Someone asked me to reflect on self doubt. And I was going to, a week ago, but I had doubts.
Confidence is a good thing, so self doubt is a bad thing, right? Well, it turns out not to be so simple, like much else in life.
Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." He encouraged frequent and honest self-examination. How am I doing right now, as a blogger, a public speaker, a philosopher, an author, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a neighbor, a friend? How am I doing as a human being? The result of an honest self examination in any of our roles or activities can be one of either affirmation or doubt. We might conclude, "I'm doing great." Or: "I'm good. I just need to hang in there a little longer and success will be mine." Or we could see that, "I'm not doing so well in this. Maybe I'm outmatched. This might not be the challenge for me right now." Or the conclusion could be, "I'm on the right track but I need a little help in order to get the outcome I want."
Self-affirmation can be healthy. But then, so can self-doubt. People sometimes chase the wrong things, things that are not right for them. People can also drift in a direction that's not desirable. Self doubt can slow them down and turn them around. It can be a stimulus to additional work and learning. Or, it can be the bane of your existence.
Like almost anything else in the world, our evaluation of self doubt has to turn on the question of how it functions in our lives. Do we experience it in healthy doses, or in a pathological way? Is it an occasional phenomenon that helps us, or a default position that always nags us and even holds us back? Does it result from real self knowledge in the present, or from unresolved issues in the past?
Psychological research shows that proper doses of self doubt can lead to important efforts to improve. It can stimulate collaborations ("I don't think I can do this alone") and needed work in developing new knowledge or skill sets ("I don't yet think I know all that I need to know"). But it can't be allowed to dominate in a life. It should not be the overall tonality of our existence. We're not in the world mainly to refrain from things, but to do things, and to accomplish things. In case doubt is getting in your way, and not allowing you to be and do all that you would like to achieve, I have one piece of advice. Doubt your doubts.