Enough is Enough | Putting Self-Doubt in the Corner

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At some point in your life, you’ve been there. You’re strolling along, feeling perfectly confident about yourself. Maybe you’ve just aced a presentation at work. Perhaps you’ve managed to clean the house, feed the kids and still have time before bed to read a few chapters from your book, or finally watch that episode of “Gray’s Anatomy” that has been sitting on your DVR for a month. Maybe you’re wearing a kick ass new dress and your undergarments actually match and you feel so pulled together that there should be theme music playing as you enter the room.

You’re feeling that good. It’s a good – no – fantastic day. You’re unstoppable.

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Then, all of the sudden it happens. Without warning, your ego feels as beaten up as a piñata at a kid’s birthday party. Why? Self-doubt. That bitch of a voice that resides in your head grabs her microphone and screams “Calm the hell down. You ain’t all that. Look at what she’s done.”

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It happens to all of us. Whether it’s a social situation, a forum online where you interact with strangers or a new opportunity you’re undertaking, it’s hard to keep that voice quiet. No matter how good you felt about yourself 10 minutes prior, self doubt will make sure that you get smacked back into the corner that she’s painted for you. How dare you! Thinking you could step out of those boundaries. You think you look good today? She looks better. Think you aced that presentation? She’ll probably get the raise or promotion. It happens without warning, and we let it.

You know what? We deserve more.

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Recently, I’ve started branching out with my writing. While I’m getting better at self-promotion, early on it was all done within my own boundaries. I put limits on what I would discuss and worried about how it would be received. I was always playing within my own bounds. A few years ago, I started a blog, and it took forever before I could get the nerve to link it to my Facebook page. That voice kept saying “that’s nice story, but you’re not that interesting.” I had almost a year’s worth of posts before I clicked the “post to Facebook” button on blogger. Before I knew it, I had people following me. Me. I was nobody, but they were reading! It was odd to hear someone say they liked my writing or that I was good at it because, honestly, I felt that I was just babbling. I would say “thank you” and then likely add some self-depreciating remark about why they shouldn’t. It was the same way with school. At 41, I’ve decided to finally start my Bachelor’s degree. Notice I didn’t say “go back to finish my degree.” Nope. I’m literally at square one, close to 25 years after I graduated from high school. I recently completed my first semester and am registered for spring and fall courses as well. It took me forever to get here, but I’m determined to finish. Still, when someone tells me that I’m brave or awesome for doing so, I have to joke that the real goal is to have my diploma before my AARP card. (The struggle is real.)

In both of these instances, I have tremendous support from my husband, family and friends who all tell me how proud they are. Proud that I’m finding my voice. Proud that I’m working toward my goal. I appreciate and love every one of their good hearts and their words mean so much, but I am still fighting the inner voice that loves to beat me down. I read other people’s writing and think how eloquent they are with their words. How concise their thoughts may be, how their arguments are so strong. I doubt that they’ve pounded on the keyboard for 3 hours, hoping that something vaguely entertaining shows up on the screen. While trying to finish an essay for class, I have a hard time believing that my classmates are agonizing over what adjective to use for our writing assignment so they can say the same thing four times in completely different ways.

So why? What’s the deal? Why do we let that voice take center stage? Why do we let the rug be pulled from under our fantastic feeling selves and get marched back into the corner? The reasons vary for everyone. Regardless, we need to work on stopping it. We need to realize that we are who we are, and we are enough.

Self-doubt needs a muzzle.

I’m working on this in my own way. Those who know me well understand that I work with humor like artists work with oil based paint. Laughter is my shield, sarcasm my second language. Granted, what I think is funny isn’t always to others, but it’s my coping mechanism. I’m the first one to crack a joke if I’m uncomfortable and deflect the attention away from a valid accomplishment because I don’t feel like I’m worthy of the praise. I’ll tell any stranger, friend or family member that they’re awesome and only believe it 50% of the time when someone says the same to me. That’s no longer in the playbook.

I understand that it’s going to take a while. Walls that I’ve put up over the past 2 decades aren’t going to come down overnight. But I’m working on it. You should too. Because you’re enough. We’re enough. It’s time to take all of that praise we lavish on others and save a little for ourselves too.

Try it. Unplug self-doubt’s microphone and believe it when someone tells you that you look good or that they’re proud of you. It’s amazing enough to hear someone give you a compliment, imagine how amazing you’ll feel actually accepting it.

Tonya Brown

I'm Tonya. Late in life college student, lover of Tigers baseball, iced coffee and cartoons made for kids but with humor geared toward adults. Married to Adam. We've been together for 20 years and married for 13. No kids, by choice, but we share our home with 2 cats and a rescued Doberman, none of whom do chores or contribute to the mortgage. We've tried. Music is my outlet, and my iTunes library is both awesome and embarrassing. I like to read, love to write and probably swear more than is legal in 48 states. I fully believe that good is the rule and laughter is the best medicine. If you can laugh, you're good. If you can laugh at yourself, even better.