Those times when you doubt yourself are the worst. People say you should have inner confidence, the ability to look at a situation and believe in yourself. Is this the same as believing that if you keep cleaning the fire a fairy godmother will come? Or that eating the wrong apple will end badly?
Self-doubt is an onerous and tumbleweed feeling, at once heavy and ponderous as well as being hard to pin down. As the winds blow around you, it is very hard sometimes to keep yourself in place and know you are in the right place, for you.
How easy in difficult times to listen to the loudest voices, the ones which tell you familiar, negative things. How hard to ignore them and trust yourself, when so many other times you feel you have let yourself down.
I've spent many productive years being my own therapist, working things out as I go along. Some nights I would lie there for hours, seeing my past stretching out before me as clear as if I walked it still. Other nights I would dream a moment long-forgotten and suddenly understand what I missed the first time around.
Exhausting, tremulous days when I had to trust all this growth and self-awareness was going in the right direction and would not end with me in a heap, unable to function because my insecurities were too complicated to tease out and let me live a normal life.
Trust, you see. I had to trust myself, trust the conclusions I came to after facing difficult truths. I had to trust that I could move forward once I was done and be a better person at the end of it. Just like learning to walk, I had to trust that the tumbles and mishaps were worth the end result.
Now, all these years later and so much further down the road than before I am still learning to trust myself. Other people can be a huge help, a way of affirming your identity and realising your potential. They can also be the very problems you seek to overcome. And sometimes, just when we think we have it all worked out, we discover some people can be both positive and negative, the ultimate confusion in human relationships.
Trust and doubt, woven together, are the positive and negative when it comes to self-awareness. Do you trust yourself enough to step forward, even if you might fall? Do you give in to the doubt and wait for the fear to pass, only to find it feels safer where you are and not move at all?
When we walk, whether as babies or full-grown people, we do not just go forwards; walking is also about sideways movement, just enough to stop us stalking along like stick-men. All of life is like this. We can never go back, even if we turn our heads to look at the past. But there is always just enough sideways motion to give us that chance, as we move on, to think about where we are.
Like the babies we once were, it can be good to sometimes reach out a hand and stop the movement altogether. Take a look around, see where you have been, choose where to go next. Don't leave it too long, though: keep walking, one step at a time, and don't mind the tumbles.
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