With every endeavor on untried ground there rises within us some measure of doubt as to whether we will be up to the task, accomplish what we desire or how we will appear to others as we conclude our efforts. But what is doubt? Where does it come from? Is it something that we’re born with or is it something that is learned and acquired? My belief is that it is learned and acquired.
When a baby begins to walk, talk or eat, these activities occur naturally, without effort or concern. Why? The thought processes that qualify or judge what we are doing have not been formed yet. Ask yourself this question. Have there been activities like painting, cooking, sculpting, reading or running that you have become so involved in doing that time, environmental circumstances and your concern with other issues never came to mind? It’s like you’ve been out of phase with the world, taken out of the loop, out of touch. What’s truly interesting is that after such an experience you end up feeling recharged, refreshed and more grounded and centered than you were before you started. Why? It’s because the mind and it’s judgments didn’t interfere with what you were doing.
Our judgment of the world comes from the workings of the mind. This is something that we were taught whether by our parents or from the feedback we get from others assessing our activities. These judgments come unhindered and are quietly incorporated into our beliefs about ourselves and who we are and then slowly and easily submerge into our subconscious. As children we become so attuned to what pleases our parents and family that we ultimately either transfer their authority and opinions to other significant people in our lives such as relationships, friends, enemies, neighbors and more or attract others to us who embody those same standards. As humans, we seek to create familiar circumstances over and over in our lives so we can feel security in the continuity of things. As children, and often as adults, we’re trained to take to heart what other say and feel about who we are and how we perform. As a result we go through a constant process of comparing what we want to do with our perceived opinions, needs and requirements of others. Then, as we consider doing things that others may disapprove of or believe that we are incapable of, our mind very slowly begins to rationalize the validity of their opinions and judgments to the point that our own internal conversation begins to convince us that what we’ve chosen to do is unreachable or self-defeating.
Our doubt comes from two places: personal experiences that didn’t measure up to our expectations and learned internal dialogues that echo our parents and the opinions of others over our own. The first view necessitates the garnering of courage just to try again what we’ve attempted but from, perhaps, a different approach. This scenario is usually manageable and easy to overcome since this type of limitation is completely under our own control. However, if our doubt was initiated by training from others, it’s a bit more difficult to overcome, especially, since we had no control over the forming of what we now believe about ourselves before we even knew that we had a choice in such matters. Children almost always carry on their parents’ assessment of them throughout their lives, if not consciously, most certainly unconsciously. If their parents taught them to not believe in their abilities but to trust others over their own judgment instead, doubt will be a predominating influence in everything they do. What makes this so difficult beyond the fact that it has been incorporated into our belief system is that we also have no control over the doubt reinforcing feedback we receive from others. Because it’s ingrained in us, we tend accept those limitations at face value never questioning their validity.
If our investment in the opinions of others about whom we are and what we’re capable of is strong, doubt will be the primary limiting factor in every activity we consider doing throughout our lives. It acts like a hidden virus coming from a small seed, growing and overpowering our lives. Our self-worth will be sabotaged at every turn and we will feel powerless and insignificant at our core rationalizing that our perceived ineffectiveness comes from the world and the obstructions provided by others. In that light we never realize that our limitations came to us through our own early training. To extricate ourselves from this perspective we must first come to the understanding that doubt is a product of our own minds and training and that we must learn to trust our own feelings rather than the opinions of our parents and others in spite of our fear of their possible negative judgments and assessments. This is the hardest scenario for us to overcome.
If our faith in the judgments of others over our own is not as strong, our doubt may creep in intermittently depending on the circumstance triggered. There may be some situations where in we feel confident and others that we don’t. We must sort out which are which and work on the ones that are the most limiting through asking questions of ourselves as to where our doubt about them is coming from. Once the source is recognized, we can consciously take steps to intentionally create new experiences within the same issues thereby reprogramming our attitude and trust after successful completion creating a new assessment of ourselves and removing any potential for doubt. Restoring confidence can only come from personal experience regardless of whether it is spontaneous or planned. No amount of coaching or positive affirmations can substitute for the personal inner work that must be done. How we feel about ourselves is our own choice. Even as a child this is true but subject to much more difficulty since, as a child, we don’t know yet that we have a choice.
Doubt is odorless, tasteless and invisible. It is probably the most lethal opponent to our ambition and self-confidence. It is a viral agent capable of sabotaging every effort an infected person is able to muster. But it can be eliminated with care, patience and keen observation of how we feel when we choose to invest in any endeavor. If you doubt its potency, simply consider what microscopic entity saved our hides in the movie War of the Worlds. It was odorless, tasteless and invisible to the naked eye. Yet, it annihilated an entire invading force…and they never knew what hit them.