On self doubt

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Why do we, when cornered by opposite opinions, give up our own ones, trusting others more than ourselves? It may seem a lot easier to not have to go against the current, to sail with the wind. Here’s a situation: You said/did something. Two or more of your more experienced (male) co workers are simultaneously saying what you did is incorrect, and that you made a mistake. In your mind, you think you’re right. But, there’s two of them, one of you. They are up there, and you’re down here. You go through the process of denial, but ultimately end up thinking - Crap, I guess I did mess up (big time). How do I fix this major mess now? Have you ever been in this or a similar situation? Your supervisor already knows that you messed up because he had seen all the emails floating around… Should you just start doing a major overhaul and start fixing things? How do you face him in the morning? Is he going to think you’re bound to mess up every time and regret having you on the team in the first place? Have you ever been in this evolved scenario out of the previous situation? It happened to me relatively recently. Two male colleagues are by default very pleasant to work with, and I never felt any condescending or generally inappropriate approach towards me. My supervisor also is a great mentor and project manager, and I enjoy working on his teams. It's just that in the moment when my mistake was pointed out (even though I wasn't called out on it), my brain constructed an image of a threatening situation. My work mistake was so bad that it created problems in multiple categories. Some of them I did end up fixing that night, but the vast majority was left to be assessed by the supervisor the next day. The following morning I woke up sick to my stomach. What kind of lame excuse will I have for my supervisor? Previous night I had responded to the email thread, explaining my understandings and findings. At the time I felt better overall, but in the morning, fear, shame, panic and smallness creeped back in. Why am I so scared? Everyone makes mistakes all the time. Yes, but not such major ones. This is huge. I should call in sick, have a mental day off, and everything will sort itself out somehow. I will hide under my blanket until the storm goes away. They are going to think I’m a dumb dumb anyway.

I went to work without knowing what would happen. As the usual time when my supervisor shows up was approaching, I was getting increasingly nervous. I know he hasn’t responded to any of the emails, but what is he going to tell me?

Long story short - my co workers were not quite 100% right. My judgement to adjust only selected category and not jump in and start frantically “fixing all my mistakes” was the best thing I could have done. Yes, I bought into the belief that I was wrong, and I fed myself a big portion of anxiety inducing negative self talk. However, there was still a seed of doubt and hope in me that I might actually be right, that stopped me from spending the night working in the office. Certainly, the negative voice was barking a lot louder, but when it came to call a shot, the tiny voice that was whispering Let’s be brave and see what happens prevailed. Rest assured that this behavior of mine is not something that I practice all the time. Most of the time I rattle myself with paralyzing self doubt and negative talk. Since becoming true to yourself is a process that takes time, every little oscillation from your regular negative self talk is a major victory that deserves praise, and applause. You owe it to yourself. That's why, when I realized that what I did was actually good, I cried inside a little from happiness, relief and pride.

Why do we, when cornered by opposite opinions, easily give up our own ones, trusting others more than ourselves? It may seem a lot easier to not have to go against the current, to sail with the wind. However, that temporary easiness comes at the price of you having to justify your actions to yourself. That is probably the hardest, because you know you can lie to yourself only for so long. Lying and denying yourself will cause you a lot of unhappiness. You eventually become invisible to many people, and they unknowingly step over your invisible boundaries all the time.

What does it take to remain faithful to yourself and your own beliefs when others are pressuring you to think and feel otherwise? Courage and being okay with being wrong. Both of these take a lot of mental power and practice. Many times you will fall flat on your face because you were actually 100% wrong when you thought you were 100% right. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a reason to celebrate because you were true to yourself. Immediate outcome does not matter, process does. You may not know exactly what your pain and courage are counting towards, but throwing yourself out there into the unknown is already a reason to be proud. Bolster your back bone. Celebrate yourself. Be truthful to yourself, believe in yourself, and results will undoubtedly come when you become the person who can achieve what you want to achieve.

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