Dealing with doubt

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A few days ago, I wanted to write a post on the topic of 'doubt.' It started out something like this – “Have other people's comments ever made you doubt yourself? While it’s important to believe in yourself, you may want to pay attention if their advice could improve your career, business plan, pot roast recipe, etc.”

There was a lot more to this but when I re-read my post I knew there was a better way to help people learn how to handle doubt. Unfortunately, I was having my fair share of brain freezes.

The concept made sense in my head but as I typed onto the page, I felt the words speaking back to me and saying, “I don’t think this is coming out right.” Have you ever felt that way?Strange how the topic was about doubt – and there I was…sitting in front of my computer laughing at the fact that doubt may be creeping in.

It was the perfect moment to take my own advice. As I sat there, I realized I wasn’t really doubting my ability. Sometimes you deal with writer's block and you just need to pause. That's precisely what I chose to do. I wasn’t going to force the words. I decided to work on the post later in the week. I knew I'd have a better sense of what I wanted to say if I let the thoughts percolate.

The next morning I woke up with a severe headache. A few hours later my nose started to look like Rudolph’s. As I lay in bed sick and barely able to lift my head up, I succumbed to the giant screen in my bedroom. And because I don’t like watching regular T.V. shows, I turned to TedTalks. And that's when the magic happened!

In the very first talk I listened to, the speaker powerfully described doubt with great clarity and simplicity. I wish I could remember the name of the speaker but my head is still cloudy from the cold. Long story short, he classified doubt into two categories:


Brilliant – isn’t it? By classifying doubt into two categories, it's much easier to understand its effects. 

The notion of believing “I can!” is so important. Try baking a cake for the first time. If someone says you'll fail and you choose to believe him or her, you're allowing self-doubt to creep in.

When you tell your brain you can’t, it’s going to act like you can’t. You’ll operate from a place of fear.

Then there’s the notion of commitment. If you don’t commit to baking a few times, despite a few failed attempts, you’ll never get better. Persistence is key. And if you question yourself or listen to others who say, “I told you, you can’t,” then you’re letting self-doubt creep back in.

Both these concepts relate to self-doubt. They create an internal environment designed to make you fail. So, what do you do? You flip those thoughts around and you tell yourself, “I believe I am capable.”

But there's also something to be said learning from mistakes. Going back to the example of baking - maybe you left the cake it in the oven too long or maybe you didn’t add enough baking soda. If a professional baker gives you some advice on what you’re doing wrong or how you could improve, it’s worth listening. After all, this is about baking a cake and doing it well. I doubt you decided to bake with the intention of eating a crappy cake.

You need to understand what you’re doing wrong if you want to get it right. That’s what I see as IDEA DOUBT. And that’s the good kind of doubt.

If the voices create self-doubt, push it out instantly! But if idea doubt creeps in, listen and evaluate. Somewhere in there lies the opportunity for growth, innovation and improvement.

Bottom line – doubt isn’t always a bad thing. It depends on what form it takes. Sometimes it can serve us well. The key is to recognize when to drown the voices out and when to invite them in.