A writer friend wrote, “I’m filled with self-doubt. Is that usual?”
I wrote her back, “If we writers didn’t have self doubt, we’d have noting.”
Okay, my answer’s an exaggeration, but there are times when self doubt seems to paralyze us, stop us in our tracks, even makes us take a step backwards.
When I signed with my first agent, the thought hit me, “Now I’m going to have to produce because I’m not on my own anymore.” That realization scared me. Could I do that? Up to that moment, my writing had been something I’d done when I had time for my own entertainment. Self doubt filled me.
That’s why I especially appreciated two earlier blog entries: Six Things I’ve Learned about Rejection and My Cure for Writer’s Block. If there’s anything a rejection does, it’s to make an author—well, at least me—think, “I’m a terrible writer. I’ll never publish again.” Writer’s block makes me think, “Where have the words gone? I’ll never publish again.”
Aah, yes. Self doubt.
It’s not just for writers, either. When was the last time you were filled with self doubt? When you decided to go back to school? Look for a new job? Has it slowed you, even stopped you from getting what you wanted?
I was a counselor for several years. Probably the main thing I worked on with people was low self-esteem. I know there’s a tape inside my head that plays those themes over and over, “You can’t do this,” etc. What I had to learn to do was turn off the tape, change the words, “You can do this. You are talented.” I had to affirm my ability and strengths.
That’s what I taught those I counseled. Clients told me they couldn’t turn off that destructive tape so I’d tell them, “Close your eyes. For a minute, I’m going to allow you to play that negative tape in your brain.” After twenty seconds, I hurled a heavy book on the floor. Every one of them opened their eyes, their bodies jumped, some screamed, and they all stared at me in amazement. “Were you able to turn off the tape when I dropped the book?” I asked.
Of course they were.
It IS possible to stop self-doubt. It takes a good plan and consistency and a desire to overcome that, but it can be done.
A writer can teach him or herself to learn from rejection, to overcome writer’s block and self doubt. But a writer must want to do that.
In our lives, we can learn that too.