the struggle against self-doubt

I snickered when Anne Hathaway proclaimed she would use her Golden Globe as a "weapon against self-doubt." Mostly, because the sentiment was cheesy and came off as rehearsed. Like I could almost hear that speech-writing "ah-ha" moment (for such a fabulous actress she kiiinda stinks at delivering non-rehearsed sounding speeches). 

But I wonder about the idea: a weapon against self-doubt. Wouldn't that be great? 

Like, feeling like a loser today? Bash in that feeling's brains!

Comparison and grass-is-greener fever making your blue? Deliver it a karate chop to the balls! 

I know people who've had all manner of success in various fields (medicine, business, music, parenting, academia, art etc. etc.) and they all struggle with it. Every single writer I know (self included!) struggles with it, no matter how many books they've published, accolades they've garnered or money they've made (and I'm a writer who's yet to do, er, any of those things, so there you go). 

The reality is we ALL hear the voices from time to time, the ones that sometimes whisper, sometimes shout things like, "You'll never be good enough" or "You should just give up."

So what's an unarmed humanoid to do? 

First of all, I think self-doubt is actually a good sign. Yes, you read that right. We doubt ourselves because we are not content to rest on the things we've already achieved and instead, insist on doing more. Writing more. Creating more. Going further. Pushing ourselves somewhere new and different. 

We experience self-doubt, then, because we insist on moving forward.  

Okay, so if the disease is inevitable, then what is the cure? 

Well, unfortunately, there isn't one. 

Think of self-doubt as a rhinovirus (aka common cold). You overcome it and a season or two later, it comes back in a slightly different form.

Even with that Golden Globe sitting on her mantel (next to the SAG and the Oscar and every other award they handed out last awards season), unless Anne Hathaway decides never to act again, she will inevitably struggle with self-doubt at some point. 

Just like a rhinovirus, the only thing you can do is address the symptoms. Take a "sick day" and spend time doing something totally different/unrelated. Conversely, some people like to push through, to keep busy and keep working. One word on the screen and then another until you've got a sentence. And then another. I met a guy once who said he didn't allow himself the luxury of "writer's block." This was pre- Sweet Brown, but essentially his sentiment was the same, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

Also, reach out to friends and be honest about what you're feeling and allow them to either just listen, or build you up (though tread carefully because if you do it too often, it may feel disingenuous).

Finally, know that you're not alone. That even people like Anne Hathaway are not immune from the disease. We all go through it and, provided we hang in, we all come out the other side, our immunity just a little bit stronger. 

ETA: When all else fails, WINE. Or Chocolate. ;) 


  1. Great post, Lindsey! You're so right about all of us battling self-doubt at some point or another. For me, what has been most helpful against that is rereading segments of my stories that I especially love. Also, remembering how much my CPs loved stuff about my story helps a lot too. I think those little reminders can be very powerful. I recently had an agent tell me some nice things too, so I might print off segments of that email (enlarge them a bit) and stick them on the bulletin board above my computer. That way, when I'm tempted to feel crummy about my writing, I can look up and remember that there are people who think it doesn't totally suck. :-)

  2. That's a great suggestion, Jamie! Reminders everywhere. :)

  3. I like the comparison of self-doubt to a cold, and the idea that you have to treat it properly. Really interesting!

  4. Great post! Love the point about self-doubt actually being a good sign. I have that same desire to create more, do more, and accomplish things I've never done before. But I just need to not let that doubt take over!


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