2. a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.
It happened in the blink of an eye. Forgive the cliché, but it’s true. Last night, I was reading over the workshop notes for a course called “Overcoming Self-Doubt” I’m running tonight and I thought “This is stupid.”
Oh. The irony.
I’m delivering a course on self-doubt tonight and I’m doubting my ability to do it.
Even last night, the irony wasn’t lost on me, but for some reason, I let that thought take hold. And because I did, it grew into a monster.
“You can’t remember any of your notes. What kind of presenter are you?”
“You’re going to forget everything.”
“No one will care about your point of view.”
“That activity is never going to work.”
My husband heard my sighs and the faster-faster flicking of the workshop notes. Kissing me on the forehead, he whispered, “Don’t be silly. You’ve got this.”
I knew he was right. I’ve run this workshop before. But still …
Dropping the notes on the floor, I read for a while to distract myself. I thought this deflection worked, especially when I dozed off and startled myself awake. That was 11.20pm.
But by 12.28 I was still awake. And Self-Doubt was wide awake with me, tossing and turning horrible things into my mind.
I tried self-talk – tried to shout over the top of Self-Doubt.
I tried meditation – tried to think of nothing but the in-out of my breath, which was all whistly and annoying because one stupid nostril was blocked.
“You can’t even breathe properly.”
I tried to lie in a comfortable position, but the pillow was suddenly lumpy and so was the bed …
“You’re too hyper-sensitive – You really are the princess and the pea. Get over it.”
I tried thinking about my current work in process. And all of a sudden, that was stupid too.
“It’s moving too slow.”
“You need to speed it up.”
“It’s a mess. Why not just ditch it.”
“People will think it’s boring.”
“It is boring.”
“You’ll never have a novel published.”
“You’re too scared of making a mistake.”
And I told myself, because my husband was by now asleep, “You’re being silly.” But still … I continued to toss and turn and check the clock.
The thing with Self-Doubt is that it’s the master of spin. A horror storyteller from your own personal hell.
And if you listen, the stories get wilder and wilder, and meaner and meaner. Not content with poking you in one sore spot, Self-Doubt seeks out all of your sore spots.
Suddenly, my son, who I saw three weeks ago in Scotland but haven’t managed to connect with since, suddenly, it’s not that we’re playing message-tag, it’s that he doesn’t want to talk to me. Why would he? He has much better things to do, more interesting people to talk to.
“You’re annoying the crap out of him with your short and sweet messages.”
“You’re a bad mother. You should have done this better. Or that.”
I’m lying in bed, gripping the sheets, willing myself not to get up and write him a heartfelt email that he probably won’t read.
All because I doubted myself.
My Self Doubt knows my triggers. It knows exactly what to say for maximum effect. And if it senses a weakness, it unleashes everything it has. It goes for everything I work hard to overcome: all the fears, all my feelings of imposter syndrome, all my comparisons, all the need in me for perfection and approval.
Last night, I spent hours in that in-between world of sleep and awareness.
I slept a little. My body and my head doesn’t feel like it did. But I know I did because I dreamt that I was trying to protect my son from a huge snapping crocodile that was chasing us.
My son was safe, out of reach somewhere, but the crocodile kept coming. I managed to shut a door on it, but the crocodile wedged its snout between the door frame and door and its teeth were inches away.
And as I felt the whoosh of air from those snapping teeth, and the door started to splinter, I realised the crocodile was never after my son.
It was after me.
It always was.
Self-Doubt was attacking me even in my sleep.
This here, this is my heart story. It’s a story that came about from something I know I can do, but I told myself I couldn’t.
It comes from deep within me and last night, it hurt that place deep within because I let it.
And to the detriment of my sleep and myself, I listened.
I don’t know why.
I don’t know why I was weak last night.
But I was.
I can’t get that lost sleep back and I have a long day ahead.
But instead of making myself feel worse (and trust me, the word “stupid” has featured in my self-talk more than once today), I’m going to write a new and kind chapter for myself.
I’m going to turn today into an exercise of self-awareness and self-compassion.
Who better than to run a course on self-doubt tonight?