Like a bad smell it punches you in the face when you least expect it, then annoyingly lingers far longer than you thought it could or that you think you can handle, gnawing away at any glimmer of confidence trying desperately to save your poor defenceless mind. Thankfully, 9 times out of 10, I find myself getting out of the funk that is self doubt, as quick as I got in to it, seeking ways to distract my over-active brain from the overwhelming sense of doom and gloom. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when self doubt rears it's ugly head. I can be doing perfectly fine, producing work that I and those whom I'm employed by are more than happy with, then BAM!, it knocks me sideways and the mist sets in. Then there I am, curling up in to a ball, letting the fog consume me in seconds. Sometimes you wallow in it a while and other times, you go into total 'block-it-out denial' mode, springing in to action, peeing on the bonfires of those demons determined to rain on your parade. Ain't no body got time for that! I guess it's enviable that from time to time, Creatives feel a pang of self doubt when so much of what they produce is of themselves-their babies, if you like! Sending your offspring in to the world is fraught with danger and the promise of potential criticism. All it takes is this threat to spark your inner doubts.
Am I good enough?
Is what I produce of a high standard?
Should I quit now?
When will 'they' find me out?
That last one is a favourite of mine. Like a broken record, I regularly play that old classic, 'Lisa, you're fraudster, you're an imposter!'. The verses are long and weary.....the chorus, even longer! It's on repeat and getting louder and louder! Avoiding it becoming the soundtrack to my day takes one, two or ALL FOUR of the following tactics....
1.If You Can't Beat Them.....
In finding ways to combat self doubt, I guess the first thing to remember is that indeed, EVERY creative goes through it. For me it feels a tad selfish to rejoice in the idea that your counterparts are out there suffering but there has to be comfort in the knowledge that it's totally normal. Strength in numbers and all that! The consolation of being part of a collective of like-minded individuals who are equally giving themselves a hard time without reason to, will help to ease your fears of being a loser and an alone one at that. If you need further reassurance, speak to friends who are also Creatives-they'll not be long in telling you about their faithful old friend self-doubt, who shows up unannounced and unapologetically, starts to insult you the second they arrive and disappears in to the abyss with no warning of when they'll be back.
2. Be A Detective
With every negative statement or argument against you trying to zap that creative energy, seek out the evidence to contradict them. And yes, the evidence will be there! You will have already proven, time and time again, to yourself (and others!) that you can do it, that you have the ability to do great things and create amazing work. You just have to remind yourself of all the times you totally smashed it! Look through your diary, old photos, video clips, your portfolio...wherever there's a record of what you've done up to this point, go there and take note!
As kids, we are told that letting yourself get distracted is a 'bad thing' but sometimes that's EXACTLY what you need to do when you can't seem to shake off those blues. Force your mind on to a new topic that is sure to lift your spirits and help you get back on track. Plan an outing, think of that routine you love at your fitness class (why not even get up and actually do it?!), pick up a magazine and read an article, put the wheels in motion to do something fun that you've been putting off. Send your mind wondering elsewhere...far far away from the realms of questioning your worth and the value of what you produce. That head space is way too valuable to be clogging it up with thoughts which are not conducive to your plan for world domination.
4. Phone A Friend
Sometimes all it takes is to voice our feelings of self doubt to those who know and love us, only to be told that we are completely wrong and that it's literally 'all in your head'. We can all be our own worst enemies, flushing our own heads down that toilet bowl of 'I'm crap! This idea is rubbish! No one will ever hire me! and when you're head's down there sometimes all it will take is a friend to grab you by the hair, lift you up and dry you off with compliments and reassurance that you're doing just fine! On this occasion they become the detective presenting the evidence that you could have looked for yourself but was nicer to hear coming from someone else.
At least one, if not all of the above, is sure to help clear the haze enough for you to move forward and eventually rid yourself of the uncertainty that is slowing things down to a imminent halt and stopping you from doing what you do best...being creative! Like a rain cloud threatening to pour down right on top of you, self doubt will pass on by with time, but putting up an umbrella to shelter you won't do any harm in the meantime. You must remember that YOU are in control of your own thoughts and YOU have the power to bury the ones that don't work for you...just reach for that shove!
A pupil in my class last week when struggling with a pirouette reminded her fellow classmates (who were also finding it difficult) that it's not I can't but in fact, I can't YET. And it's that hope of a bright future, the endless possibilities just around the corner and remembering that which hasn't worked out is indeed making way for what is meant, is sure to help you realise that self doubt kills dreams......and that's bad business for us Creatives. After all, aren't we all about making them come true?!