Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life's Speed Bumps

Some people seem to be more able to shrug negative experiences and interactions off.  They are affected by them, but they remain intact and grounded in who they are and their sense of worth.  Others find themselves deeply affected by difficult people and situations, and they may find their sense of self and confidence suffers as a result. I must admit to falling more often into the second category.

Self-doubt and fear of making mistakes begins from other people’s expectations of us and sometimes even their criticism of us when we’ve made mistakes. The information that was not encouraging and supportive in our learning is the root of our self-doubt.  Many of us, in part because of the external responses we have received throughout our lives, may feel self-doubt or insecurity.  This type of negative self-perception that we are not good enough makes it more and more difficult to feel confident or roll with the punches of everyday life without allowing them to tear down our sense of self.

I grew up thinking that family life should follow a “Leave it to Beaver” or “Ozzie and Harriet” model. Father should work at some ambiguous job that allowed him to be home most of the time smoking a pipe and reading the newspaper. He should offer wisdom and sage advice to his children when their actions required redirection, but never raise his voice or his hand in anger. Mother should spend her time in the kitchen smiling and looking like she had just come from a church social, and families should live harmoniously in a beautiful home with all the modern amenities of the time. 

It seemed to my young mind that everyone in the world lived like this except my family! My mother worked teaching school from the time I can remember and was the primary bread-winner for the family. She never had time to bake cookies or create the fabulous meals that June Cleaver prepared! There was no money for summer camp, or movies and we seemed to work at the farm all the time without ever getting ahead. We had none of the modern amenities I saw on television. Most of the time, we didn’t even have a telephone! Our toilet was a lilac bush at the side of the house! Running water was provided by a well that often ran dry during the summer and water had to be trucked in from town.

When I became a teenager, I longed for the whirlwind of parties and fun that Gidget experienced, but my life seemed both frightening and dull by comparison. This was about this time that my father’s alcoholism became public knowledge and I felt outcast as an undesirable because of it. Our family was focused on survival rather than fun, and I began to feel as if I didn’t deserve success.
A negative self-image can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In other words, self-doubt is a mindset that sets us up to fail.  This type of negative self-perception tends to feed upon itself. We begin to see the world in terms of experiences that solidify that perception that we are not good enough. The core emotion beneath self-doubt is fear. Even the most self-confident among us will experience doubt from time to time. This dark shadow of insecurity can lead to hesitation and indecision.  If left unchecked, it can cause us to abandon our course or radically compromise our expectations. Like termites chewing away at the foundation of a strong building, doubt can undermine our strongest beliefs.  Oftentimes it is the only thing that stands between where we are and where we want to be.
In my case, I had always wanted to be a writer, but this endeavor was frowned upon in my small community and I was afraid of the criticism I would receive.  Women should be wives and mothers first, but if they chose to work there were only three occupations that were considered suitable for women:  teacher, secretary, or nurse. Since teaching was the closest thing to writing, I chose to major in English and teach others to become writers!

If we give into the temptation to ignore or deny self-doubt, it will impose limits on our ability to act. Self-doubt can be a stealthy problem. The more I studied and read the great works of other writers; I began to doubt my ability to produce anything of quality and thus, became paralyzed to act on my ambitions. It seemed that anything I wrote sounded trite and forced rather than real and natural. So I gave up.

So now, in the autumn of my life, I have decided to face my fears and meet my feelings of doubt head on. Normally, feelings override logic, but questioning the validity of feelings brings them within the reach of reason. For nearly forty years I have forced myself to approach life from the viewpoint of logic and reason.  In the process, I lost contact with my creative side and yet this is where my natural inclination lies. Rediscovering my creativity and imagination has been difficult to say the least!

For most people, self-doubt is just a temporary condition. Successful people think of it as a speed bump on the road to success. I believe that if I can take the bump in stride, then I can put the pedal to the metal, and go for it! Success will be within my grasp!