Some days I feel like the strongest person in the world, confident and self-assured, yet other days, I feel the exact opposite. People (and literature) will say that this is normal, human nature and a part of life. Lately, I have been wondering why many of us are conditioned to doubt ourselves rather than questioning this, considering context or seeing all we are achieving.
My initial response to this question was that it is easier to change yourself than those around you. But on reflection, I now feel that this answer only scratches the surface or in more colloquial terms is a cop-out answer. Looking from the outside, I am a strong, independent, and accomplished person yet so often still doubt my abilities.
In my profession, an important part of being an effective nurse is to question, be curious, challenge your thinking and that of others while advocating for those who can not. These actions or traits are the part of my job I value very highly. Furthermore, it is where I feel that I can make a difference, where it is rewarding and where I usually operate. These are not traits I associated with someone who often doubts their ability.
Many times after doing this I am left thinking, I did my best and made what seemed to be the right choice at the time, however, in hindsight, I doubt myself, my actions and my decisions. The interesting part is, in all of the situations (as far as I know), none of my actions or decisions was necessarily questioned or interpreted as doubt or failure by others in the way I sometimes did myself. There seems to be quite a mismatch here, and as we do, I thought of a label for myself – a high functioning self doubter (in jest).
Reflecting on this led me to question my leadership style, I tend to lead by example, get stuck in, be kind and compassionate, help others to be the best that they can be, give the task at hand all of my energy and effort. On the other hand, I can be firm and stand my ground when need be. The people I respect as leaders or am inspired by also share some of the traits I see in myself but don’t appear to have any self-doubt. The wise might say, that I don’t see their self-doubt which led me to consider if all people doubt their actions or decisions at some point in time and try to imagine what life might be like for someone who didn’t ever doubt themselves or their actions.
Much of the doubt or non-doubt could be conditioning, or in a way institutionalization or learned behaviour and in that respect my mind suggests that if this is, in fact, conditioning then self-doubt “should” be able to be undone or removed. My immediate thought was – let’s ignore that self-doubt. On considering this, I imagined what life would be like without questioning myself (which is a form of self-doubt), and I thought that without the ability to question your actions how could you learn or move forward.
After a lot of thought, my conclusion at this time is that we need self-doubt as a regulating mechanism. If I didn’t question myself, how would I learn and improve? One could argue that doubting yourself is questioning yourself and therefore, in my case, something that I value.
With this in mind, my mantra relating to self-doubt has changed. Including reframing self-doubt, moving away from the all-consuming doubt in my abilities and convert this thinking to valuing self-doubt as a tool and part of moving forward.
Watch this space … now I know what I would like to change, I need to figure out how to do it!