Monday’s Mental Health Moment: Self-Doubt

Before I begin rambling about today’s topic, I thought I’d grade myself on last week’s attempt at battling depression, you know, just in case you’ve been waiting anxiously on the edge of your seat for a follow-up report! (Don’t worry, I’m not that delusional!)

After some thought, I have awarded myself a C+ for last week’s efforts.  I was more productive around the house (except for a sick day due to an upset stomach, blech). I also made an effort to shed my Oscar the Grouch persona even on those days when I would have gladly sought refuge in Oscar’s trash can. The battle continues.

Now, let’s move on to something near and dear to my heart – that killer of hopes and dreams, that sneaky, ruthless, ever-so-patient and slow-moving poison known as SELF-DOUBT. **Sigh** I wonder how many things I might have accomplished had it not been for self-doubt?  Possibly not much more than I have to date, still I often ponder the what-ifs.

Although an almost constant companion in both the big and small things of life, self-doubt has recently planted itself firmly at the very forefront of my thoughts.  I am attempting to start a home business (again) so what better time for self-doubt to invade all the nooks and crannies of the old brain pan?

I am excited about this business opportunity because it will utilize skills I developed whilst working in administrative support positions during the past 23 years.  I am comfortable with my ability to perform the work and to market the business; however, despite logic telling me I am capable, the gremlins of doubt are compelled to contradict.

In order to curb the self-doubt onslaught and to give myself at least a fighting chance, I am breaking this entire process down into “baby steps” and, once again, using the momentum of completing each step to propel me onto the next.  When I am involved in a specific step of the process, I focus ONLY on THAT step; this keeps me from getting ahead of myself and becoming distracted by those tasks that I know will challenge me. The danger of focusing too early on the more challenging tasks ahead, such as meeting with potential clients, is that it then becomes quite an easy leap into the, “Wait, I can’t do this! Let’s call the whole thing off!” mode of thinking.  That way, failure surely lies.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s important to understand your own limitations or, perhaps more accurately, to recognize how far outside of your comfort zone you can push yourself without it becoming more detrimental than beneficial to your well-being. For example (you probably knew there was an example coming), last fall I set up a pet-sitting business. I had a good plan.  I had a good website. I had an awesome logo. What I didn’t have was the emotional energy to run such a business.  I seemed to forget how anxious I can become about my own pets and how I used to worry on the few occasions I pet sat for my friends. Now I was starting a business that would make me solely responsible for pets and property! Not a good fit when you are by a nature a worry wort.

Unfortunately, when my epiphany finally hit, I had already paid for insurance, professional memberships, background checks, website set up, and business cards. Fortunately, I hadn’t yet acquired any clients thus avoiding the awkward, “Oops…sorry, I can’t take care of Spot. I made a huge mistake! Good luck with that vacation thing though!”  The very moment I realized I hadn’t thought this through, I shut down and canceled everything I could.  Despite the monetary loss, I didn’t view it as a business failure but more of a failure to listen to my gut and to accept that some ventures are just not appropriate for my personality type.

Thankfully, I believe the skills required for this new business are well-within my comfort zone.  This provides a small reserve of confidence to fall back on when the self-doubt hits, but at the same time it also makes this particular barrage of self-doubt especially infuriating.  Do I expect to become the next Donald Trump (steady now)? No. But, I’d be happy to eek out a part-time salary from this venture.  I think that is a reachable goal.  All I need to do is follow my one-step-at-a-time process, continue the almost daily pep talks with myself, and constantly seek reassurance from my husband – an aspect of the process he is enjoying tremendously.

As odd as it may sound, I would like to point out that self-doubt can sometimes be useful. Those of us who experience self-doubt on the regular tend to be “checkers.” We don’t ever assume we’ve done something right the first or second time…okay, probably not even the fifth or sixth time around which makes us pretty good proofreaders; a trait I can actually take advantage of in this new business venture! Yay! Self-doubt! No? Okay then.

No doubt, self-doubt is a formidable foe but it is not invincible! I believe it can be defeated with faith, strength and determination.  In my opinion, the key is to create manageable steps and to remain focused only on the particular step you must accomplish at that moment. Running too far ahead of yourself and focusing on more complex or challenging tasks can fuel the fires of self-doubt, anxiety, and fear of failure before you’ve even had a chance to get started. It also doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with encouraging and patient people who don’t mind you asking a gazillion times each and every day, “Do you think I can do this? Is this a good idea?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to track down The Mister for a daily dose of reassurance. I’m sure it’s just my imagination, but I’m beginning to think he’s hiding from me.







I'm all ears...or eyes I guess??

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