Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I Doubt… Therefore I Don’t

I had a rousing debate with a friend the other day over the idea of doubt. It all started with me saying that everything can be broken down to either love or fear. Everything.

My friend disagreed and said that a person could doubt something without being afraid of it. When he gave me a couple of examples though, I started asking questions and within a few questions was able to reduce every example of doubt to a (usually unconscious) fear.

It may be a little hard to digest the idea that our complicated lives can be broken down to something as elemental as either love or fear, but there’s a lot of freedom that comes along with embracing this reality too.

For example, when we have to make a decision, we often make a list to try and determine what the best solution is. Then we narrow down our list of choices and options simply by eliminating anything that doesn’t fit our immediate definition of “best”. But what if the reason we’re eliminating possibilities isn’t because they won’t work? What if they’re being eliminated simply because there’s an element of fear buried in there somewhere?

What would happen if instead of just choosing between solutions we were comfortable with, we took a few minutes to sit with the ones that make us squirm? For one thing, most of the time our fears aren’t founded by actual, primal, “I’m about to die” realities. It’s much more likely to be a fear of the unknown, or a fear that was generated by an outdated conclusion our brain made when we were younger. Sometimes fear is a result of the way we were taught to think, the result of someone else making sure we know our limitations, or because we can't guarantee our actions will produce the desired result. But most dangerous of all, is the fear that helps us unconsciously whittle down our potential simply by eliminating any choice, possibility, or option that will move us out of our comfort zone and into uncharted territory.  

The solution? Increase your list of possible courses of action to as many as you can think of. Identify the ones that make you squirm and sit with each one for a minute or two. Think about everything that could go wrong. Then think about everything you would have to do to follow this course. If you’re like most people, you’re going to realize that sometimes it’s easier to leave possible courses of action off the list than it is to acknowledge the fear of failing should you chose a more challenging course of action.

But think about what you might discover with your expanded list too. You might realize that the best solution is actually the one you were ready to eliminate because it was also the scariest. Make the distinction between the primal fears that kept cavemen alive and fears that have no actual foundation. Stop doubting yourself. Stop doubting your future. As some of the greatest human beings around keep reminding us, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”


  1. Valerie, exceptional article! I see this all the time. Self-doubt is often a self-imposed limitation based on the opinions of others or on a perceived failure from within oneself without exploring what went wrong. We then base our decisions off of this faulty or incomplete information. We often feel the failure reflects badly on ourselves, instead of looking at the root cause behind the failure - which may or may not be within our control.

    For example, in the business world, failure may be due to external factors such as bad timing or lack of support from others. Internal factors play a role too, such as potentially faulty assumptions made regarding a given project from the beginning.

    As for myself - whenever I feel that an outcome turned out less than ideal, I go back and explore why. What were the things I could have done differently? What jewels of wisdom can I take from the outcome I did have – whether it was the outcome I envisioned or not? By putting myself through this self-assessment, I face my fears and put them in proper perspective and move on to achieve greater things.