This is What I Know About Self-Doubt

by | Oct 4, 2020 | Anxiety, Trust Yourself | 28 comments

Last week, in the introduction of my weekly newsletter, I wrote about the voice of resistance and self-doubt that often arises when we consider sharing ourselves with the world in any way. In response, I received this comment on my blog:

Dear Sheryl, My comment is about the text of your weekly email that preceded the link for this blog post. It spoke to my heart.

You wrote: “Action diffuses not only fear but also stagnation. It’s so easy to feel caught under the pall of stuckness or stagnation and allow ourselves to succumb to the voice that says, “What’s the point? It’s all been said or done anyway. Feeling stuck behind the brick wall of self-doubt that says you have nothing new to offer the world? Sit down at your desk and take one small step toward whatever it is that longs to be born inside of you, whatever shimmering gift is waiting to emerge. You’ll be so glad you did.”

I feel these places of stagnation daily. It is very much related to the world situation (the segregation, racism, violence, authoritarianism that is being performed all around the world). Sadness and hopelesness overtake me. It is also related to a personal transition of mine: I have just finished my master’s degree and I am at a loss in my new professional phase.

Sometimes I manage to engage in nourishing actions, but the sadness and a lack of sense is on the background. It is like I can’t taste the flavour of things if I don’t figure out how I will be part of the solution to our terrible state as a society.

Action. Sometimes I feel that I am missing a “fire element” inside me, a “fiery particle” that ignites the motion. I have all these feelings about wanting to be part of the change but I don’t manage to move.

You said that you will write more about this topic next week, so I wanted to share what resonated in me. I’m looking forward to your next weekly email. Thank you!

In response, I would like to share something personal with you: Every week, when it comes time to write that very introduction to my weekly post, my mind throws out a roadblock and says, “I have nothing to say.”

But then I go out for a walk or I sit in front of the blank screen with the flashing cursor and before I know it the words tumble out. And I can feel as they are emerging that they’re not forced words from my mind; they’re words from my soul that I feel truly compelled to share with you. The actions – the “fire element” or “fiery particle” – is the inner masculine that says, “I’m feeling stagnant. I need to move this energy and go for a walk.”

The action is the inner masculine that says, “Even though my mind is telling me that I have nothing more to say, I’m going to sit down and write anyway.” I write a lot about the inner feminine (and let me be clear that “feminine” and “masculine” are archetypal energies that course through all of us and have nothing to do with gender) but it’s the energy of the inner masculine that is essential if we’re going to bring ourselves into the world. It’s the energy I’ve learned to draw on over my years as a writer.

This wasn’t always the case with writing. When I first started writing more seriously in high school, I felt paralyzed every time I sat down to start a paper. All of the familiar voices of what we call “writer’s block” came barreling into my brain and sent me into paralysis.

But as I share in my Trust Yourself course, I learned through a series of fortunate events and gifted teachers how to work with the voice of self-doubt enough to move past it and allow what needed to be expressed to ride through my inner channels and find its way into the world.

I’m coming up on the 11th anniversary of writing this blog, and I’ve learned from the weekly discipline of writing not only the blog but also the introduction to my newsletter that discipline is commitment in action. In other words, when we show up even if we don’t feel like showing up, when we move towards love even when we’re not feeling love, when we parent in loving ways even when we’d rather do anything else in the world, when we share something of our soul even when our mind tells us that we have nothing left to say, we strengthen our well of Self and grow our capacity to serve.

When the reader above says, “It is like I can’t taste the flavour of things if I don’t figure out how I will be part of the solution to our terrible state as a society”, this is self-doubt sneakily wrapped into a voice of resistance. What is needed is to identify the character as resistance, work with the self-doubt, and employ the inner masculine so that the gifts of the feminine can find expression through the action of the masculine.

When we learn the tools that allow us to identify the roots of self-doubt and push past resistance, we find that stagnation dissolves as if touched by a shimmering wand. We find that the focus on what is not working and on the inevitable pain of life is transmuted into gratitude. In short, one of the secret pathways to joy is to push through inertia so that what needs to be born can move through the canals and arrive into the world.

While rest is vital, we are also meant to move. While dwelling in being as essential, we are also meant to do – and we must remember that the most fulfilling doing arises from the gestation of being. We move and we act and we speak not from distraction or avoidance but as a way to show up and continue to share who we are with the world around us. Again, this is the masculine.

Each and every one of you has something to say or do. And each and everyone of you has a voice inside that says, “It’s all been said or it’s all been done.” But it hasn’t been said or done by you – the you who is a unique permutation of atoms and genes, a wild collision of biology and soul, the you who grew from circumstances that resulted in your pain and the recognition that within this very pain rests your genius.

