I Doubt It

There is a pervasive untruth that is foisted upon us early in life and then reinforced at every turn. We hear it when we try-out for sports or take tests to get into school. We hear it when we interview for our first, or second, or twentieth job. We hear it every time we make a decision, take a chance or need to make a change. If we don’t hear it from someone else, the voice in our own head will certainly recount it for us….

Believe in yourself.

There is nothing wrong with determination and self-belief. Left unchecked however, those three little words could cause me to be reckless or foolish, or both. The balance to self-belief is a little healthy doubt.

Doubt helps us know when to ask for help. When we are in over our heads the solution isn’t to persevere blindly, but rather to humbly asked for assistance. In the moment of knowing we don’t have the answer, or skill, or whatever, we have an opportunity to expand our experience base. Confidence may help us charge forward, but healthy doubt helps us prepare.

Doubt is natural. You know you often doubt yourself, but sometimes you refuse to believe that everyone else does too. Rather than being a reason to be ashamed of ourselves, doubt often lets us know we are on the right track. If you never experience doubt, you probably aren’t pushing yourself. Doubt is normal and part of the signals we can use to grow.

Doubt is universal. Everyone who has ever accomplished anything remarkable went through a period where their ambition seemed beyond their capabilities. They doubted themselves. In a video set to an interview with Ira Glass, Glass proposes that the solution to this pervasive and universal gap between what we see ourselves doing and what we believe we can do, the gap I would call doubt, is preparation and hard work.

The relationship between self-doubt and self-esteem is complicated. We shouldn’t be focused on failure or live in chronic self-doubt. To help combat this, we can ask ourselves, “Is this thought true? Is this thought important? Is this thought helpful?” If self-doubt is not accurate, it is not a good thing. However, if the lack of self-doubt is not accurate, that is not healthy either.

We need to see ourselves clearly, see our strengths and weaknesses, love ourselves anyway, and do our best.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to model healthy behavior as much as possible. Being transparent about our healthy doubts gives those around us the assurance that doubts are normal and necessary. Sharing the times and situations when we have doubts opens the door for others to support us, invest in us, and encourage us. Letting others know about our doubts can also provide the opportunity for someone else to help us see when our doubts are untrue and unhealthy.

I used to think I needed to be certain about everything. Now I see that healthy doubt is something worth believing in.