This week I’ve been struggling with doubt. Self-doubt. I was sitting in a meeting a few days ago and I wondered, “am I really contributing here?” “Am I the right person with the right skills to help? There is so much this organization needs and I feel so inadequate to help it move forward. Am I the right person? Should I step aside so someone else more qualified can take on this role?”
As I was mulling over these thoughts, I developed an intense case of heart burn. My solar plexus felt like a giant hand had reached in, gripped my core, and was squeezing with superhuman strength. I jerked my head up and re-engaged in the external conversation, trying to keep from slipping back down into the morass of doubt. I suffered with heartburn for the rest of the night as I tried to focus on dinner and the evening activities.
I wrote two different articles for Thriving Thursday and realized one was full of facts with no heart and the other was fluffy and lacking any sort of depth. Self-doubt crept back into my mind. It’s fascinating in a rather sad way that the language and feelings of self-doubt are different from the chiding challenges of my Inner Critics.
Self-doubt feels heavy, sluggish, and at times physically painful. The chatter from my Inner Critics feels like the staccato of a tiny drill in my head. I have an image of little construction workers in orange vests and yellow helmets operating miniscule drills breaking up my thoughts and shattering my intentions.
How does one confront self-doubt? It is easy for me to be swept away in the tsunami of emotions of uncertainty, and dangerously close to the cliff of self-loathing. I manage to claw my way back to a mid-point where I can begin to sort out my thoughts and emotions. To explore what has triggered the lack of confidence, the insecurity, and the attendant physical manifestations.
What do I do? First, I examine it. What is happening? What are my thoughts? Where am/was I? What is/was going on? Then I follow the threads back to the trigger, the event or thought that started the avalanche of insecurity and self-doubt.
Sometimes, it helps just to locate the trigger. Then I can say with confidence, “oh yes, I recognize this. This is old stuff, attached to…….” Most of the time, when I identify the trigger, that is sufficient to shift my emotions, thoughts and thereafter my physicality.
There are other times when I can’t quite place my finger on why my self-doubt is so strong and feels like heavy smoke from a forest fire, sharp, biting, and ultimately smothering. It is during these episodes that I’ve learned to turn to self-compassion.
My regular practice of mindfulness doesn’t automatically shift heavy doses of self-doubt and insecurity to deliver compassion. There are times when I am in a deep struggle beneath the façade of a well-composed public face. Typically, only my husband notices the difference.
During these times, ‘the loving kindness meditation’ is what helps to shift my struggle and deep discomfort. I focus on my breathing while intoning these words: “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be loved. May I live a life of ease.” It might sound sappy, and a tad selfish to wish a life of ease for oneself.
However, words are how we organize our world and how we communicate our experience to ourselves and others. Words, combined with conscious breathing and a deep desire to escape the morass of self-doubt and shame, help me to create the shift to peace.
May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be loved. May you live a life of ease.