What most successful people will tell you, if you ask them, is that they still feel self-doubt. Oddly, I’m feeling it now more than ever.
Now let me clarify that I don’t feel sorry for myself. This self-doubt isn’t mixed in with any feelings of self-pity or even as deep as self-loathing. I’m not really sad or upset. I’m very self-confident and know that my book will be successful in many different ways. I put hours and hours of thought and prayer into the book. It is going to help people and I don’t doubt that.
But . . .
There is something tugging at my heart that you might not expect after achieving a dream–at least a feeling I didn’t expect.
It is simply a voice in my head that keeps telling me as often as possible that, “Jared, let’s be honest, you’re not really a writer.”
Crazy isn’t it? Now that I have a book, a real book with my name on it that I can hold in my hands, I can hear a voice saying, “Just be honest with yourself: it isn’t real.”
I even have a hard time publishing a post calling myself a “published author.” It just doesn’t seem right. It’s not “too good to be true,” but feels more like “not good enough to be true.”
I keep hearing that voice over and over again in almost anything I do, almost any attempt to write meaningful work.
Anytime I read something by a good writer I hear the voice. I can’t read some of my favorite authors without hearing the voice in my head saying, “You’ll never write that well. Look what he did there. That was spectacular. You don’t have that kind of talent or skill. It would take you years and years go get that good. Why spend the time? You don’t have the talent in the first place.”
Then when I think about my next writing project, that voice chimes in again: “What? Seriously? You can’t write a book about that. Stick with religious educators. Stick with what you’ve done already. You’ve got thousands of people who like what you do over there. Why waste your time writing about something that might not work?”
In fact, I’ve been sitting on another book proposal for almost six months. Yep, six months. I’ve told myself everything about why I shouldn’t just go with it yet. Believe me, it is pristine. I’ve rewritten it dozens of times. It works and I believe a publisher will pick it up. But why haven’t I started working on the sample chapters? I’ve written lots of notes, yes, by why not a completed chapter?
[Update: Someone just asked me today if I have another book in the works. What did I do? I lied. I said I didn’t really have anything in the works. I studdered my way through an explanation of the eBook I’m writing, but didn’t admit to the second book proposal I’m sitting on. It wasn’t intentional. I walked away from the conversation shocked by what I had just said, or not said. I had just finished writing this post about doubt and literally twenty minutes later gave in to that voice in my head.]
That voice also makes me think back to my performance in school. I know, crazy huh? I was never really a good writer at any point whether it was in high school, middle school, or even grad school (for either the education or theology degrees). I wrote a lot, yes, but no one ever said to me, “Hey, you are a really good writer. Have you thought of writing a book?” I was always better at math anyway. . .
Call the voice whatever you want: the Resistance, the devil, our ego. We all have it.
The best part about being a Christian is this: that voice is an opportunity.
It is an opportunity to recognize our own inabilities and invite God in to be our strength instead.
It is an opportunity to pray for help and place our trust in God.
The voice may be right, but if I listen to it and never sit down to write again then I’ve made it true by my own inaction. If it is right, then good; that means God will need to work through me all the more. That means everything I do has to be his because I can’t do it alone.
Reflecting on Our Doubts
Where are are your biggest doubts? This post was about being a writer, but it could just as easily have been written about being a father or a manager in a business. It could easily apply to volunteers. We all suffer from hyper-focused doubts that attack our biggest potential.
- Where are you suffering irrational doubt despite accomplishment?
- In what areas of your life do you question yourself despite positive feedback?
Let’s all find some strength in our weakness.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
After all, the words I wrote on those pages of my book hardly seem like my words at all. They were gifts. I don’t know where they came from. I don’t know why one idea came to me and not others. They weren’t mine to begin with. They were gifts and I’m thankful for them.
Any great work or great accomplishment is a gift whether it is parenting, leading, writing, painting, serving, or starting something new. The doubt is irrelevant if we remember that what we’ve really done is surrender ourselves to the gift.
The book is not my own. Neither is anything else I create.
Another lesson here: surrender to the gift.
Surrender to the other voice in your head–the one that calls you without words. Be generous with the gifts that have been given to you and will be given to you if you show up to receive them.
Give thanks and give.
(photo credit: jdhancock)