My second video blog post in which the big pink kitteh and I discuss doubt in both its toxic and healthy forms. For anyone who can't (or doesn't want to) watch the video, I've included the transcript below.
Good morning, Miss Muse. It is Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Sorry for my lateness in posting this, but yesterday my brain tried to excruciatingly crawl out my ears. So, to make up for it, today I want to continue my discussion from last time and start talking about doubt.
Now, there are really two kinds of doubt. The “Is this really a good idea?” kind or the “Am I good enough?” kind. The second kind also has two subcategories. The healthy kind, which is “Do I have the skills to make certain that this is done well?” Or the toxic kind, which is, “Will I ever, ever have the skills to do this? Will I ever succeed?” Now, that might be a horrible over dramatization, but it happens.
Doubt in of itself, is really a defense mechanism. The entire point of having doubt is to protect you from harm. Physical or psychological. Generally, the “Is this a good idea?” kind falls into the realm of protecting you from real, true harm like “Is it a good idea to run face first into this wall?” Well, probably not. That’s gonna hurt a little bit. Meanwhile, the second kind is more like, “Am I good enough to go out and get that job that I really, really want?” Well, that depends. Do you have the skills, the right personality, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah? Then, go for it! But if you allow the doubt to tell you that you’ll never have the skills to get the kind of job, or the kind of girlfriend, or the kind of life you want it’s going to hold you back. And that, really, is doing you harm instead of preventing harm, so it’s totally defeated the purpose of it even existing.
Now, the really insidious part is that these two kinds of doubt can be mistaken for each other. And they often are. People will ask “Is it a good idea for me to suddenly quit my job and go out and start a new business?” Again, that depends. But the question you’re really asking is “Do I have the skills, the system, and the knowledge to quit my job and start my own business and actually be successful at it?” So, technically, you’re actually asking the second kind, but the healthy type.
Now, for instance, if you go and ask “Is it a good idea to start writing this book that I’ve had in my head for eons, that I think is gonna be a really good book? But I don’t think I’m a good enough writer. Or I’m really bad at grammar. Or, holy crap, I don’t know how to describe things.” Well, you can learn grammar. Writing you can practice. Describing things is, really, an art of practice.
But this gets into that toxic second form of doubt when you keep yourself from doing something because you’re afraid you’ll never have the skills to do it. And it’s actually blocking you from doing the things that you want. And using that toxic kind of doubt usually stems from having a fear that you haven’t faced or some sort of blockage. And what I mean when I say blockage…I’m talking about some form of idea that is wrong about either yourself or the thing that you want to do, and that idea is keeping you from going forward, and no matter what anyone tells you, the information they give you, anything, you cannot be convinced otherwise. That’s a blockage. A fear, on the other hand, is something that you’re all “I’m worried that this will happen,” or “I’m worried that this might do this.”
Now, the fears generally associated with doubt are the fear of failure and the fear of criticism. Somehow as a society we’ve gotten it into our heads that being wrong or losing at something means that you’re a failure. That’s not really true. Everybody is going to be wrong sometime. If the first time that you were ever wrong meant that you were automatically a failure and you could never make it better, that means we’re all failures, blah, end of story, why even try? If losing means that you’re a failure, then the first time you lost at chess, cards, or your favorite video game means you’re automatically a loser for the rest of your life and a failure and blah and why do we even try?
But that’s the thing. If you stop there, and you don’t keep trying, then you have failed. The only thing that you’ve actually given out is a failure. That’s why, as cliché and horrible as we like to make it out to be, quitting is really the only way that you can fail.
Now the fear of criticism is actually a little nastier than it sounds. Because the fear of criticism isn’t actually the fear of criticism, it’s the fear of shaming. Because, again, somehow in our society we’ve come to the idea that if you don’t like something or you think that there’s something wrong but can’t name it, it’s perfectly okay to call someone names because you didn’t like a thing. That’s not criticizing. That’s a shaming tactic. You’re trying to make someone feel bad because they didn’t do what you think they should have done. Or you’re jealous that they’re doing something and you’re not. Or you feel guilty because they’re doing something and you’re not, and to make yourself feel better you go out and you call them nasty names. That’s shaming. And that’s the real “criticism” that we’re all afraid of. Because true, honest criticism actually says “Well, I think you could do better here,” or “I think this project you’re working on would be better if you did this.” That’s criticism. And while that might sting, it doesn’t turn you into a giant ball of Ugh! Which is really what shaming is all about.
So, I suppose, the real message that I’m trying to get at here is that doubt is like a frienemy. You have to kind of take it with a grain of salt and learn to identify when it’s bullshitting you. And once you can do that, you can actually use it to protect yourself in the way that it was meant to be done.