Duct-taping self doubt before I become (more of) a quack.
Posted on May 30, 2012
Self doubt is a remarkable, powerful emotion. It’s like a nagging alter-ego, ready to pounce at the first sign of vulnerability, then feast like a starving animal.
For me, it seems self sabotage evolves from self doubt – it becomes the next natural step amid a flurry of negativity.
Whenever self doubt weighs in, I find myself retreating into a quieter, more introspective part of my brain. I am not as playful with others, I’m not as confident and I’m not as vocal. I let things slide, instead of speaking up for myself, for others.
I begin to move through the universe as if I have no real place telling anyone anything about, well, anything. And that’s a sad place to live. (Albeit, much quieter for those around me, but I firmly believe they laugh less when I am busy doubting myself. You will find my confidence in my funniness rarely wanes.)
A couple of opportunities have popped up recently. One is a chance to be a regular voice for parents of children with disabilities on a popular website for women. Another is a chance to get my body (and, subsequently, a large part of my brain) back in shape.
Every woman has heard the saying, “If you feel good, then you look good.” I thought of it several times this weekend as a friend shopped for an outfit for a wedding. She found trendy items and beautiful items, but she looked best in the outfit that made her smile and glow.
If only we could wrap ourselves in our favorite outfits and emotions every day.
When Jennifer Aniston wears what has been described and even mocked as a “uniform” (a simple tank, cargo pants or jeans and flip flops), she looks her best because she feels most comfortable (thank God she does not feel good in a potato sack, which would only confirm the woman looks good in even a potato sack, thereby making me feel even worse about myself – hello, self sabotage!).
Do you see what happened there? Self doubt became self sabotage in the form of The Compare Game. We’ve all done it, because it serves to make us feel better (or worse) about ourselves, depending on that day’s goal. For example, I may have helped others at boot camp feel better because they could think, “at least I can run faster than she can” (or more accurately, “wait, is she trying to run?”) or “at least my butt doesn’t look THAT big in those pants.”
Meanwhile, I was marveling at how effortless some of them made those God-awful, thigh-melting, head pounding curb jumps. Or, in an example of how my brain does not think complexly when my body is overtaxed, how others had the ability to wear a sleeveless shirt without fear that they would sweat showers on those around them. (Working out in sleeveless shirts really creeps me out – not when others do it, just myself. At all times during my workout, I want to feel like there are at least three barriers between my sweaty stink and others: the layer of deodorant on my skin, the layer on the inside of the sleeve and the actual sleeve.)
Comparing myself to others doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, I don’t think. I think it means I’m normal. But it’s such a dangerous pastime when it serves to make me feel worse about myself. Two forms of comparison exist in my brain: (1) physical traits (she’s smarter, thinner, taller, shorter, cuter, less frizzy) and (2) personal characteristics (she’s less judgmental, more giving, more academic, less sophomoric – wait, is that good or bad?).
When I find myself in the physical trait section of comparison shopping, I can easily spiral out of control and let it get the best of me. I go eat a donut, I put my hair in a ponytail… I do less for myself.
When I shop the characteristic comparison aisle, remarkably I find myself working on being a better person. I take a step back and consider a person’s motivations for behavior. I strive to model that personality. I see more good in more people.
If only we could wear our most favorite outfit, have great hair days AND surround ourselves with our most inspiring friends and colleagues, every day. Would we all be that much kinder and funnier, because we feel better about ourselves and are actively working to be better people?
Back to those opportunities. Self doubt is preying on both: the writing opportunity and succeeding at boot camp.
With the first, I find myself analyzing everyone’s writing these days, wondering if I can create a similar formula that makes the words flow and keeps people interested, entertained… perhaps even inspired. If I could banish self doubt, I likely would have written a book by now. Well. Isn’t that sobering.
Then there’s Boot Camp. Thankfully, I am joined by friends who motivate and support me. My husband has told me no fewer than six times that he’s proud of my effort (and he’s promised to get up each night this week with the kids, knowing my alarm will sound at 4:50 a.m. – if that isn’t enough motivation to work out, well…).
But over the past week, I’ve found myself demonstrating tremendous will power and… self sabotage. I single-handedly avoided cake THREE TIMES this past week. And without the socially awkward practice of duct-taping my hands over my mouth.
Then I found myself eating half a bowl of popcorn despite its stale taste and a complete lack of hunger. I would have eaten the whole bowl if it tasted good.
It’s a constant tug of war. Which emotion will I let rule my day today? Or will I muster the energy and the inner strength to make good choices for myself? What makes sense and practically has been handed to me?
I have an opportunity to speak on behalf of families with children with special needs.
I have the chance to feel good about myself physically again.
Get out of my way. I’ve got to go buy more duct tape.