Alison Lighthall Miller (what a great name!) and I are both part of a bloggers forum group on Facebook and we got chatting recently over email about doing #EpicShit, the noise of too much advice and how to Overcome Self Doubt.
Alison is a former US Military nurse and works with women suffering from depression, and so I thought she would have a unique and interesting perspective to share.
In this article she details what it took for her to overcome self doubt and realise that it was the noise of too much advice from others that was drowning her creativity.
Thanks for your contribution Alison, take it away…
Have you ever wandered around your home, restless in an unnamable way, sitting then standing then looking out the window?
Trying to write but instead somehow finding yourself reading about what the Royals are doing for the holidays…only to then suddenly stop in your tracks, and say out loud, “What the hell is going on with me?”
I have been uncharacteristically restless recently, as if I was adrift and directionless. I say “as if” because up until a week ago, I have been anything but adrift and directionless. In fact, I haven’t been so focused on achieving a goal since 1992 when I was in graduate school.
I’ve been working night and day on a huge project–a project that has taken my entire adult life to formulate and crystalize. We’re talking epic shit here, as Larry Maguire so perfectly says.
And yet, the only thing epic about my actions this past week was how far off track I had mysteriously gotten. It was driving me crazy.
Even in my worst moments, I am a problem-solver. Taking any action, no matter how small, is my tranquilizer.
I began to conduct a kind of mental autopsy. I wanted to dissect my current state so that I could see what had brought me here.
Slowly, by pulling each little piece away from the others and examining them with a clinical eye, the mystery made itself known.
The First Mistake
The first thing that nudged me off course was almost unavoidable. A classic newbie mistake.
By following I mean I stopped charting my own course; I yanked my hall pass and dutifully went where I was told.
This is exactly what you want if you’re in the military. But ignoring one’s inner spark suffocates self-discovery and expression. The more demand for conformity there is, the faster you lose your inner voice.
For five months I had been joyously immersing myself in this enthralling new world of online business. I was downloading free reports, reading blogs, taking online courses, watching videos…my brain was alight with possibilities and the creative juices were pumping through my cells.
Every day, I read a new seductive success story from another amazing entrepreneur. The potential for success seemed limitless.
But with each new expert came another task I apparently wasn’t doing right. My yearning to find the perfect checklist, the best plug-in, or the correct webpage layout took over.
Instead of putting all my energies into bringing my vision to life, I was now preoccupied with figuring out whose success template I should follow.
Took the oxygen right out of my fire.
The Inevitable Second Mistake
The second force that knocked me off my trajectory, was allowing my anxiety and fear of failure to have a say in my decisions.
See, that wandering around my apartment thing…that was actually more symptomatic of trouble than I first realized. I wasn’t just restless.
I was frightened. And I’m never frightened.
I joined the US Army Nurse Corps during a time of war at the decrepit age of 45, fully expecting to be deployed into a war zone. People don’t frighten me, places don’t frighten me, pain doesn’t frighten me.
And yet, I was frightened.
Here’s what I couldn’t understand: I’m standing there, looking out my apartment window at the most beautiful view you could ask for—Tampa Bay on a gorgeous fall morning. I am healthy, I am safe, I am employed, and I am loved. And yet, there was this…this…brick of emotion in my gut that was paralyzing me.
Suddenly, I knew. I could put down my scalpel, there was no need to dig further.
The fear was not from this time period. It was an echo. An imprint, that was made decades earlier, only now reaching me.
It was my grandfather snarling at me: “You think you’re so smart, don’t you?”
My mother, seething with indignation: “Who do you think you are?”
My 6th grade teacher, coldly criticizing my writing: “You show no creativity.”
In the decades since those words were uttered, I have built a pretty impressive list of successes. And yet, remembering those ancient, fleeting moments made my throat close up and tears sting the corners of my eyes.
Echoes. That’s all they were. I was making decisions today based on echoes. Crazy.
Then, in typical onion-layer-peeling fashion, it suddenly struck me that the whole reason I started following a bunch of experts was for the same reason: the echoes were whispering predictions of my humiliation and defeat, and as the echoes got louder, I wrapped myself up in more and more experts for protection.
I can’t tell you that that’s all it took—that simply understanding what was really playing out made it all evaporate. No, definitely can’t tell you that.
But it did give me the extra bit of “oomph” I needed to push past the echoes of self-doubt and get back to writing. And next time, it won’t have nearly as much power over me.
We are our biggest obstacles. It isn’t a lack of time or money. It isn’t a change in Facebook metrics or Google analytics.
Our own memory banks of previous rejections, moments of failure, and feelings of inadequacy will erect our tallest barriers. Maybe it’s a reflex, a warped form of self-protection: “Danger! Hurtful comments ahead! Follow the detour signs!”
I don’t know.
What I do know is that realizing it’s an echo from that childhood era of vulnerability and dependence, and not relevant to our adult Selves, is the most powerful step we can take in reclaiming our focus and drive.
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