Me: “It’s time to follow my dreams. I will be a writer, start a blog and help others improve their lives.”
Self-doubt: “But how could YOU ever help anybody? You lack documented authority and relevant qualifications. People won’t listen to you, they won’t care.”
Me: “I love writing. And I can share my experiences with others so they can benefit. I have valuable insights.”
Self-doubt: “But nothing you cobble together will ever be good enough. You aren’t even particularly talented.”
Me: “The people who saw my articles said they liked them.”
Self-doubt: “But they probably lied to you to spare your feelings. Just look at the masterpieces other people create. How could your mediocre stuff ever compare?”
Me: “Some people might be interested in what I have to say.”
Self-doubt: “But they don’t know the real you. When they discover how pathetic and boring you are, they will realise their mistake and reject you. It will hurt.”
Me: “I think I can do it. I am quite capable.”
Self-doubt: “But aren’t you kidding yourself? Isn’t this just another hopeless attempt to be part of something special? You don’t have what it takes.”
Me: “I want to pursue my passions, have purpose. Contribute, inspire, encourage. I want my life to matter.”
Self-doubt: “But you will never achieve anything of relevance. Everything you touch is destined to fail. It’s not worth the heart-break, embarrassment and disappointment.”
Me: “But, what about my dreams?
Self-doubt: “Dreams, aspirations and fulfilment are for better, more important people. Let’s stay here where we’re safe. Who needs dreams anyway, right?”
All my life, my self-doubt murdered my plans, strangled my enthusiasm and drowned my passions.
When I was 7 years old, my deepest desire was to become an author. But self-doubt convinced me that my sister was the creative genius in the family. I could never compare to her, why waste my life on silly phantasies and unrealistic ideas.
When I chose a sensible career in research instead, self-doubt insisted that I was an imposter in a ridiculous scientist disguise. I lived in constant fear of being exposed. Of somebody pointing a finger at me, shouting: “You know nothing, little girl”.
And now, as I dreamed of rekindling my love for writing, self-doubt vetoed again. And I believed its warnings, bought its objections. Again.
As always, I stuck with my familiar life, my stale routines devoid of challenges, excitement and adventures. Busy suppressing my passion and disregarding my need for creative expression, purpose and direction.
While my dreams simmered on the back burner, neglected, oppressed, out of reach. I thought I didn’t need them to be happy. But I was wrong.
I thought I was content in my comfort zone. The familiar tasks and routine situations of my second choice life gave me a sense of stability, security and consistency.
It was comfortable, convenient. Yet, all happiness and joy had been drained from my existence. Every morning I woke up with a feeling of emptiness aching in my heart.
My whole being seemed senseless. My life automated, aimless, monotonous. Each new day was a repeat of the previous one, every week the same as the last.
Time moved on. But I was stuck. Trapped in the dark, incapable of moving forward, unable to grow.
I felt increasingly depressed. Deep inside I knew I should be more, that life should be better. But my self-doubt suffocated all my dreams upon inception, they never had a chance.
Until one evening, as I cried myself to sleep over my useless existence, an unfamiliar thought popped into my mind. And it was that thought that jumpstarted my journey to fulfilling my dreams.
I always took my self-doubt’s words for facts. When self-doubt insisted I wasn’t good enough to follow my dreams, it had to be the truth. When self-doubt insinuated that I was incapable of success, I believed it.
But that fateful evening, for no specific reason, I thought: “What if self-doubt is lying to me?”
I had long suspected that self-doubt’s convictions and actual reality didn’t match up. I knew I was capable in many areas of my life. Yet, self-doubt afflicted me with a constant undercurrent of self-torment, telling me that everything I did was lacking and irrelevant.
I knew I was successful in my career as a scientist. My colleagues respected me and often commended me on my work. Still, self-doubt claimed that I was way behind compared to my peers who were more intelligent and competent than I could ever be.
And I was certain that writing and helping others was my life’s passion and purpose. But I had never even tried to follow this dream because self-doubt blocked me from taking action.
Deep down, I sensed that I had what it takes to succeed. So, why did my self-doubt lie to me?
After I uncovered my self-doubt’s mendacity, I began to consider it my worst enemy. A traitor and saboteur, out to destroy my life’s passions.
I hated the part of me that constantly doubted my abilities, foresaw failure in everything I attempted and poisoned my thoughts with negativity. I blamed it for everything that went wrong in my life. And I resented it for all the dreams I had abandoned.
I beat myself up whenever self-doubt crept up. “You are better than this! You know self-doubt is lying! Why are you so weak and pathetic? Why are you still listening to it?”
