On Sylvia Plath and self-doubt

The big caveat I’m starting with is that I know almost nothing about Sylvia Plath. She wrote poetry, and she wasn’t very happy. But here is something she said:

The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt.

Yes, I’m on a creativity kick (that’s been tough to tell from the last ten posts) but I think that this very wise comment can be generalised. The worst enemy of just about anything we do is self-doubt.

I’m not talking about modesty or humility. I’m not talking about the natural and healthy caution which says, maybe you should check out the depth of this puddle before you jump in. Maybe you should dip your toe first. Maybe you should learn from the wisdom and experience of people who are smarter than you, or have been to this puddle before you. Maybe you should make sure you have a spare pair of socks in case the puddle is much deeper and muckier than it appears.

Self-doubt, on the other hand, is the insidious, quiet little voice which says, are you serious? You honestly think you are able/clever enough/worth enough to do this? Maybe you should just not bother because you’re going to look like an idiot when (not if – when) you fail. Maybe you should just shut up and keep out of trouble, you useless, worthless bla bla bla…

It’s self-doubt that stops me doing a lot of things. It stops me expressing my opinion over lunch with friends. It stops me showing people my writing, or singing to my full capacity in rehearsal. It stops me putting myself out there and allowing people to see my skills and failings. It stops me going out on a limb and asking the hard questions that at times I should ask. It stops me being the person I was created to be.

Like most bullies, self-doubt is a snivelling, pathetic little weakling standing behind shadows, trying to appear bigger than it is. Despite what it would have us believe, there is exactly nothing it can do to hurt us. But there’s stuff we can to do hurt it. And it probably just needs a good slap.

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