Do you believe in fairness in weather? I should know better, but sometimes that’s how my mind works. I find myself thinking, “Well, gee, the weather’s been bad for the past two weekends, so we’re due for a good one.”
Even more ridiculously I’ll sometimes think, “Since there hasn’t been a big thunderstorm in days, there’ll probably be one tomorrow when I’m flying on business and my meetings will get all messed up.”
I mean, how goofy is that? Even though human activity can affect global climate patterns, I don’t think my travel plans can.
And everyone knows airlines aren’t moved by passengers’ schedules.
But that’s one of the silly superstitious games I play with myself, and I don’t think I’m alone. Usually I think these tropes are harmless, but sometimes I block myself better than an all pro offensive lineman.
That’s when I practice pre-emptive criticism.
At some point – it must have been in junior high, when social standing can seem like a matter of life or death – I got the idea that other people couldn’t put me down if I made fun of myself first.
This insight was a valuable tool, even if it couldn’t make me coordinated, and I used it as best I could.
And now I wonder if I use it on myself without meaning to.
Does this sound familiar? You’re contemplating a new job or project or something, and while it’s no more than a cloud in your consciousness you get this sinking feeling, a kind of condensation in your chest, telling you all the ways it could go wrong.
That’s doubt, the great constrictor. While I’m all in favor of evaluation before action, I think dwelling on doubts is just as irrational as imagining that somehow everything will work out.
If we want to stop holding ourselves back unnecessarily, we need to find ways to change our self-doubting habits.
Simple awareness is a great first step. Once you’ve noticed your reservation reflex in action you can take steps to disable the mechanism.
As uncomfortable and counter-productive as self-doubt is, we all practice it to some extent. That means we must be getting something out of it. If you can figure out what your pay-off is – other than imaginary – you can work on changing the way you think.
Take my example – I need to realize that criticizing myself has no impact on whether or not other people will do the same. That’s like thinking your feelings affect the weather, and I’m going to stop doing that, except for next weekend, when I really hope….
You get the drift. It’s a struggle, but an interesting one. What does your doubt do for you?
by Danielle Dresden