Self-Doubt is a Fucking Creep

If you’re like me (human) and you have creative pursuits, you have likely experienced the sensation of an imp that tends to reside inside the lot of us. It prickles your chest, thumps on your brain, sets fires in the happy part of Emotion Village. There it is, the damned little bugger, lurking over your shoulder, licking its lips, telling you that you’re a failure and you’ll never amount to anything.

Fuck that guy.

His name is Self-Doubt. And he’s one of Failure’s Shitty Cousins.

Self-Doubt’s Tragic Backstory

Self-doubt is rooted in our biological need for acceptance. Back in the days when societies were first starting to form, the alternative to acceptance was banishment, which was the equivalent of death for many in the harsh wild. Then humans got smarter, and the Survival instinct linked with Acceptance was cut. Survival took another step towards its degradation, while Acceptance blossomed into a more aesthetic desire.

So now, acceptance is no longer associated with life-or-death situations; unfortunately, no one got that memo to the ancient part of our brains. Acceptance still has its roots in survival. Either way, it stands to reason we would adapt in this way.

Meanwhile, over the course of human evolution, the Survival Instinct cut more and more links with our various emotions and desires and eventually split off into a bunch of different, smaller demons.

Self-Doubt: Present Day

One of those demons did not go quietly into the night. When the Survival Instinct associated with Acceptance started to shrivel up and split off, one of the demons had a brief moment of enlightment. Just because humans didn’t need to use it for survival anymore, didn’t mean it couldn’t be “useful” elsewhere. It knew it could evolve, so it did. During this breadth of time, it started calling itself Self-Doubt, informed the entire brain community of its existence, aged with humankind and became what it is now: a creepy, wrinkly, clever old man inside our minds.

A Shitty Cousin of Failure, Self-Doubt often teams up with Addiction. This winning duo really knows how to get to us. Together, they energize themselves with modern technology–a technology called social media that grants us lucky humans the luxury of spending hours upon hours comparing ourselves to the best of the best and grasping for imagined, inconsistent rewards. And once we get those rewards, we want more. It is the same type of thing that goes off in the brains of those who gamble. But that is for a different post.

These days, Self-Doubt does not really serve any other purpose. For all its cleverness, ultimately, it is really just a blubbering old man, trying to keep us firmly rooted in the past. It whispers in our ear, pushes on our hearts, does everything and anything it can to prevent us from evolving. One thing we can learn from Self-Doubt is that we need to adapt and evolve with the times, just like it did. We need to be able to pay attention to our emotions and identify it when we sense it creeping up. We need to be aware of it when it starts munching on our minds, before it grows larger and takes up more real estate in our heads.

My Strategy for Fighting Self-Doubt

Those who are the best in their chosen field can only show us what they are now. We don’t see what they were and the struggles they went through (unless they documented on video their entire journey to the top, which is rare). They struggled, just like what we do, against Self-Doubt. The difference between us and them, is that they learned how to push past it; how to fight back. And they kept going. They continued to evolve.

I personally feel that the only way to fight self-doubt is to evolve. This is easier said than done, of course. As I have said before, self-doubt is clever and has been living inside our brains in one form or another for a long time. It knows all the secret passageways leading to our conscious thought, so ignoring does not seem to be the best solution. If we ignore it, eventually it will find another way into the forefront of our mind. Not only that, it will probably have grown much larger. Once it reaches its full potential, it will shroud every ounce of our desire in its poisonus canopy of assholery.

Here’s what I’m trying to do: when it pops its little head out like a prairie dog from the crevices in my brain (which I just learned are called sulci), I will:

  • Acknowledge its presence
  • Stop whatever I’m doing (writing, Twitter, etc.), take a few breaths and pay attention to the effect that it is having on my emotions
  • Ask myself what caused it to appear and be completely honest with myself
  • If I can, write how I am feeling
  • Meditate or exercise

I tend to stay away from whatever activity I’m doing for a while whenever self-doubt appears. When I feel I’ve adequately processed my emotions, I give myself permission to return to said activity (Twitter, etc.). If I wrote down my emotions, whether on the computer or on paper, sometimes I will keep them; other times, I will discard them.

This strategy does not work for everyone. The brain is a complex maze. For those with depression or anxiety, it is not that simple. I cannot help in that case. I can only share what I know works for me. If you battle with any type of mental illness, please seek professional help.

Redemption(?)

Ultimately, Self-Doubt will likely never go away. Not completely. It is one of the ancient emotions, part of us. But, if we learn how to handle it, to control it, perhaps Self-Doubt will turn from its bitter, creepy ways, or at least show potential to evolve into something more positive for humanity.

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