Dealing with self-doubt

Self-doubt immobilizes our actions and retards the development of our greatest potential. For years it stopped me from sharing the writing that was most heartfelt to me, for I was afraid of exposing myself by becoming vulnerable and open to criticism and misunderstanding.

And then a guest at a health ranch where I worked gave me a plaque written by J. Stephens which said:

Love is sharing.
our brightest hopes,
our darkest fears,
our loudest laughs,
our softest tears,
our sweetest dreams,
our bitterest woes,
our highest heights,
our lowest lows.
A growing love,
always aware,
the more we share,
the more we care.

At the time I regarded it as a sweet gift, yet didn’t fully understand what it was trying to say to me. It reminded me of a framed pressed flower arrangement given to me by one of my students with words that said: “A few drops of caring soon grow into a pool of love.”

Gradually I began to realise that by dwelling in self-doubts that prevent us from sharing the precious gifts we all have within us, we miss out on the joy that comes back to us as a gift.

Many of us have shut ourselves into the loneliness of inaction, terrified of criticism or that someone might find us lacking in some way. I particularly remember how a friend’s paintings had inspired me to be more daring and bold with my own painting. Walking into his apartment was like walking into a magic fairyland with many colourful paintings hanging on each wall, each speaking to me in different ways.

Yet now, because of his lack of belief in himself, the paintings are stored in a warehouse where they can inspire no one. Metaphorically it is like they are hiding in a dense forest, where no paths can lead a weary traveller to a clearing full of the magic of many beautifully coloured blooms, all food for the soul.

Some years after receiving the plaque, I thought of all the wonderful inspirational writings that had eased me through many gloomy and tormented moments and knew that I needed to share mine—the ones I had been writing for over ten years scattered through hundreds of pages of diaries. But it took a few more years before I managed to conquer my self-doubt enough to believe that what I had to say had value and worth. Finally, when my desire to share what I had learned on my inner journey became greater than the fear of being exposed, I began writing inspirational pieces for a local newspaper, and more recently, began writing on this website.

What gift do you have within that self-doubt is preventing you from sharing? By casting aside fear and self-doubt, you may also discover within it the gift of love and caring it has for you.

This was what my friend Katherine discovered. When I first met her she asked if she could read a manuscript I had written. A friend of hers was reading it and she noticed that something had changed in her. She knocked on my door ten days later to return it, saying, “Thank you so much…I don’t feel lonely any more. Can we talk?”

Katherine shared with me things in her childhood she had never shared with anyone else. It opened a door a wee crack for her to find the courage to follow a dream of becoming a Deputy Sheriff. Not only did she graduate as top recruit, but after a few years of caring and compassionate service in her country, Katherine won Deputy Sheriff of the Year Award. For me, sharing the joy of her accomplisments were the best gifts she has ever given me.

It was Nelson Mandela who said that our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure and that it is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. “Who am I to be brilliant, talented, loved, fabulous?” he said. “Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God and your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. As we let our light shine, we give other people permission to do the same. As we become liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So if by chance you are looking for colourful ‘blooms’ to feed your soul, check out the paintings I retrieved from my ‘forest’ or read some more posts on this web site. And then share with someone else something that is special about you. By confronting your fears you might be surprised to discover a warm fuzzy feeling of joy creep into your heart.

First published in the Ballarat News, May 25, 1995 and updated February 19, 2011

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