I’m not sure that anybody has immunity to the characters of resistance and self-doubt, and I’m not sure that we’re meant to be immune to it. For every time we move through resistance we grow, and so, resistance is, in fact, one of our allies. In the eleven years of writing this blog and sending out this weekly newsletter, I’m not sure that the voice of resistance is any quieter. I hear it every time I sit down to write. I heard it with every chapter revision of my book. I hear it every time I sit down to begin to create a new course. And it always sounds convincing!

But one thing I’ve learned is that to listen to resistance is to lay down in my bed, curl up, and stay there for far more hours then serves me. To listen to self-doubt is to shut down the wellsprings of creativity, to dam them up until only dry beds remain.

What I know to be true is that the fountainhead of creativity is an inexhaustible source that we all have access to. What I know to be true is that each and every one of you reading this right now has a gift that depends on first identifying then moving through whatever voices of resistance and self-doubt are causing you to remain stuck or stagnant. As I’ve said many times over these past months: the time is now. The world needs your gifts. The world needs you to shake through enough self-doubt to discover your unique partnership of feminine and masculine so that you can bring these gifts into the world.

This is what I teach in Trust Yourself: A 30-day course to help you overcome your fear of failure, caring with others think, perfectionism, difficulty making decisions, and self-doubt. This is the fifteenth round of this course, and it will start again live on October 24th, 2020. I look forward to meeting you there.

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28 Comments

  1. What is with these posts?!? Each and every one in recent weeks has resonated with an incredibly specific issue I have been wrestling with!

    Just today I have been thinking about the one real regret I have in my life, an opportunity that I let slip away because I was young and scared and inexperienced, but which, in hindsight, would have given me SO MUCH satisfaction and joy. This opportunity is one that is still available to me, and that will continue to be, provided I am in the right physical and mental place to take advantage of it. For years the voice of my resistance has said, “It’s too risky, you’ll be too uncomfortable, you’ll have to encounter too many new things, and you’re not the kind of person that is right for this opportunity anyway!” The coded message within that speech is always, “I love you. I worry for you. I don’t want you to be hurt.” Like a helicopter mum, my resistance just wants to make sure I’m okay, but in doing so it smothers my independence. I’m starting to question it now, to reason with it, to soothe it, with the help of a therapist and your work. Here’s hoping it will eventually give way to me being able to grab hold of what I truly want with both hands, regardless of how strong my self-doubt is.

    Sending love and blessings your way, as always, Sheryl!

    Reply
    • “Here’s hoping it will eventually give way to me being able to grab hold of what I truly want with both hands, regardless of how strong my self-doubt is.”

      AMEN!

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    • Thankyou! As a writer and therapist this is so helpful. The fear of “I have nothing new/important to say is so strong sometimes but action always helps.

      Reply
  2. One (of the many) things I greatly admire about you and your work, Sheryl, is that you teach us the process for showing up for ourselves, often using examples from your own life. I find this so empowering, because you show me the tools I can use, and your vulnerability shows me that you still feel those feelings, and therefore aren’t just a super-human. I greatly appreciate the things you do from a place of being 🙂

    When I was taking the nine month break free from anxiety course, I was blown away by how you interacted with participants on the group calls. Within a few sentences, you had uncovered the emotions at the heart of what was going on, and I was often in tears along with the caller! I came to consider you an artist of emotions – so who better to learn from! With the ground work from doing the course, I now find myself in a much more stable place, and I am able in my journaling and introspection to ask myself, “what’s going on underneath this?” and tend to the root, hurt, scared parts of myself that just want to be heard and loved.

    I have been AMAZED recently at how much the brain can learn and be taught. I have been learning singing, drawing, a foreign language and gardening from the internet and finding myself able to do things that I never thought I could! Now the sun is getting warmer, and spring is exploding with life, flowers and cicadas singing, and my well of self is bubbling over. And I don’t have enough words of appreciation for the impact that your work has had in my life!

    Reply
    • This is incredible to hear, Aimee, and leaves me smiling all over :). I love how much you’re learning, which speaks to exactly what I’m sharing in this post! And I’m delighted that the 9-month course was so impactful for you. Sending love!

      Reply
      • I love this!!! This is such a wonderful practice that works in tandem with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). Intrusive thoughts and feelings of resistance are part of the journey insofar as they are backseat passengers – they ride along, but they’re not in the driver’s seat, they don’t get to pull over and they certainly don’t get to choose the playlist 😉

        Reply
  3. Dear Sheryl,

    My girlfriend and I met online in May. We had a whole online relationship through August, then saw each other for the first time. We just saw each other for the second time, today. FaceTime was the main thing that kept us in contact, but now we’re in person it feels different. I really like her and she’s even more gorgeous in person, but I’m worried that I fell in love with FaceTime her, not real her.

