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Self-Doubt: My Self-Esteem's Unwanted House-Guest


A  familiar knock on my self-esteem’s door seems to happen when I’m making a big change, taking a risk, sharing my writing, speaking in front of groups or I have accepted another layer of learning to live with the limitations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I would like to say that self-doubt comes uninvited to my self-esteem’s house during these transition times, but that wouldn’t be honest. I don’t believe Mr. Doubt (as I call it) would come calling unless it was invited. It may be unwanted, but since it arrived with hat in hand, I ask it to come in for tea and tell me what it thinks of me.

Outwardly, to others, it appears I have no problems learning, growing, changing, taking risks, writing books, writing articles, speaking in front of groups about living with PTSD and working very, very hard on living with the deficits that plague my mental health. Outwardly, I look strong and determined.

I am strong and determined … but as self-doubt sips its tea and begins to play the old tapes and drones the familiar chants of “you’re not good enough, not worthy, not well enough, smart enough, you’re a poser” and lists all the reasons I shouldn’t try or that I should give up, fear and rejection hang in the air between us.

Some days I listen, with respect, compassion and a loving ear because I know self-doubt doesn’t come uninvited. But, there are other days when I’m tired or triggered and have a lot of symptoms, that I can feel the sinister dark-dread begin to blacken and shred the self-esteem I have worked so hard to foster. The grasp of my thinly-held mantra — that my inner beauty, strength, talent and goodness far outweigh any deficits I may have — begins to fade as self-doubt tries to extend tea-time into a meal and a nap.

I’ve eventually heard enough, felt enough and acknowledge this is a pattern. Self-doubt comes when I’m on a precipice and I can choose to entertain it longer or thank it for the visit, tell it we’re done and show it the door.

As soon as it’s gone, it’s easier to take control of my internal thoughts about myself and how I’m navigating the world around me. I give myself room to breathe, change, grow, share my experiences with others and emerge from the shadows of shame I feel living with PTSD. It’s not comfortable a lot of the time, but that isn’t because I’m a terrible (fill in the old tapes) person. It is simply because that is where I am at this time in my life.

As this bout of self-doubt fades onto a distant shore, I understand I may hear this familiar knock on my door again, and if I do I’ll invite it in for a cup of tea and listen with a loving compassionate ear. For, I know, self-doubt does not come uninvited.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz