Moving Beyond Self-Doubt

Once I had to attend a teacher’s workshop where I learned a fascinating theory from a veteran teacher and counselor. She said the people who doubt themselves are usually the best teachers because they constantly evaluate themselves, finding new ways to succeed and they also recognize struggling students more often because they have experienced conflict and self-doubt themselves.

On one hand, this is extremely comforting for me as the anxiety of putting more of myself out there as a professional writer may illustrate the above theory.

On the other, it is scary to know none of us can escape fear.

How can we deal with it better? How can we teach our kids to deal with it better?

How can I model more confidence for my son when I sit before a page, staring into the white screen of nothingness, scared to truly commit to my art?

I think it consists of two parts: 1) Learning to listen to our hearts; and 2) Asking for help when needed. 

Lately, my mind tells me I don’t know what the hell I am doing with this writing thing.

I saw this book title – The Art of Asking – and thought it may help me. The author believes most people truly want to help and actually enjoy it, but first, we have to be vulnerable enough to ask.

Read another book, find a way of understanding something through my rational side. Yep – that’s me.

In another book, The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, a glimmer of truth winked at me:

“I don’t need childish feelings, they are alright for my younger brothers and sisters, who do not have my judgment. Anyway, it is only sentimental stuff, ridiculous. I am a grown-up, I can think and act, I can make changes in things around me, I don’t need to feel helpless anymore, or dependent. If I am afraid, I can do something about it or try to understand it intellectually. My intelligence is my most reliable companion.”

I’ve secretly felt this way my whole life. If I just learn more about something, my fear will subside.

How does this relate to my writing?

Well, what comes to mind when I see the word “writer”:

  • I think of one of my first books I wrote in third grade. It was a meeting between a martian and me. We became friends.
  • I think of the word “soul” and how I love Whitman, Emerson, & Thoreau, and my new love – Pat Schneider of How the Light Gets In.
  • I think of how the confessional/sharing side of me wants to be unleashed with the hope someone will hear and someone will appreciate it. Maybe someone will find solace in my words.
  • I think of my mouth in stitches because my ego mind tells me things I learned from people along the way – like “You didn’t go to a good college” (thanks old boyfriend).  Or “You have to be logical and remove all emotion from your writing” (nice to know that Philosophy Professor).  Or even “Don’t put your self out there – you will just get hurt (much obliged family member).
  • I think of vulnerability.
  • I think of how I have lived for years with a side of me closed down – perhaps because I didn’t know what to do with all the words in my head.
  • I think of how my sister sent me The Art of Asking yesterday for my birthday. What a special moment that she doesn’t even know she gave to me.
  • I think of all the love people send me when they listen to me.
  • I think of how I had to type in big bold letters “JUST F-ING WRITE IT” across the top of my page so I can keep going.
  • I think of what a radical act it is to write, to share, to freely give someone your thoughts.
  • I think of all the haters that despise me and my thoughts.

Did you notice all the “thinks” in each sentence?

What if instead of using my mind, each time I sat down to write I check-in with my heart?

Does it feel open, light and full when I write? Does writing make me feel like a million little sparklers have gone off in my body when I’ve written something truthful and good? Does writing bring me peace of mind?

And how does all this relate to mothering a child?

I see important connections with my struggles with self-doubt and the value of encouraging my son to seek out what his soul is calling from him.

This requires teaching him to listen to a voice that can get drowned out so easily. This also requires teaching him how to recognize when intuition/creativity is grabbing at his ear.

“Draw it this way with the roof like this.”

“Here stand here. Hit from this side.”

“Let’s put the red block on top.”

All these are imperative sentences that I’ve said to Lars. They didn’t feel right coming out of my mouth, but I couldn’t name why.

Maybe Socrates provided some valuable parenting information – simply ask questions.

Instead of giving Lars advice on how to draw a house, hit a ball, or build a tower, what if I first asked him what he thought he should do next? Or what if I asked him how I could help him? And if he answers he doesn’t know, maybe I can tell him I am happy to help and here is an idea or two for him to think about. 

Maybe this will help him develop faith in his abilities and trust that other people enjoy contributing to his success.

Would we be different people and view the world differently if we were taught as children how to seek out, listen to, and validate that voice within? Instead of the world commenting with directives on how to better ourselves, what if we were asked, “What do you think?” Would we be different if we were told it was ok to ask others for help instead of being pushed to be completely independent?

Have you read the article about how drawing for your kids makes them not want to draw because they can’t make it look as good as yours?

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/04/a-childs-creativity-how-i-learned-to-shut-up/

Maybe always giving advice isn’t the best way to help our children.

Have you read the article about how punishment/shame actually shuts down our neocortex – the very place we need to be reaching for higher thought processes and creative solutions to our problems?

http://www.brains.org/down.htm

Maybe allowing himself to develop a personal authority who shares power with parents is more fruitful than punishing.

I don’t want Lars to make the same mistake I have for so long – believing intelligence is the ONLY way to my Truth. I don’t want my only “reliable companion” be pure thinking.

I want to live also from the heart.

But what does this look like?

When your heart is balanced, you accept yourself and others without judgment. You look for the beauty and Divine Spirit in everyone and overlook their weaknesses. You are kind and forgiving, slow to find fault, and quick to pardon. An open heart is tolerant and optimistic, resourceful and humorous. Your intentions are kind, and your generosity is genuine. A person with a balanced heart is very healing and comforting to be around, because you feel safe and make those around you feel accepted and appreciate without condition. Your perspective is always orientated toward solutions rather than problems, and your expectations for positive outcomes are very high.” ~ Sonia Choquette from True Balance

I want to recognize and live out what my intuition (heart) and intelligence are calling forth from my soul.

IMG_2843

Who knows what will become of my writing? Who knows what will become of questioning Lars more often?

I do know one thing – these new paths are an opening, an offering for me to grow. Instead of being scared to move forward and being too ashamed to ask others for help, I am going to model for Lars the journey of listening to my soul.

First, that means allowing him to see the reality of self-doubt first-hand through me. Second, it means I have to actively work on overcoming fear by getting quiet and listening to another authority instead of my head – my heart. And finally, it means to acknowledging how much people love to help once I humble myself enough to ask.

Maybe this experience helps me be a better teacher and a better writer because like the speaker at the workshop believed, I know the struggle all too well.

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