I often doubt myself. I doubt my determination. I doubt my stamina. I doubt my ability to reach my dreams. Sometimes I even doubt my ability to have dreams. I’m thirty years old and I began my journey in parkour just over a year ago. What the hell was I thinking? Too old, yes. Too old to begin the training. –That’s the doubt talking.
Doubt is instinctive. Much like its close cousin fear, doubt is something of an early warning system. It’s your subconscious reminding you that you are not perfect. And like fear, doubt has a rather wide range of error. There is always a reason for doubt, be it the lessons of past experience, a change in perception, or simple inexperience and unfamiliarity. Doubt is not born of a vacuum. It is an honest assessment based on available information. Honest—but not necessarily accurate.
Doubt is only part of the equation. It is the yin factor of decision. The “negative,” the submissive. It is the little devil sitting on your shoulder reminding you of every bad decision you ever made. It is the Dark Side; but as much as I love my Star Wars, the adamant and uncompromising pronouncements of Yoda and Obi Wan are only true from a certain point of view. While this dark side is not to be given free reign, you ignore it at your peril. As Mace Windu feared, as Luke Skywalker learned, the Dark Side isn’t only present in us all; it is a necessary part of us.
Our first reaction to doubt, our initial response, is denial. Doubt is a weakness. It is a chink in our armour. If acknowledged, we fear it could spread and undermine our confidence. Thus we tell ourselves that doubt is an illusion, a figment of our imaginations, and we have absolutely no cause for that nagging uncertainty threatening our resolve.
The other common reaction is to allow the doubt to take over, creating defeat and despair. This is exactly what the first response is trying to stave off. The doubt takes over and success is cut off before it has even been attempted. This attitude turns doubt into a self-fulfilling prophesy, the negative of mind over matter—you don’t believe, and that is why you fail.
The problem with both responses is that they give too much power to the doubt. Doubt is a note on the door, nothing more. It is an unconscious memo to yourself recalling details you may have forgotten. The note tells you to take stock of what you have an suggests likely points in which you may—may—want to make adjustments.
Doubt is not a mandate from the Heavens. Its pronouncements are not unjust decrees to be railed against with fists raised and much gnashing of teeth, nor are they inescapable fates to be meekly accepted as rote. Once it has been examined, its lessons considered, doubt can be either laid to rest or given its way. Adjustments can be made accordingly, leading to improvements that may not have been possible without the interference of doubt.
The confidence and insight gained from truly facing doubt and accepting it as an ally are difficult to glean from any other source. It helps us to shore up our weaknesses, both physical and psychological, without the often painful experience of an externally delivered “wake-up call.” It puts us through a metaphorical fire to purge the worst elements of ourselves and to keep us humble. Refined confidence, humility, and honest self-evaluation. That is the benefit of doubt.