Mountain biking and running my business have made sure self doubt and my ‘holy shit no way’ mentality and I are well acquainted. When I am riding on a technical section of trail that I’m not sure I can manage, I immediately unclip one foot prepared to seek a secure foundation. If I fall, it takes a massive internal physical push and some self-talk, ‘you can do this Robin,’ before I return to the trail. I start over with hesitance until I sense that danger has passed, when I begin to relax and both feet return to the clips to try again.
Self doubt likes to show up at the office too. Sometimes she arrives right after I’ve brewed coffee. She pulls up a chair, sidles real close and whispers, “What makes you think you can really do this?” There are days when I tell her to go play with someone else cause I’ve got this covered, and others where I turn to her and say, “Shit, what if you are right?”
On those days, my heart rate begins to rise, tears swell and my bottom lip trembles and when I plant my fingers on the keyboard, I stare at the computer screen paralyzed and uncertain. I want to cry uncle, suddenly win the lottery, return to the time when all I did was care for my baby girls, be a 9-year old with her feet dangling in an icy cold creek or be anywhere but where I am, in this place of trying to become, of taking risks daily so I can move towards my dream. I look at the one-sheet page with my financial goals for my business which is taped to the glass white board where all my plans for the year hang out, and instead of seeing the progress I’ve made or the many things I have accomplished, I allow myself to feel hopeless. Silly girl.
Who was I to believe that my dreams might be fulfilled? I let self-doubt have it’s way with me for a bit and hell I might even shed a tear or two and wail out loud, but I’ve come to understand that I need to end my pity party quickly or I’ll stand in place, like a paralyzed deer in the headlights, waiting for the shit to hit the proverbial fan.
I do my best to remember that I’ve learned from lots of past experience that these moments of doubt and insecurity usually means that I am making significant progress and stepping outside my comfort zone. Self doubt, like the breaks on my bike, can slow me down for a minute and allow me to check out the horizon for potential danger or warning signs. And the truth of the matter is, sometimes I need to slow down and check in with myself. Sometimes I even find things that should be reconsidered or rethought. That’s when I might even say a silent thank you to self doubt.
When I ride on trails that quicken my pulse, I keep going because what else am I to do? Whether I like it or not, there is only way to find my way back to comfort and that means I need to keep pedaling. I once stepped off my road bike on a busy road when the gusty winds Colorado is famous for were tossing me around like a gum wrapper. I straddled my bike, feet on the ground, and said to my fiance, “I can’t do this,” but eventually I had to get back on and move because where I was sure as hell wasn’t where I wanted to be. And I did. I survived. As much as I hate to admit it, surviving the miles in that wind strengthened my skills should I ever end up in a crazy cross wind again.
Self doubt can provide momentum, especially when that limbo place where we cannot commit to a line on a trail or a course of action in our work becomes worse than the perceived danger. The key is NOT to ignore her but to respond and remember that she comes from a time in my life when nothing could be trusted. She is only trying to protect me, and hell yes, sometimes I need her protection. In a backwards kind of way, she also pushes me forward when the agony of indecision becomes too much.
But the majority of the time? I just need to get back on the damn bike.