by Barry Kerr
How do you know if your self-doubt is too much? Consider your level of confidence. A significant lack of confidence is driven by self-doubt and robs you of the ability to make decisions, take action and create the life you want. Indeed, we’ve all known people who seem frozen by self-doubt. It can affect all aspects of their life. (Over-confidence is another issue for another day).
But for most people, self-doubt is subtle and can vary a great deal, depending on the particular issue, or part of life, or situation, or people involved. One person can feel very confident in a work role, quite “in charge,” and then in a private relationship, feel very confused and uncertain. Another person can feel very confident with a spouse, and then turn into a naïve child when with his/her mother.
In working with clients in psychotherapy, life coaching or spiritual growth, we eventually run into this phenomenon to some degree or other. And though the self-doubt that is discovered may not be crippling the person’s entire life, it typically is crippling the part of life that wants change.
For example, Coretta (not her real name), a woman in her 60s, presented to us issues about her sister and mother, who were creating drama in her life. Coretta had patiently tolerated manipulative and abusive behaviors from them all her life. And now, even though she had come to understand these behaviors for what they were and knew she didn’t want them anymore, she just couldn’t seem to change things. In fact, as Coretta had grown in herself and experienced other relationships without drama, her family’s behaviors became less and less tolerable.
Yet, Coretta doubted herself. In contrast, she was the epitome of confidence in her professional life. But concerning personal relationships, she had been taught by her family, her religion and by society that the “loving” thing to do was to stay in her tolerant patience and accept her family’s behavior. She let that message outweigh her own inner truth, which was becoming more and more urgent. It was crippling her. She was depressed and feeling powerless.
During her three-day private retreat with us, we helped Coretta establish a stronger connection with her source of inner truth. In the process, as she became more conscious of her higher self and divine being, she gained greater perspective on the role of family and relationships in her life. She was able to challenge the cultural messages she had inherited. She began to see that the urge she had felt all her life, the urge to set limits with her family and to claim her right to be free of manipulation and abuse, was always her real truth. It had taken nearly 60 years for her to trust herself, to give her own perceptions the weight to counterbalance the “truths” presented by others.
After her healing retreat, Coretta quickly went on to renegotiate her relationships with her family and others. She was able to assert her truth, without second-guessing, without doubt, even when the other people in her life objected and judged her. In the three years since, her relationships have improved remarkably and Coretta is no longer depressed.
Like Coretta, we are all subjected to the “truths” presented to us by society, by school, by family or even by the person standing in front of us in any given moment. In the western world, one of the most powerful “truths” inherited through our Judeo-Christian culture is that we are worthless sinners, “lost” to the truth, unable to find our way without accepting and following the doctrines and opinions presented to us by religious leaders who know better than us. Even if we were not raised in a religious family, we have still been subjected to this basic belief. After thousands of years, it has permeated all aspects of society, has been taken for granted, become part of our secular culture. It has planted in most of us a powerful seed of self-doubt that begins with believing that God/Truth is outside of ourselves; that we must look to others for our truth.
Is it any wonder that self-doubt is epidemic? In our times, this is changing rapidly as more and more of us are awakening to our divine origins, to our inherent nature as spiritual beings with direct access to whatever truth we need to move forward in confidence, free of the kind of doubt that cripples us. In this context, reaching out to coaches or therapists is not about being told who we are or what to do. It’s about being guided toward finding the answers within and trusting oneself. Though it’s usually good to invite feedback and advice, in the end, only we know what’s true for us.
This article was first published in Natures Pathways magazine in February, 2014