Self-doubt is a universal human experience. I’ve been trying to research what the sacred cure is for this inner strangler so that we can give more frequent, joyous birth to creative ideas. The thing is that all of the top psychology searches were largely personal recounts and idiosyncratic tips.
This got me thinking that our self-doubt is very specific to us as an individual. Yes our self-doubt may be characterised by criticism, paralysis, expectation and irrepressibility, but what the voice is actually saying stems from our individual experience. For example, one of my past bosses grudgingly cursed at me whenever she thought I was working too slowly. This criticism informed my self-doubt for years. I’d constantly question my suitability for working in the deadline-driven, design field. I’d believe that I was incompetent and slow all the time, always working from a catchup perspective.
You may have had a tutor tell you that you had a weakness in type-setting or skill X so that every time you tried to exercise that skill you’d hear them say that you were not good enough. Your friends may have found their first design jobs months before you did, so that you criticised all of the work in your portfolio whenever you put together another application.
Self-doubt can be understood as an attachment to a negative past, which will shape a negative future if we don’t learn to silence it in our own personal way.
If we are receiving a personal message from our inner critic then we might as well craft a personal solution for ourselves to silence it. One of my favourite analogies for this can be linked to a lesson learnt at Hogwarts (as for many things in life.)
In Professor Lupin’s class, students were faced with the task of exorcising a creature that shape-shifted into what they feared the most. This is exactly what the self-doubt demon does–it constantly transforms itself to fit the individual so that it can exist. Interestingly, the way that the student would overcome the creature was through laughter. They would say the incantation Riddikulus and think of the happiest thought imaginable. The fear creature, known as a Boggart, would then make its exit in a novel way, back into the cupboard where its presence could be felt no more.
What an incredible method for exorcising self-doubt. Instead of taking its criticism seriously let’s do some creative exorcism.
Step 1: Find your incantation
It could be a quote or lyric that you’ve felt powerful resonance with as soon as you heard it. Use it because its recitation is strengthening.
My two personal incantations are:
You’ve got to make something bigger than yourself in a small moment
–Scott Wings aka Darkwing Dubs, phenomenal spoken word poet
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be?
–Marianne Williamson, author and phenomenal woman
Step 2: Think of something joyful
It could be completely unrelated to the creative task at hand. The point is to release some of that nervous tension in your body by producing happiness hormones. Physically releasing the tension through laughter is even better. If you’re stuck, think about someone you love. It works a treat.
Step 3: Visualise a wonderful exit for your self-doubt
Imagine your self-doubt as an entity outside of yourself then cast it away with playfulness.
As an example…
My self doubt looks like:
A wry, old Chinese woman with a squashed, cynical face. Her body would be hunched over so that her energy would get caught in all of the wrong places. She has a cane to hit you over the head with. It’s like a wand for casting her naysaying spells.
She would make her exit by:
Being grabbed by a giant piranha plant from Mario 64 on the back cusp of her moth-eaten trench coat. It would shake her about in the air until she apologised, then drop her back onto the ground where she’d splat into a pile of deep purple glitter. I’d pick it up and throw it in the air like confetti, while skipping around in a circle listening to It’s Oh So Quiet by Bjork.
What technique do you have for silencing your self doubt? How would your farewell to self-doubt story go? Please share it with me here Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you back an illustrated version of the above story.
Remember that your inner critic is uniquely yours and that your method for expelling it is uniquely yours. The fun part is in finding what works for you.