Despite the knowledge of the untruth in my self-doubt’s words, I couldn’t escape its grip. I was at war with myself, stuck in a downward spiral of doubt, self-punishment and shame. More distressed, anxious and depressed than ever.
For years I sought a way to exterminate my self-doubt. To demolish the gigantic wall that trapped me on the wrong side of life.
Until I finally realised the truth. Self-doubt wasn’t an antagonist, nor was it a part of me. All this time I had misunderstood it altogether and suffered because of it.
My relationship with self-doubt changed when I discovered its true purpose. It wasn’t intended to ruin my life, it was designed to protect me. Self-doubt is a tool tasked by evolution with keeping us alive.
Our ancestors’ life was a constant fight for survival. And self-doubt developed as a strategy to avert disaster. Intended to oppose risky endeavours, question perilous plans and reject unwise life choices, doubting one’s own abilities could mean the difference between life and death.
Self-doubt was a little voice whispering in our ancestors’ ears. Sparking fear to keep them within their comfort zone. Where they were safe.
If they feared the water, they couldn’t drown. If they were terrified of heights, they wouldn’t plummet to their demise. If they avoided wild beasts, they weren’t at risk of being mauled.
For thousands of years, self-doubt helped our species to survive. By protecting us from physical threats, harm and premature death.
But my dreams posed no danger to my wellbeing. Why was self-doubt damaging my life rather than protecting it? What had gone wrong?
Nowadays, most of us are fortunate enough to rarely encounter life-threatening situations. So, the natural life preserving strategy of self-doubt has, in a way, become obsolete. We no longer face death on a daily basis.
Instead, other threats have emerged. And where self-doubt was charged with avoiding our premature demise, its new main concern is to prevent failure, humiliation, judgement, disapproval and rejection. Because they endanger our oversensitive ego and underdeveloped sense of worthiness.
My whole life I felt worthless, incapable, inferior. I worried what others might think of me, lay awake at night beating myself up for my mistakes and shortcomings. And doubted my abilities to cope with life and new challenges.
No, my dreams weren’t life threatening. But they jeopardized my fragile sense of worth. Every failure to pursue a dream would have plunged me into a black chasm of worthlessness, shame and self-hatred.
Every misstep on the path towards my passions would have left me shivering and anxious, terrified of the judgement and ridicule I anticipated from others.
Self-doubt was still protecting me. It stopped me from embarking on the journey towards my dreams, so I wouldn’t tumble off the cliff of unworthiness. Smashing whatever was left of my shrivelled sense of worth.
Self-doubt was never my problem. It was merely misguided. My real issue was lack of self-worth.
All my self-doubt, distress and resignation to a life I didn’t enjoy were based on one disastrous misunderstanding.
I believed that I had no worth.
Like millions of other people I grew up feeling like a pathetic joke, a sorry excuse for a human being. Essentially and permanently flawed, incapable of achieving my dreams and undeserving of them.
Sure, I could acquire worth through success, popularity and other people’s acknowledgement, approval and admiration. But my hard-earned worth would be obliterated by any failure, slip-up or criticism.
Leaving me worthless once again.
Pursuing my dreams contained the risk of failure. An unforeseeable probability that my worth would be destroyed in the process. And as a true protector, self-doubt had to stop me.
The truth is though that we can never have worth. Nor can we increase, gain or prove our worth.
Because we ARE worth. Personified. Worth is the essence of our being.
An intrinsic part of who we are, unconditional and limitless. Failure cannot diminish our worth, accomplishments won’t amplify it. Just like the number of cells in our body, our true, inner worth is unaffected by our achievements or shortcomings.
As such, it is impossible for us to ever be worthless.
The realisation of my worth as inherent and unchangeable handed me the key to my dreams. It took time, consistency and determination to retrain my mind conditioned to worthlessness. But once I knew that I AM worth, that my worth doesn’t depend on the outcome of my endeavours, I could follow my passions without fear.
Now, I no longer listen to my self-doubt or bow to its warnings. It’s a mere obstacle in my path. I can choose to ignore it, walk around it, climb over it, but it will never stop me from reaching my destination again.
My dream of becoming a professional writer might be unrealistic. People might not like what I have to say, my efforts might not bear fruit, my writing might never be extraordinary.
I may fail.
But I am loving every minute. I enjoy the process. Every morning I awake feeling happy, full of purpose and passion for what I do, excited about the day ahead.
I finally live my dream. And the outcome is irrelevant, success and failure don’t matter.
Because I AM worth. Regardless.
Just like you.
Dr Berni Sewell, PhD is a health scientist, energy healer and self-worth blogger. She is on a mission to make you feel good about yourself, no matter what. Download her free guide Instant self-worth: an easy 4-step solution to heal your self-worth in under 5 minutes a day” and start to boost your confidence today.