I have done this before, she’d say. I should be able to do it again. But it’s hard. What if I can’t? It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be uncomfortable. I don’t want it to hurt. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. What if I can’t do it?
She didn’t always give herself enough credit for what she did. Day after day she survived – and thrived – despite the worst that the world could throw at her. She held her family up to keep them free from the struggle – her husband and her children. She never complained and she never failed. At work and at home she never asked, what if?
And she’d set high goals for herself. Recreation to relax was never enough. She pushed herself, she tested herself, she went above and beyond.
What if I can’t do it? Just getting through wasn’t good enough. She wanted to be better than before, she wanted to make progress, she wanted to improve.
What if I can’t do it? Anxiety and fear clouded her movement. When it was for herself, the doubts crept in. She felt the tightness in her chest, the shortness of breath.
There were times she didn’t believe in herself, but, despite the doubts, she kept going.
There were times she would falter, but she kept going.
There were times when it was a fight within herself, a battle of strength and resolve, but she kept going.
It was during one of these fights that she said to herself, what if you show yourself just how strong you are?
She smiled and said, what if I can?
My wife is a marathon runner. She’s currently a month away from running her third 26.2 mile race. The story of overcoming self-doubt above is one I’ve gotten to watch three times. And three times, I’ve been amazed by the persistence, determination and effort that Emily puts into preparing for these races.
She’s not a world-class athlete, she’s racing against herself. She sets her goals according to what she’s been able to do in her training. She tests herself.
She faces so much self-doubt when she’s training for a marathon. It’s inevitable, during the course of her 3-to-6 months of training, that she’ll get so tangled up in her own head that she’ll come to me several times to help her work through her doubts and reset her goals.
Like when Emily trains for and runs a marathon, it’s the times we challenge ourselves that open us up to facing self-doubt. Putting ourselves out there in a position to fail makes us vulnerable. And we don’t all have to be running marathons to put ourselves in these positions.
When I was in the depths of depression, I felt like I was putting myself out there by getting off the couch and talking to my family about my problems. I was vulnerable and exposed. A child singing alone in front of other students in an audition for a chorus will feel vulnerable and exposed. Anyone on their first day at a new job has experienced these feelings.
In all of these situations there is room for self-doubt to creep in. We all know what it’s like to feel self-doubt, to feel vulnerable, to be exposed.
But isn’t this insecurity and openness also the very same thing that can show us our strengths?
It’s at the times of our greatest vulnerability, our greatest self-doubt, that show us exactly what we are made of. It’s when we are pushed to our limits, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes by circumstance, that we find our strength.
When we embrace the self-doubt, embrace our vulnerability, we can look to it as an opportunity to let ourselves grow.
Instead of running from our fear, we can walk into it with our eyes open and see what can happen when we challenge ourselves.
What if we find out that we’re stronger than we expected?
What if we surprise ourselves and grow?
Look at yourself and smile. What if we can?
Author Bio – Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted on his Facebook.