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Ensnared by Doubt

I often fall into the trap of doing nothing.

I shy back from words or action because I think I’m not the right person. I don’t know what I’m doing, my words are jumbled up, I’m a nobody, probably my thoughts are all wrong, people will think I’m crazy, I’ll look like a fool.

I doubt myself: my intellect, abilities, emotions, my experience, knowledge, understanding, my opinions, beliefs…my everything.

Sometimes when I’m prompted to do, my confidence gets lost in the folds of these doubts. And so I don’t.

I don’t speak up.

I don’t reach out.

I don’t.

I’ve been following along as a fellow blogger, Alise, prepared to take a step outside of her comfort zone and travel to another country to help young girls who were rescued from a life of sexual slavery. At one point, a commenter suggested that the money Alise raised for this trip could be put to better use by sending trained counselors, or funding a building, or buying food. I don’t believe it was suggested with malice, but it reminded me that confidence-damaging words and ideas can come from any direction, even from people who mean the best.

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Doubt can be a snare, small and easily disguised. A slim cord that lays in wait. One emotional misstep and it snaps tight so quickly that you don’t know what happened.  Suddenly you’re choked for air. Your mind races through escape routes but the loss of oxygen debilitates to the point where you simply can’t think, and the easiest thing is to just go quiet.

That sounds so scary, and in my physical life I would fight – I would kick and claw and do whatever I could to get out of that snare.

But in my emotional life it’s just the opposite: it feels scarier to fight against negative thoughts than to give in to them. And so I go quiet, I sit still, ensnared by doubt.

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Alise is in another country today. In her last post before leaving she said, “I know that there are people who are probably better suited for this trip.” And she wasn’t going without fear, but she was  going. Maybe she’s not the most qualified person to go there, but she has something that nobody else can offer, and that’s herself. She is uniquely qualified to offer up her heart and her love and her support to those girls.

A lifetime of experience has taught me not to be myself. But here in the intimate setting of this world wide web, I’m training myself to grow in the right direction. I’m forcing myself to speak up, and reach out, and do. I’m learning that it’s okay to be me. After all, I’m the only one on the planet who can fill that job.

I constantly look outside of myself for positive examples like Alise. And I constantly find them. I also find encouragement and kindness from the friends I’ve made in the blogging community. You all let me be foolish and silly, and occasionally incoherent. You let me change my mind. You let me pursue thoughts and ideas willy-nilly, not only here but in the comments on your own blogs. And you never tell me that I’m crazy or a nobody or that my thoughts are all wrong.

You help me face my fears and fight against the choking power of self-doubt. And that’s pretty darn awesome. 

Items of Interest:

The Nitty Gritty (what Alise expects in Moldova)

New Memories (Alise’s last post before leaving)

Risk is scary. Regret is worse. (by Kylie: a great post about facing our doubts and fears)

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15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Keep being you and stepping out to get involved in anyway that makes sense. You are a great encouragement to the rest of us!

    January 21, 2013
    • Thanks Patti, I’m trying! It’s really great that we can encourage each other. I think that’s so important, and I wouldn’t be able to move forward at all without the help of my friends 🙂

      January 23, 2013
  2. I think most of us have felt the way you do at one time or another–if not often. The first step in overcoming those doubts and fears is to acknowledge them. And as with most things worthwhile it is a constant challenge to keep on keepin’ on. You are where you are meant to be and will go (or stay) where you are meant to go (or stay) because you are you and you are “the only one on the planet who can fill that job”. \O/ you!

    January 21, 2013
    • I agree – I don’t want to sound like I’m an unhappy person, beaten down by life, and I really don’t want to be a downer on my blog (or just a broken record, talking this kind of stuff all the time). But I feel like I have to put it out there, I have to acknowledge some things that I struggle with in order to put them in their proper perspective. Then I can work on the real issues, and not just struggle with the emotions aspect.

      January 23, 2013
  3. Wow, M. This line: “A lifetime of experience has taught me not to be myself.” There’s a book in those words.