    FYI I do have bad relationship anxiety so that may be a factor.

    Any insight?

    Reply
  4. “Let it come from you, then it will be new.”
    -Stephen Sondheim, from Sunday in the Park With George

    Thank you, Sheryl.

    Reply
    • Beautiful quote, Emily. Thank you.

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  5. Wow, yeah, I’ve been snuggling in bed with my resistance a lot these days. Helpful perspective!!

    This post wan’t explicitly about self-trust, but I feel like its an inherent part. I’ve been bumping into the issue that I actually have damaged my self-trust in a few ways…like, there are actual reasons parts of me don’t get along with and trust each other. Legitimate reasons! I don’t actually trust myself to hold myself through a failure/disappointment…because I’ve never actually done it well before. I don’t trust myself to set certain boundaries in my life…because I only just learned about boundaries! Moving into entirely new territory/new experiences…is alarming! It doesn’t actually feel like healing. It feels like total groundlessness and loneliness and isolation (even when I’m not actually alone or isolated). I guess what I’m saying is that…what do I do when my self doubt is trying to protect me from myself?

    Reply
  6. Oh, thank you, Sheryl! This is so helpful to me in this particular moment as I embark on a new endeavor and feel the pull of resistance cloaked as: “Maybe I don’t want this anyway” and “This might be really hard and we might not like it, we would be perfectly content without this project, maybe this is more than we can handle or will even enjoy.” I can call on my masculine to take action and plunge into this well-considered, meaningful project despite not knowing what the road will feel like and despite feeling stressed by a painful bump in the road I just encountered. On to opening my laptop as soon as I finish this comment! (And I suspect that consciously bringing in the theme of your blog post will make it a smidge easier to remember next time, and the next time, and so on)

    Reply
    • I’m so glad it was helpful and I can’t wait to hear about what comes from moving toward this new project!

      Reply
  7. Thank you for this beautiful post – it sailed arrow-like directly into my heart! A beautiful tonic and I love that you share your own resistance that comes up each time, how grateful are we that you write regardless, and share your soulful message.

    Reply
  8. I am so grateful for this post.
    Thank you Sheryl for the light you shed on these feelings, in each paragraph.
    I’m sending a lot of empathy to all who are struggling with the same issues. May we find our way through our resistance!

    Reply
  9. Thank you Sheryl, I feel so identified with the voice of resistance and self-doubt these days. This has been such a challenging year, my health (now ok), the pandemic, my mum’s passing away, my widower father, who I know take care of at a distance, and I can go on and on. I know I have so much to give and I need to do it. However, I’ve kept myself to myself, postponing my plans, procrastinating, hesitating, doubting. I know I needed time to grieve my mum’s loss and the impact it had on me and my kids, who have struggled so much. But I also know not showing up is a deservice to the people who need me. I just seem to have lost my sense of direction. Do you know what I mean? Before everything hit, I was so full of dreams, career plans, career paths, joy and confidence. Now I know what I want to do but I’ve been showered by so much self-doubt that it ended up pushing away my spark. It’s a great opportunity to go over the Trust Yourself course and The Trust Yourself continued which I did. Somehow, I feel so deflated that I don’t even have the spark to go over the courses, or move at all, does it make sense? A big big hug

    Reply
    • Yes, dear Georgina, it all makes perfect sense. This has been a year unlike any year we’ve known, and I want to encourage you to be very kind and gentle with yourself in terms of getting out into the world. You’ve been through tremendous loss, and it’s your grief that needs your attention first and foremost. Our energy for creative projects can stagnate and wither under the weight of unshed grief. Attend to your heart first and eventually your joy and confidence will return. Sending you big hugs and love.

      Reply
  10. This post was beautiful, my friend!

    I have been feeling stuck in life, especially in my relationship. I feel like there’s nothing more to a relationship than just kissing and hugging, but when we’re not doing those things I get nervous because “what if we’re falling out of love.” It’s a really weird back and forth. is this my self-doubt and anxiety kicking in?

    A big virtual hug for you, Sheryl.

    Reply
  11. One of the things I wrestle with is knowing what’s motivation and self doubt related and what is the chronic fatigue I’ve been dealing with for 15 years. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy, and stress can exacerbate anxious and depressive states. Have you worked with people who are dealing with this set of circumstances?

    Reply
    • It’s not my area of expertise but my sense is that the two play off of each other to form a vicious cycle where the resistance both plays off the fatigue AND creates it.

