I don’t go for a walk today because it might rain, I missed out on a walk. I have learned to prepare for doubt, to see it, to appreciate it for trying to protect me but refusing to live my life in fear of what if. If I doubt the weather then I will wear an extra layer or put on a hat. If I doubt that I can do something – I will try it and see what happens. I know that I learn so much more by “leaning in” as Brene Brown would say, and I experience a much fuller and more satisfying life.
Doubt could have taken over…
Last summer my family rented a cottage for a week. It was no easy situation in the middle of a pandemic and with a total of 11 people coming and going throughout the week. But we booked it and figured it out. If I had let the doubt that we could make it work and enjoy our vacation take over I would have missed out on one of the best weeks of my life. There were many opportunities that I could have let doubt set in and hold me back, but I didn’t. Despite my doubts that I could arrange it that I wasn’t stuck in the kitchen cooking every meal, I figured it out. Even though I doubted that I would enjoy the watersports because of my weight, I figured it out. I doubted that my whole family could get along for a week, and yet we did.
When I allowed that doubt to be present I was also able to look for ways to make things work. What I’ve learned is that when I choose to allow the doubt, I get to experience the pure joy of my successes and I also get to learn from the things that don’t create the results I want. I show up and choose courage over comfort.
Having the courage to try…
We tend to think that the feeling of success, joy, or pride can only be felt if we reach the end target of our goals. I like to show my clients that they can feel all of that from having the courage to try and not just from the results or outcome. If we skip the effort because we doubt the result will happen then we miss out on so much. You can doubt that you’ll get it all done but try anyway. When we let go of that all-or-nothing thinking we create a fuller life, one that is much more interesting because we had the courage to try so many more things.
How I can help…
If you find yourself avoiding things when that feeling of doubt comes up, then I can help. Being aware that when we quit we do it to avoid doubt, is life-changing. I help people see that they can choose to see any doubts and let them come along for the ride because when they do, they are back in control of the journey! The next time you are wanting to quit and you see that you have doubt, maybe you can sit back and ask yourself if you could try anyways.