    January 21, 2013
    • If I thought I could write it, I would. To be honest, it would be a pretty boring book, filled with tiny little things. And a lot of it rests on my own shoulders.

      January 23, 2013
  4. I just finished writing a post incredibly similar to this set to be published tomorrow. I feel you. And I absolutely love that you found someone to follow along that is helping overcome the fear of stepping out and taking risk. You’ve got this.

    January 22, 2013
    • I just read your post and, as usual, it’s so terrific! I’m so often envious of your writing and wish I could write like that. You say wonderful things in a really wonderful way. I love your analogy of the climbing wall, and that’s just what it feels like. When you’re hanging there, it feels so scary and like you just can’t risk it. But when you really think about it, you’ll end up where you started anyway if you don’t take the risk, so why not jump and see if you can get higher?

      January 23, 2013
  5. Such a great post, Michelle. This kind of goes along with our ongoing posts about being the best person you can be that we had going last summer. What an insightful line: “A lifetime of experience has taught me not to be myself.” I think it also takes most of us an entire lifetime to get back to our true selves. As I get older, I find myself remembering and making time for things that were important to me when I was a child. Remember how we were unafraid to try new things and weren’t worried about making mistakes? It’s like being an adult takes over and all the walls start coming up and we start building rooms to keep it all in.
    Kudos to Alise for being so brave and living her values!

    January 22, 2013
    • This is definitely an ongoing topic of conversation. 🙂 Like I told Patricia, I hate to get boring or repetitive with all this stuff, but it’s important for me to not let it go. I need to keep talking it out so that I don’t just fall back into old patterns of behavior.

      I think about that sometimes, how I gained fears as I went along. You’re so right that it takes as long or longer to regain all the things that we lost for ourselves. Or maybe lose the things we gained? 🙂 For me it’s a lot about fear – of making mistakes, but mostly of being ridiculed.

      January 23, 2013
  6. I have been struggling with the same thing but instead of calling it doubt i call it Fear! Fear and doubt have different meanings per say but in my mind they cause the same thing. They both interfere with moving forward, moving in the direction you are meant to go. It slaps you in your face. But, I am trying to refer back to the Bible when things like this arise and what comes to mind in this instance is that “You may get hit in the face but turn the other cheek”. Of course those are my words. 🙂 But, you get my meaning. You keep being you. You are an amazing person who is taking steps in the right direction. I have written about this myself but have yet to post. Why? I am not sure. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to be the great person you are!

    January 25, 2013
    • I agree – I had planned a post about that (that when I say doubt, what I really mean is fear) for Thursday, but I just couldn’t get it written in time. I guess I need to clear up my thoughts on that some more. But that’s exactly it!

      January 25, 2013
  7. Self doubt makes us our own worst enemy. And f

    January 30, 2013
    • Gah this is what happens when trying to type in comments on a tiny phone 🙂 Here’s the rest of it: Self doubt makes us our own worst enemy. For me, that tiny doubting voice can speak so loud and clear that it drowns out everything else. As I get older, I’ve learnt to tune that voice out but there are days when it still gets to me. And I get scared of failing or what people may think of me or what if I’m not good enough. But I think it’s ok – learning to have faith in ourselves is a journey. Impt thing is that we keep moving forward. And hopefully, when I am an old woman, I shall wear purple! 🙂

      January 30, 2013
      • As I was going to sleep last night, I started thinking about expectations. I realized that what I want for myself is not what I generally expect to get. And as long as I’m expecting to fail or be invisible or not good enough or say something stupid, then I’m probably going to fulfill those expectations. Even if it’s not true, I’ve mentally prepared myself for failure, so anything that happens will be seen through that failure filter. So I need to change my expectations. I need to expect to do well, speak well, etc. If I fail, then hopefully I’ll start seeing my failures through a more positive filter, and instead of being even more discouraged, I will take it in stride, learn from it and do better next time.

        Thank you for sharing your feelings and fears! It means a lot to be told we’re not the only ones. Even when we know we’re not the only ones, it still feels good to hear it! I like that poem and I’ll hope for my own purple future!! 🙂

        January 30, 2013

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