life: dealing with self doubt

It’s 9.28pm, I’m still in my sweaty workout gear and I should really be thinking about going to bed.

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But there’s a light inside me that’s been switched on today, and I needed to get the bare bones of what I wanted to talk about in this post out before someone removed the bulb. Self doubt. Something I see within the blogging industry daily. Now, don’t switch off if you’re not a blogger, because it exists all around us and everything I say can most definitely be applied to other areas of life. I’m just using what I know as an example. We all know the old saying ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, and we all know what we should avoid doing to avoid feeling a certain way. And we are all very capable of getting down on ourselves every now and then. A bit of feeling sorry for yourself is healthy, it’s what makes use human. But recently, I am seeing nothing but self loathing. Everywhere I turn on social media, there’s yet another person I admire, beating themselves up. (And let’s not even get into the ‘bot’ chat, yeah?).

I admire them for such a range of reasons – for their tenacity, or their drive, or their beautiful photography, or way with words. I admire their consistency, or their originality and inspiration. I’m fairly particular with my social media and you can bet that if I follow someone, it’s because I admire something they do. Seeing these people, who I’m inspired by daily, loathing and criticising their own abilities – what does that say to me? Lately, it’s actually made me pretty angry. A few months ago I shrugged it off as the way blogging is now. The way society is. We’re never content (more on that in this post!). How we always want more, and how it’s gone past bettering ourselves and become something that feels like greed. But in the past few weeks? It’s got me riled up. We live in a difficult society. I was discussing work with friends recently and pointed out to them that our generation has never known employment in a thriving economy. We came out of school/college/university straight into a recession, and things haven’t moved on much since. Yet everyone I know works, works hard, has cracking jobs, some of whom have bounced back from redundancy and difficult times and are still under 30 years old, with steady, sufficient incomes, properties, children. In short, everyone around me is doing alright for themselves. There is little need for such self doubt in their lives – yet there it is. The ones who haven’t yet bought a house, want one, the ones who are at the top of their career, want to get even further up the ladder. Blogging mirrors this, with people I’ve grown with in the industry rocketing – working on amazing projects, travelling, taking on self employment, generally bossing it. But somehow these are the girls who are taking to social media to discuss their insecurities, their want for more, their ‘failings’ or shortcomings.

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I listened to a podcast this week by Sara Tasker of Me & Orla. Her podcast, Hashtag Authentic, is one of my favourites and is aimed at online creatives. She invited guest Sas Petherick onto this week’s episode, a life coach who specialises in self doubt. It came at a perfect time, as I’d already started to think about writing this post and it actually opened my eyes to what self doubt really is. Sara asks Sas why we’re all plagued by it – and the answer? It’s human nature. It’s our risk manager, Sas explained – the part of our brain that assesses if something is a risk, or not. The only problem? It’s not very sophisticated and it can’t tell the difference between a physical or mental risk. Physically, self doubt is our protector, but mentally, it’s something we all need to learn to at least recognise, and aspire to get around. This self doubt part of your brain is one step ahead of the rational part, so it makes differentiating things difficult. In short, everyone feels some sort of self doubt. It’s built into us. But what Sara cleverly asks is, how do we overcome it? Because with every step along the road to validation (a numerical milestone or praise from others, for example), comes a peak that is further out of reach. Self doubt exacerbates our want for more. Sas suggests that having the courage to discuss your self doubt is the first step in fighting it, realising you’re not alone. She talks about how sharing your process, and not just the polished end result, opens a dialogue amongst creatives that’s invaluable. And so I suppose those who are truly battling with a higher level of self doubt that take to social media to discuss it are doing us all a favour – sharing their thoughts and feelings, letting us all know we’re not alone. Or maybe it’s that it’s more accessible now. Like everything else in life, with the rise of social media we’ve gained access into other peoples lives/thoughts/minds like we’ve never been able to before. Conversations people would have had in their heads are now able to be had in the public domain. Social media coupled with the increasing levels of honesty that people share online, perhaps, has opened up the floodgates of self doubt. And this human instinct that Sas talks about is just that bit more visible than it used to be.

There is no answer to overcoming self doubt – I never thought there was and Sas confirms that it isn’t going anywhere fast. Everyone needs a dose of it – even these beautiful yellow fields need that hint of risk by the way of looming grey clouds to show the true attraction! But, going back to this post again, perhaps we need to take a step back and recognise our successes before we so quickly jump on our shortcomings. “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Recognise your achievements and let the anchor of self doubt go.

It might feel good!

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