      Reply
  12. I can’t believe you have moments of writer’s block! 🙂 As an avid reader of your blog, I can’t recall a Sunday where you’ve skipped, unless it was intentional, and even then you’ve announced that there is no blog post coming yet still had a very helpful message attached. Every post you write is so beautifully written and from the heart, I never would’ve thought there are times you have writer’s block. I’ve had to send a newsletter twice a month and couldn’t even handle the writer’s block for that lol. I was so relieved when I didn’t have to do them anymore! 🙂

    This part resonated with me so much: “‘It is like I can’t taste the flavour of things if I don’t figure out how I will be part of the solution to our terrible state as a society’ ,this is self-doubt sneakily wrapped into a voice of resistance.” – I struggle with this a lot, I’ve put down my desires on other pursuits because of this guilt of not contributing to society somehow or I feel very selfish (too privileged maybe?). Yet, when I look at others doing the things I really want to do, I only feel admiration for them and I think “it’s okay that they do it, just not me.” It would be good for me to think over why I hold onto this resistance.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad it resonated, katers ;).

      Reply
  13. Hey Sheryl,

    I’ve been a avid reader and course member for years now through a few important relationships in my life (including my now husband: we got married Friday).

    Leading up to our marriage I struggled with what we called his “red flag” moment (but having come to know your red flags for relationships we now call it his lightening rod moment): in a previous marriage, both he and his ex-wife ended up being unfaithful to each other (her with a full blown affair) and he with a moment of weakness that went further than he liked but he stopped it before it could turn into a full affair.

    I’ve read your post on the two most important traits in a partner and you briefly touch on this, which has been a source of comfort for me over the years. But as we got closer to our wedding, the intrusive thought reminding me of his past was very pervasive (which we discussed in terms of fear as lightening striking at whatever it can as it views the major transition we were stepping through). I have dealt with this particular thought in terms of grief that he’s not perfect, fear of the “what if” for our future, and the black and white views we are fed and rely on in childhood in our views of the world (especially in relationship to infidelity in relationships). I know I have struggled with all these in coming to accept him as he is (a wonderful human who has never been anything other than upfront and honest with me and whose past mistake does not define his worth), but going through our wedding and the days following I still find myself dealing with pervasive fear and intrusive thoughts around this particular issue. I think I’m finding myself in some kind of resistance to working through this and struggling with a fear that I will ALWAYS struggle with this lightening rod moment.

    I was wondering if you could offer a piece of advice or even write a post about this particular subject (I’m sure there are others who struggle with their partner’s past as those of us on here are often the perfectionists who just want to accept those we love without the fear, resistance, and anxiety that may exist around their partners (in ways other than just simple annoyances or boredom in their relationships).

    Thanks for all you do and share!

    Reply
    • Feels good to know I am not alone (: I would also love it if Sheryl covered this area of work where partners had red flag(s) were not necessarily evil but made mistake(s) and now both are more aware, morally educated and not the same people they were in the past. Should one forgive and if it can happen then how to go about it? How to not worry about what others will think?

      Your comment resonated with my situation. Though the red flag was different than yours, but yes red flag and lack of understanding, knowledge and openess between both of us at the time. But we moved past that, its taken a long time. And now I catch myself thinking what if other women feel I am not a good example of a strong woman because I am making the choice to be with this person, or another tangent is what if a part of me just cant forgive 100 percent and the list doesn’t end.

      Reply
    • It sounds to me like you’re addressing many core elements of this intrusive thought:

      “grief that he’s not perfect, fear of the “what if” for our future, and the black and white views we are fed and rely on in childhood in our views of the world (especially in relationship to infidelity in relationships)”

      but what stands out for me is that it’s arising around your transition into marriage (congratulations ;)), which lets me know that the intrusive thought is serving its function: to protect you from feeling your more vulnerable feelings around this transition. It’s so much easier for the mind to travel to its default intrusive thought than to feel the grief, vulnerability, fear, uncertainty, groundlessness, and JOY around crossing over these tenuous and terrifying thresholds.

      I’m sure there’s more to unravel, as there always is, but I hope that helps you turn the focus away from him and this thought and onto you, which is where it belongs.

      Reply
  14. Hello!

    I’m so happy I found this beautiful post.

    I have a beautiful and amazing partner. I SO SO badly want her to be the one I go to when my world crumbles down, I want her to be the one I can go to with anything. I’ve had relationship anxiety spikes that have been flaring up for the past few months, but I’m struggling to get there with my partner. To get to that place of comfort. What is this? Is this fear?

    Any tips?

    Reply

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