The time in my life when I had my worst experience with self-doubt was while job hunting in a highly competitive post-recession job market.
It was October 2010 and I had returned to England after living in France for three years. My husband and I had been living an idyllic lifestyle renovating a 200-year-old stone barn and running a smallholding. But circumstances had gone against us and the lifestyle was becoming unsustainable. If we didn’t get an income soon, we would be at serious risk of losing our house along with all our hard work and sacrifice.
I entered the UK job market where unemployment rates were at a fifteen-year high and rising. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people applying for the same jobs as me, and I had this three year, difficult to explain, gap in my CV. My prospects were not looking good.
The self-doubt I experienced at this moment in time was immense and overwhelming. It manifested as a constant ache in the pit of my stomach, which would be the last thing I would feel at night and the first thing I would feel in the morning. It would whisper to me in the small hours telling me that I was no good, there’s no way I can compete, I may as well give up. This is my life now.
This period endured for four months before I found a position. It was, without doubt, the biggest challenge I have faced in my adult life. But now ten years on, it has proved to be the most valuable experience of my life.
So much so that this is the opening story for the book I am now writing on The Purpose of Self-Doubt.
You can download the introduction and read the full story here: The Purpose of Self-Doubt Introduction
As we continue to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us knows what the near or far future holds in terms of economic opportunities. Many of us will unwittingly find ourselves in that job-hunting battlefield searching for the fastest route out.
I wanted to share some of the principles that helped me through and made this such a valuable experience for me.
There's Nothing to Lose
Approaching life like there’s nothing to lose is not necessarily a comfortable position to operate from but it is a powerful one.
It’s probably strictly not true, there is always further down the scale you can go. But when you act like you have nothing to lose, you gain a kind of bravado and drive that wouldn’t ordinarily be there.
It’s otherwise known as ‘the gift of desperation’.
In comparison to many others, my circumstances were far less than desperate. I had a roof over my head, I was able to claim some benefit to tide me over, and I never went without a meal.
But I was desperate enough to believe that things would work out, if only I could trust and move forward. I was desperate enough to keep taking daily actions that the loud voice of my self-doubt told me were probably pointless.
This was the gift of my desperation; the unwillingness to accept where I was and the motivation to keep trusting and moving.
I treated finding a job as a full-time job. I developed a routine of getting out of the house in the morning and going to the library to look for work. I applied for multiple opportunities each day, crafting my CV and various experiences towards the position. I had no hesitation in picking up the phone to follow up my applications, to make sure they got in front of the right person. And when I did get to speak to the right person, I got really good at selling myself to them.
All these actions I’ve stated are in no way a natural way for me to operate but the drive of nothing to lose helped to keep me moving forward. And the feeling of moving forward was what helped to quieten the anxiety in those dark hours of the night.
You Will Experience Self-Doubt
Self-doubt is the internal force of uncertainty.
When you find yourself in the position of having to adjust your circumstances to being out of work and not knowing where the next opportunity is going to come from, surely to doubt yourself is the natural response?
I didn’t have the energy to fight self-doubt with relentless positivity. So, instead I accepted its presence in my life but I also knew that I couldn’t afford for it to overwhelm me. I carried on regardless putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next thing that would take me a step nearer to where I wanted to be.
Afterwards, I realised how self-doubt had driven me. After all, if I had been cocksure that I was going to find my next position with no trouble at all, then perhaps I might not have worked so hard?
And it was this stance that I took with self-doubt that turned out to be the most valuable experience of my life. I realised it had been my lifelong companion and I had never been able to ‘overcome’ it in any sustainable fashion. It was this experience with self-doubt that led me to wondering whether or not self-doubt might have a purpose?
I couldn’t answer the question at that time but seven years later after I qualified as a life coach, I came back to that question and began to work with it.
Whilst going through this challenging time, don’t waste your precious energy trying to fight with self-doubt. If you can take the position of accepting self-doubt and its uncomfortable presence, you will find that your experience and focus will be highly attuned towards your task.
Use this time to self-reflect and consider what it is that you are learning about yourself and about life. What’s firing you up and moving you forward?
Perhaps you can leave space for that question to germinate without having to find quick an answer, which is the essence of curiosity. Who knows, maybe it’s something you can come back and work with when you are in a better position to do so?
This is another powerful position to operate from.
Cultivating gratitude is not about writing a repetitive list once a day. It is about grounding your experience of gratitude for EVERYTHING in your life, not just the good things like the roof over your head, food to eat and the support of your loved ones. It is about being grateful for all the opportunities and all the challenges that are coming your way; the challenges and the pitfalls as well as the triumphs and successes.
When you approach everything in life from a foundation of gratitude, you find the courage and the strength to grow through your difficulties. This is how you learn from them and what makes your challenges so valuable.
Responding from Fear
Trying to overcome fear is a waste of precious energy that is needed elsewhere.
Instead of reacting out of fear you can take the position of responding from fear, which brings choices and opportunities.
I delivered a solo episode in my private online community The Doubters on this topic where I offered three practical positions to use on a daily basis to help respond rather than react.
- Getting comfortable with discomfort
- Doing what is in front of you to the best of your ability
- Recognising joy in simplicity
Don't Be Alone
The approach I am promoting here is powerful and valuable but by no means natural. When faced with fear and uncertainty, we are faced with the automatic reactions from our human nervous system causing anxious feelings and a drive for certainty.
I deliver weekly live sessions in my private online community, The Doubters, which is a space that can support you to take this powerful approach to life. It’s free to join and you can either attend the live sessions or catch up with the recording over the weekend.
I’d love to see you there and to help make this challenging time of your life a truly valuable experience.