To doubt is to be human. To fear things is useful and wise.
But too much of either and creating art with your words, your paint, your music, or really, in any form, becomes practically impossible. Despairing feelings of not being good enough can start to overwhelm us, even if others consider us extraordinarily talented and brilliant.
But not everyone is ready and willing to do something about them. You can.
I’ve struggled with this and perhaps you have, too. Because to do something about one’s doubts requires facing off with them in more ways than one and none of the ways are particularly easy or comfortable.
As you’ve discovered, talent and intellect have little to no power to overcome suffocating doubt. Even Vincent van Gogh was afflicted with severe doubt, which all too often led him to believe others would not find worth in his work and as you know, although we celebrate Van Gogh today, during his lifetime his work was not well known, much less as appreciated.
Doubt is not simply something of an inconvenience.
Doubt can stop even the very best and most talented from reaching their full potential if they do not face it with intention and conviction.
It can stop you. It stopped me, too.
If doubt merely stopped us that would not be so terrible, but doubt is insidious and often will allow us to still create, yet doubt what we are creating is of any value. And thus, whether we realize it or not, we become inhibited and create work far below our abilities.
We’ll even believe such mediocrity is the best we have to offer.
Not true! Don’t believe it.
Doubt is derived from fear, but the real problem isn’t fear itself. I know, we’ve all been taught this and we’ve struggled with it in futility. The real culprit, though, and what we must overcome is the rationale behind our fears. Because, as I’m sure you realize, fear is not always rational.
The real problem isn’t fear itself
Fear that stops you from walking over a cliff and falling to your death is rational and based on survival.
However, fear that stops you from writing words that mean something to you is all too often based on another type of fear, one that is derived from the apprehension of how others will judge you.
Such fear plants seeds of doubt that grow quickly and uncontrollably, and if left unchecked will generate roots that go so deep it becomes implanted in our minds to the point we believe it’s always been there and always will be.
Such deeply rooted doubt cannot be overcome with facts and reality checks. In fact, doubt can cause you to sincerely doubt whether anything can, or if it even should, be done about it.
With doubt, it is believed that there is a point of no return
It’s this belief that stops us from even attempting anything to defeat it.
It’s too hard, it’s too expensive, it’s not the right time, I’ll try next year, I’ll wait until the spring or I’ll do something else. Excuses are created by doubt. It’s why our parents, teachers and all the adults in our lives chastised us for making excuses when we were young and impressionable.
Not because excuses were simply bad per se, but more so because excuses are created from something that is far worse (DOUBT) and limits our growth into confident adults.
As a matter of fact, if you think about it, whenever you hear a young person give an explanation that sounds all so familiar as an excuse you’re likely to cringe and immediately rebuke the excuse. I believe it’s a protective instinct. Consider it.
What excuses does doubt cause you to make? Which ones would you correct a young person from vocalizing?
This, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road and when most of us hit the brakes. I’m betting you feel your feet reaching for those brakes right now. But it’s not you. It’s doubt. We think it’s us. It’s not. We all have our triggers that cause doubt to take action to stop us, especially if it feels under attack.
So, what can be done about it? Actually, quite a bit.
A great way to confront doubt is to do what it says not to do. If you need to learn something and it stops you, well, learn it anyway. If you write something important to you and you want to share it with the world, then share it with the world.
Sounds easy. It’s not. Doubt makes these things hard. Very hard. You know that. So you have to start small, but start you must.
What is doubt currently stopping you from?
It’s stopping you from something, even if it is not obvious. Figure it out and then closely examine the rationale behind the doubt. Not the rationale behind the decisions, no, I’m talking about the rationale causing the initial doubt itself. It’s cloaked and sometimes you need help to discover what it really is.
That’s why therapists get us to talk so much because they’re trying to get us to reveal the core foundation of our angst. Personal journals help us in this way, too.
But let’s be clear. If doubt is stopping any of us from doing anything, such as creating the art you were born to create, it will not simply go away some day in the future.
Without direct action of some kind, it is unlikely it will ever let go and your best work will always remain inside of you, dormant and hidden from the world.
Don’t let that happen. I’ve been there. I’ve written books and created an online course that is designed to teach others what I learned about how to overcome doubt and write work that matters to us.
What’s it worth to any of us? Doubt dictates that it’s worth very little and that the payoff will be insubstantial and irrelevant.
But that’s doubt talking. And we need to be done with listening to it.
Let’s begin with an exercise you can start doing today:
Write 250 Words and Publish Publicly
Journal 250 words of something important to you. Perhaps write about your feelings towards your art and how much it means to you. Or write about a valuable lesson you learned. Or write about something completely random. But write 250 words. Not 500. Not 5000. Just 250, if you go a little beyond to say 300, that’s okay, but not one word fewer than 250.
Publish it publicly on a blog, on Medium, in a forum, or on WordPress. Wherever you like as long as it’s open to the public to read. Whether others read it or not, is not the point.
Doubt’s ultimate goal is to stop you and in order to do that it causes us to not create the work we want to create and if we somehow actually do create it, then it’s next goal is to stop us from sharing it openly.
The more you write and publish in public, the more doubt loses its power over you. Doubt will find other ways of stopping you, but doubt can be put in check. It must be put in check. This exercise will get you started.
Don’t let doubt stop you. We need your art.