How to Fight Back when Defeating Doubt Stops You Cold


deer in headlights

“What’s your topic for our upcoming one on one meeting?”

In a recent online class, the instructor emailed the question and the air froze in my lungs. It didn’t matter that I had been out of school for decades. Suddenly, I’m in the 7th grade, mind filled with a black void where my running mental commentary usually resided. 
Topic? What topic? What is a topic?

I’d sent three examples, but now they were either not getting through or unacceptable. Maybe I’m unacceptable.

Detonate Doubt

Those doubts unleashed deeply buried feelings of inadequacy. All those fears surfaced again and one in particular. Maybe you’ve had it too. Where you thought you were keeping up and suddenly, you’re alone on Confusion Island while everyone else sails away on the yacht of understanding.

Not the word “Topic!” Panic rose and my thoughts circle like buzzards. What if I can’t do this? What if my best isn’t good enough? What if I fail?
I felt like I was 13 again and several scenes came to mind. Seventh grade was not a great year for me. As a newbie, I was a city kid in a rural environment, starting over with making friends (with weird interests) and not wanting to get labeled as stupid. There was a good bit of staring, laughing, and pointing, (I looked like a boy) all of it embarrassing to me. I was not an articulate child in group settings. (Possibly one reason why I became a writer.) As I sifted through those memories, one stood out. Even then, I was writing. Soon after that revelation, my thoughts shifted to the present and I noticed that a long-relied upon mode of operation began to emerge.

Look at facts

My brain referenced the definition of topic: Subject; matter for discussion. It’s whatever I choose it to be. She requested that it be in line with a theme she has chosen: Pitching and dealing with clients. As I became proactive in finding the solution, the panic eased up. I began unraveling thread by thread what had triggered me.

What’s really happening?


Years ago a counselor shared “being in the moment.” Taking a breath, I stopped to consider my thoughts. They ran negative to what I knew to be true about myself. What was I afraid of?

  • I respected my instructor a great deal and didn’t want to be found foolish, or odd.
  • I envisioned my current classmates mocking me (even though they’d never been anything but kind, respectful, jumping in to offer solutions and resources.)
  • I didn’t want to be caught not knowing something and be left behind.

I considered the worst case scenario and the came to these conclusions:

  • If my gracious instructor thought me quirky, big deal. I was in the class to learn and she already knew that.
  • We were on a Skype chat. If classmates did mock me, I’d never hear them.
  • I knew what a topic was and would not be left behind.

Bottom line, I’d survive. This wasn’t happening in a live class, all physically in the same room, no one halting all sound and motion, waiting for my answer. I was online, in my safe place, on my turf, in my office at home.

Arrest, Declare and Affirm

What had I been thinking? That this is so hard. Did I really want to quit? Throw in the towel? That’s what negative thoughts do to us. They try to defeat us by saying we’re not good enough. If we buy in, then we might give up.

I couldn’t give up. There wasn’t anything else I really wanted to do but write. Instead of caving in to doubt, I began stating what I already knew to be true.

• I was born for this!
• I was born to be a writer.
• This is my destiny!
• Writing is my passion and my calling. I know it like I know my own name.
• It’s email. I can answer when I want.
• I am intelligent!
• I can do anything I set my mind to.

Each one strengthened my resolve. As my mind unfroze, I began breathing again. Answers came to me. Confidence returned. I finally chose something in line with her idea. I fired off an email to the instructor and messaged her on our private thread on Skype with my topic choices. In the end, she enjoyed the ideas I’d sent her and said one of them was among her favorite subjects to discuss. Not long after that, she created a whole class on one of them. (Wow, did I feel honored!) And I could have missed all of it.


What does this mean for you?

How often does doubt plague you? How often does it creep in and steal your confidence? Don’t accept them. Push through! Arrest those negative thoughts! Write them down if you must, shine the light of day on them. Expose them for the lies they are.
Then, take a deep breath and write out what you know is really true.
If it doesn’t easily come to you, share your doubts with a trusted friend. They will be glad for an opportunity to lavish you with wonderful truths about yourself. Then use them as affirmations to reach your goals!

How do you overcome doubt? We’d love to hear from you! Comment here or on Facebook.


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