“We all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Being a self-employed creative now for several years, there’s one question that I’ve spent countless hours trying to answer: How do I overcome feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy in order to move forward?
Here’s the most helpful answer I’ve found: I don’t.
There is no way to will myself into true confidence. That’s not to say that a good self pep talk isn’t sometimes helpful, but the absolute best, more sure-fire way to build confidence in a thing is to just do the damn thing. And because I love a good analogy, here we go:
If I’m standing on top of a giant rock above a river for the first time, wanting to jump in, but feeling afraid, I can’t just stand there until I somehow talk myself out of being afraid. I have to close my eyes, hold my breath, and jump, despite the fear. That’s the only way to know for sure that there was never really anything to be afraid of.
To begin, I must have courage most of all. My courage can come from many different places: the courage I have when I am naive to what it will take to begin, the courage I have when staying the same is too painful, the courage I have innately, that comes from fun and my own feeling of power.
Having courage is more important than being prepared, or being ready. In fact, I don’t need either of those things to truly begin. Beginning makes me get prepared. Beginning leads me into feeling ready.
But I do need courage. The courage to admit to myself that yes, I really want this thing. The courage to learn, to come to something knowing I can’t control it and it will change me. The courage to let others see me learning, to let them see me doing a thing that I love.
When I have begun, resources for growth start to appear. Not due to any magical thinking. But because when you begin, you start to see through a new lens. When you are finally serious about looking, you will see.
Why does it have to take so much boldness to stake a claim on my own path, especially in the work realm? I wish this came naturally, as a birthright. But while I’m still unpacking this from the layers of unhelpful stories and cultural mandates, what I am learning is that starting anything new requires equal portions of external and internal courage.
Staring at a blank canvas, either literally or the metaphorical blank canvas of a new direction in work, is H A R D. It feels like all the possible options are before me, including the terrifying outcomes and the things I’ll say no to in order to commit to saying yes to this. So to really let go and allow myself to commit to the process, to take the first steps, means I have to be courageous enough to stand up and give voice to my desires publicly. And it means I have to be courageous enough to counteract my inner critic, who likes me to believe that I need to be a master before I can even begin. Well Inner Critic, I hate to break it to you but it takes doing the thing (AKA practice) to become a master. I did not wake up like this.