You may be just starting to feel the first irresistible stirrings, or maybe you’ve already made this huge decision to go ahead and do it. So how can you stop psyching yourself out of doing things you love? Something in your heart is calling you to do this thing – the next step in your career, something creative, moving elsewhere, or settling down – whatever it may be. You may have never felt so sure about anything in your life, yet you still spend at least 20 minutes a day with your heart or stomach (sometimes both) in a vice-like grip of fear as a voice from somewhere screams: “Are you sure you’re up for this?”
We all suffer from self-doubt at times. There’s this handy list of ways you can overcome it. But personally, I feel like doubt isn’t intellectual, it’s a feeling. To try intellectualize or reason it away can sometimes be utterly unconvincing. So here’s what I do.
Write down a couple of statements about the doubt you’re having.
“I can’t be a yoga teacher because I haven’t got the right body type.”
“I’m not smart enough to finish my PhD.”
“I’m afraid of settling down and starting a family because I would make a terrible parent.”
“I’m going to fail miserably because I haven’t got enough experience and everyone will think I’m a fraud.”
Step 2: Imagine your 6-year-old self. (Mine comes complete with gap-toothed grin, embarrassing haircut and ears I won’t grow into for another decade.) You’re probably loving life – tying your own shoelaces, having clever conversations with your best playground buddy, learning to ride a bike… the world is your oyster, woohoo!
Step 3: Now try to imagine telling lovely adorable little 6-year-old you those statements you wrote down in Step 1. Imagine how you’d feel telling this sweet, wide-eyed and wondering child that they can’t do this thing, this amazing, inspiring, life-changing thing that they want nothing else in the world but to do or experience – they can’t do it, because of this doubt.
They’d stare at you like you’d sprouted an extra head. Or they’d just cry. Possibly both. I feel there’s something deeply ingrained within us which makes us reluctant to tell little children things that will make them doubt their abilities, their ideas, their potential. So what on earth makes it so easy for us to say these things to our grown-up selves, and to end up believing them?
I think about little-me often. I remember the combined terror and exhilaration of the many firsts, the newness of everything, the big-out-there-ness of the world. I remember the encouraging words of my lovely parents who were there to hold my hand, to help me learn to trust in myself. They were scared, too, of course. “What if she never learns to read or write and becomes a stripper instead?” They never said that to me, obviously. It just wasn’t necessary.
So whenever that fear grips you, remember it’s just that tiny, child-like part of you, squeezing your hand and asking for reassurance – what are you going to tell her?