Crippling self-doubt… Despite the way it’s worded, I negate the thought that it is self-inflicted. I can not believe that we naturally self-doubt – we are survivalist beings who will kill before being killed – in reality and metaphorically. I think the sad truth is that we are influenced by others to the point where we really do believe anything they say. If we hear more negative than positive, this is what we end up with… That crippling self-doubt.
I am guilty of feeling this every second of every day. From too many people to count, I was forcibly made aware of the fact that others thought I was a joke and a waste of space – from teachers and kids at school, to people at home. I was assured that, by the majority, that I wasn’t much to give credence to. It has unfortunately stayed with me ever since. It has affected me my whole life, contributed greatly to my illness and lack of recovery for a long time, and prevented me believing I should, and could, have a future. A decent life that I could be proud of…. Instead of the flittering existence that I have experienced – flying around from one thing to another, hoping to find something that I gelled with, something I could attach to and feel was “me” and “mine”, something that I could really feel comfortable with.
I have, in all my life, never believed I could do anything – as in anything at all. I’ve always been felt that I must never believe in myself. I’ve tried to override this feeling – and with the help of a couple of amazing therapists, I have at certain times been able to. There are some things I have done that I am so proud of because I told that doubt to go and stick itself up its own backside, and I have reaped rewards I am so elated to have been privileged enough to have experienced.
However, there is one category of enemy that rallies against this feeling and plays entirely for the Crippling Self-Doubt Team… The classic cynical looking-out-for-you words that come out of the well-meaning and cynical mouths of others – and of course this is the wonderful: “But don’t get your hopes up…” (and all its derivatives).
This will immediately take the winds out of the biggest sails. I got it quite often before going to auditions… You know, because heaven forbid I should a) Be confident, and b) Get “hurt” by rejection. All it did was wreck my confidence, because nothing says “I think others are better than you” than those damned words. They’re well-meaning bundles cynical negativity, and they are also crippling. They also makes me want to poke the speaker in the eye.
I am not made of crystal, bone China, or glass. I am not delicate or easily disappointed (in fact, life has very much taught me the very opposite)… I have regularly been rejected my whole life, and I am no pampered princess that doesn’t understand the word “no”, and I am certainly not going to break if I am rejected. I get rejected all the time for jobs (as an IT contractor, it’s been a part of my territory for years – for every contract you get rejections… It’s simple maths).
In fact, who hasn’t been in that position where you go for interview after interview and are rejected, before you finally that cool job? Why is that different for auditions, or anything else? Why are we programmed to be against anything that is artistic, but not what is “conventional”? How many people for that Retail job, or that Office Admin job that you got?… So why is it different if it’s an acting or singing job, or anything else? And why are we told the markets are “competitive”, “over-saturated” or “difficult to break into” if its acting, singing, painting or writing – but not if it’s a Systems Administrator, Retail Assistant, Accountant or Office Clerk… Yet I imagine more people go for those jobs, and are skilled and qualified for them, than people who are going into arts and entertainment, or similar. But when you go for those jobs, you don’t hear all that pessimism, because they’re classed as “normal” jobs. Why, though, I still cannot fathom.
I want a full pack of cheerleaders to make me feel like the coolest person in the room when going up for something – whether it’s a job interview, audition, test or anything that requires confidence to get through it successfully. Imagine if someone told that to a football team before they went out to play in the qualifying match of the World Cup… I doubt that has ever happened in the history of any sport. I’ve recently asked for some possible support for the possibility of doing something I was really excited about. This very reaction has now blown the self-belief I spent quite a long time building up in myself as I secretly thought this thing through. I am now left feeling quite lost at sea as to what to do about it now. My initial reaction is now to play it “safe”, instead of taking a chance and trying something new…
I’m sure many will argue that others shouldn’t be able to do that to you. And they would be right. A popular saying is something like “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission“… However, when you’ve long ago been broken down to beyond your very core, you are wide open to all opinions, especially negative ones.
So I say this to people – no, I implore it… That these words are never to be uttered again. Because without hope, exactly what is there? Cynicism is the breeding-ground of self-doubt in people, and this is the ultimate arch-enemy of hope and confidence. Unless you’re bizarrely arrogant, everyone knows there is the possibility of failure at some point – but guess what? Failure really isn’t the end of the world. Loads of things have failed… The world still lives on – as you may well have noticed.
I can tell you that without hope the world does stop turning for some, though. It stops turning when they’re so low they don’t even care if they can remember their name, or what day it is. In extreme cases, it stops turning forever. So if you want to make sure someone isn’t “disappointed”, make sure that person doesn’t end up disappointed at you, or because of you. Because they already know inside themselves they could be disappointed by the outcome of what they’re doing (they do not need to be reminded) – however, they did not know that you were going to be the one who was going to sound like you are already feeling disappointed for them before they’ve even tried…