Self-doubt is a regular visitor in adult life—most often an unwelcome guest at our emotional table.
As a parent, self-doubt is our constant companion! It starts when they are infants. What does it mean when Sarah cries? Is she hungry? Wet? Uncomfortable? Fortunately, there are only a few choices at 1 month old! So, our best friend is trial and error. Eventually, we get it right.
When my oldest was born, she decided to stay up all night and sleep during the day. Our young pediatrician told us not to let her cry— instead feed her, pick her up, soothe her, or change her. This went on for several weeks—she was up most of the night and sound asleep most of the day.
Diane and I thought we were going to die from sleep deprivation! We were grumpy, irritable, and exhausted. Finally, after hours of debate, we decided that we needed to switch her wake/sleep cycle or we would turn into mush.(We had already turned into mush).
That fateful night we put her into her crib and, of course, she started wailing. Huddled by the door, filled with anxiety and self-doubt, our insides churned. Seven minutes of pure hell later, she fell sound asleep. From that night on, she joined the rest of the world and was up during the day and slept at night (of course not through the night!).
As a parent, infancy marks the beginning of (at least) 21 years of regular parental doubt. How much do I help Sarah with school, friends, activities, chores, limits—you name it. What do I do when she comes home late when she is teen? It is continual.
With many life decisions, adults can determine the consequences of their decisions within a relatively short time. But in the parenting realm, we have no idea of the impact of our parental quest until our children become adults themselves. And even then, it is very hard to know what we did right and what we did wrong.As parents, we grow familiar with this insecurity.
But self-doubt visits in other areas too. Consider major life decisions—do I stay in this relationship? Do I take this job? Do I buy this house? How do I deal with a thorny problem with relatives? There is a long list of adult dilemmas that invite uncertainty.
Our challenge—we imagine that we “should” feel 100% certain about our decisions. As children, it always appeared to us that adults just “knew” what to do and then did it. They shepherded us from place to place, appearing all-powerful and all knowing. Boy, were we wrong!
So when we come to a life decision, big or small, we want everything to line up 100% on one or the other side of the fence. But as you know, it rarely, if ever does. The pros and cons can be very close—60% for and 40% against is the norm, and it can be even closer than that. Our quandaries are murky and unclear.
After considerable bruising during adolescence and young adulthood, we are afraid of getting it wrong. We worry about making a mistake. We may struggle with indecision for fear of getting hurt or regretting our choice.
So here are a few important points to remember.
Accept uncertainty. The future is always uncertain. There are too many variables that are outside of your control. If you are looking for 100% clarity, you will never find it.
Use your value and moral compass. I hate this. It is so much easier to let your desires or emotions drive your choices! Listen to your heart, but use your brain. Doing what you know is the “right thing” will serve you well for the long run.
Act decisively. Don’t be afraid to make a decision. Life is all about learning from our mistakes and from our experiences. How things work out in the long run come from many factors—much of which is outside of our control.