The Only Way You Can’t Is If You Won’t


I get it. I know the feeling that cripples you. The thoughts that race through your mind so furiously you feel helpless against their torrent, drowning in their power. You feel small and naked and alone and vulnerable. It’s easier to be terrified that your genius just doesn’t exist. You are on the precipice of it, the edge of becoming who you’re meant to be, but your excitement and motivation have wilted under the hot glare of fear and doubt and insecurity.

I envy the confident. I envy those who are seemingly so sure of themselves, those who embody the Internet-wide adopted mantra to “Fuck the haters!” I envy them, but I identify with their counterparts: the unsure, the scared, the doubtful.

Here’s the thing: there’s nothing we know for sure. Any of us. Even those standing tall against the naysayers. We’re all in this together.

The only way out is through, they say. It often feels like you have to physically beat back this invisible obstacle of self-doubt. You have to whisper to yourself, as if comforting a whimpering child who’s skinned their knee: “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. You’re okay.” You have to ignore the faces that pop into your head, with their snap judgments and their criticisms, as you try to push forward. I’m thinking about you, dear readers – thank you for reading! – even now, as I sit in the unseasonably warm morning sunshine of my backyard, scribbling these words into the $3 notebook I scooped up from Target’s bargain bin. I am predicting what you might think (and I never predict that it’s good, because I am a masochist and this is the Internet, after all). I am allowing your future opinion to color not just what I write, but when I write. Or whether I should write at all or ever again. You understand.

We are the worst. You are the worst. I don’t mean to single you out. It’s me too. Our own opinion, our self-judgment, is always the harshest; our internal dialogue stings the most. We have the least confidence in our ability to be who we want to be or do what we want to do; likely, because we can see clearly who we want to be or where we want to go and we have no clue how the fuck we’ll get there. Other than to just keep going, of course; to keep doing the hard work of slogging through the doubt, the fear, the near-crippling uncertainty.

Here’s what I can tell you: your “good enough” is actually great and pushing through the fear will set you on the path to being even better. I will say it until you can believe it: I believe in you. I believe in me, too.

Take heart in your doubt: it means you care. You care so much and want it so badly, you can hardly believe that you’ll live up to your own expectations. You can. By getting this far, by even having something about which you quiver with insecurity, you’ve already surpassed them. You’ve taken one step. Take two more. Don’t walk away from it, whatever your “it” may be.

Give yourself a little more credit than that. You have this inside of you. I’m not promising that it will be easy (and, conversely, I’m not promising that it will be all that hard), but I promise that you can do it. The only way you can’t is if you won’t.

So, take a good look at your doubt. Stare her in the face and breathe her in. Give her a name and welcome her back. (She’s been there before and she’ll be there again.) Recognize her and pay attention to her. When she’s there, you’ll know you’re facing the action that sits deep in your heart; you’re facing your dormant calling. You’re looking at the root of yourself. Doubt is your friend. Recognize her for what she offers: confirmation that you’re headed in the right direction. High five and let her go. You’ve got shit to do.

That’s the secret.

We get nowhere under the constant weight of our own uncertainty. Allow your doubt to be your friend, your guide, your cue that it’s time to go one step further. Let it move you: Say what you need to say, do what you need to do, spill yourself where you need to. Force her to set the bar continually higher.

She’s played her hand. Your move.

featured image – flickr