Self Doubt: what does it look like?

What does Self Doubt feel like for you?

Driving home the other day, I was thinking about Self Doubt and how I experience it. I listed the words I used to describe my feeling of Self Doubt – words like nagging, stabbing, gnawing, insidious, and so on.

Why was I doing this? No, I was not in the throes of a Self Doubt attack. Rather, I was imagining explaining or talking about the feeling to children in a workshop or even picture book situation. I wanted to give Self Doubt a form to make it easier to banish when it visits.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia PlathThe Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

But what kind of form? What shape would Self Doubt take? Would it be the same for everyone? And then the idea of a monster took shape. I visioned my Self Doubt as a monster with tentacles and piercing eyes … and I thought, I have to draw this. [bctt tweet=”Why not USE creativity to get the better of Self Doubt?” username=”writenote1″]

At the weekend, I dragged out my fine liners and sharpies. First, I made a list of all the elements/characteristics of my Self Doubt monster. Next, I started drawing. I found a picture of an octopus that roughly resembled what I in mind, and used that as the base, then shaved off a couple of legs and added the ‘essential’ characteristics:

  • a brain full of negative thoughts
  • a brick to throw
  • dagger that stabs
  • piercing eyes
  • judgemental eyebrows
  • suckers that latch on and won’t let go
  • legs that wrap around your heart and squeeze
  • gnawing teeth
  • a bad smell

The next day, I coloured in – which proved relaxing and a lovely reminder of how much I enjoy (and miss) drawing. And then I decided to share my drawing – not because I think it’s fantastic, but because I don’t want this voice, this creative me, silenced.

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh

Here’s my finished Self Doubt monster – minus the tentacle carrying baggage that I thought of later:

What would your Self Doubt monster look like? Would it have jackhammer legs? Hacksaws for arms? Does it needle you with syringe fingers? Or is it an earworm that chants the same negative words over and over? Maybe it’s a shapeless swirl of colour.

Go on – get a sheet of paper. Get creative! Use words or a combination of words and pictures. Ask someone else to draw your description. Try it at your next writing group or critique session. Don’t put names on them and then try to guess whose is whose. Turn it into a game.

[bctt tweet=”Who knows … you might realise that Self Doubt is not so scary after all.” username=”writenote1″] It’s just a silly looking monster! It doesn’t have to rule you. It doesn’t have to stifle or kill your creativity. It cannot imprison you unless you allow it to. [bctt tweet=”Self Doubt only has power if you listen.” username=”writenote1″]

“You do not need to pay attention to those voices within you that create pain, or make you feel less competent, smart or able.”
― Sanaya RomanLiving with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation





Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

4 Responses

  1. Your self-doubt monster is a magnificent creature in every respect, but my favourite aspect is its ‘judgemental eyebrows’! Love the concept, love the actual eyebrows.
    A wonderful and timely post – not just for me but I bet for so many other people needing a reminder that we can be our own harshest critics. Thanks Monique.

    1. Thanks, Fiona. The eyebrows say ‘Seriously? You really think YOU can do that?’ or something along those lines. We need to be gentler with ourselves, I think.

  2. Self doubt is something that has been on my mind a lot this past week, which resulted in some extreme negativity in my corner of the internet yesterday. It’s a bit of a relief to be reminded that other authors can feel that way sometimes too.

    Anyway, I love that picture you’ve come up with.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. Our monsters might look different but often they say similar things, don’t they.

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