I have a tendency to obsessively rehash then regret my own actions in social situations. It’s a weird form of self-doubt that occurs after the fact, instead of before it. Have you ever hung out with a girlfriend who insists on meticulously deconstructing, analyzing, and plotting on a Venn diagram every possible interpretation of the text message she received from the guy she met at the bar last Thursday? If yes, you know the kind of unproductive behavior I’m referencing. Instead of dissecting other people’s communication, however, I dissect my own.
Right now as you read this post, I am probably pacing frantically around my house in a state of serious self-doubt that borders on panic. I’m telling myself that I should a) open this post and hit delete, then b) send you all an apology present. How do Pumpkin Snickerdoodles sound? After all, this is a food blog, and no one cares what I think about anything aside from muffins.
Seeing as this post has already been unleashed into the universe, however, I am hoping that we can explore this non-muffin idea of self-doubt together. I’ll share honestly, you can share a little if you feel so called, and then tomorrow I’ll be back with another yummy recipe. Deal?
I think self-doubt affects each of us differently at different times. For example, I have a good friend who is a mess before giving presentations. She usually can’t sleep the night before, and if I asked her to spell her first and last name the morning of, she couldn’t tell me. Then, she faces her self-doubt, stands behind the podium, and gives it everything she has. Even on her worst day, she still feels like a superstar afterwards because she knows she tried her best.
My particular form of self-doubt is different. I rarely feel anxiety during social situations, but afterwards, my confidence falls apart. I’ll spend a fun night interacting with [girlfriends, husband, group of coworkers, in-laws, any other human being whose opinion I value], only to have my self-doubting brain click into Crazy Mode. It rehashes my words, actions, and even facial expressions.
Self-doubt tells me that I talk too much, interrupt, don’t ask enough follow-up questions, am overly candid with my opinions, and generally come off as the self-absorbed, overly excited human being that I so obviously am.
Crazy Brain conclusion: I am annoying. No one likes me.
This idea of being “liked” is my personal form of self-doubt’s favorite subject. It would discuss the topic with the enthusiasm that my 15-month-old niece displays towards The Very Hungry Caterpillar if I let it. “More! More!”
When I seek to determine why I slip into crazy self-doubt mode in the first place, I am forced to admit that it is because I see some truth within it. I’m an extrovert. I love getting to know people, and I love talking. A lot.
I also really, REALLY want people to like me, and my enthusiasm knows no limits. I’m the puppy dog that knows it shouldn’t jump up on your leg, but I’m so excited, I do it anyway. Then, sad to have disappointed you with my behavior, I hide in the corner…until I forget the entire situation happened and do it all over again.
Even we puppy dogs have our limits, however. A few weeks ago, I started to notice how much time I was spending quietly reliving, then criticizing, my own behavior. I’m not proud of it. Our thoughts are precious, and instead of using mine to learn or pray or even dream up new cookie recipes, I was using them to identify and dwell on mistakes.
Therefore, instead of expending my limited reserve of energy hiding in the corner and regretting my actions, over the next few months, I am going to do two things with it instead.
First, I am going to use it to change my behavior.
I’m going to take a deep breath and count to three before I speak to make sure the person with whom I’m conversing is finished with her thoughts. I’m going to ask a follow-up question instead of moving right on to the next burning idea in my brain. I’m going to realize that people don’t need (or care about) every detail. “God gave you two ears, one mouth,” the old adage goes. I should write it on my bathroom mirror.
I hope that, in time, my efforts will become habits and that I will be a better listener because of them.
Second, I’m going to use it to do something for myself that I hope you will do for yourself too.
I’m going to give myself a break.
I am an extrovert. I am a talker. I am so eager to learn and to share that an elementary school teacher once limited the number of times I was allowed to raise my hand during class.
These traits are intrinsic parts of who I am.
If I am going to be happy and move beyond (or at least mitigate) my self-doubt, I need to believe, deep down in my heart, that these characteristics are beautiful and good if I want to believe that I am beautiful and good too.
We don’t have meaningful relationships despite who we are; we have them because of who we are. That doesn’t mean I need to let my extroversion be the only aspect of my personality, but it does mean that being an extrovert has value and is to be embraced.
The same is true for you. The things that make you YOU, whether they are your ability to listen, to lead, or to make the most dazzling Excel spreadsheets because DANG you are organized, embrace them.
You are unique, and while (at least in my case) that uniqueness needs tempering every now and then, it’s also part of what makes you the friend/boss/significant other/mother/rock star that you are. The world needs you and your self-ness.
No doubt about it.