If you grew up like I did, to doubt everything you do, then the name of this article makes sense to you. How do you stop doubting yourself when you grew up with everyone causing you to doubt yourself? I don’t intend to answer that question and am sharing my experience because I have felt the wrestling inside to start writing again. I no longer doubt the messenger when I feel that calling and here is how I found that assurance.
When my son was 2 he was playing on the playground with a couple of other kids on a chilly, Vancouver spring day. He climbed up the ladder to the second level that was about 4 feet off the ground. Laughing and having fun he ran all the way across the play structure and I realized too late, that he kept running until gravity thrust him face-first into the dirt. I had more tears than he did as the would-have could-haves swirled through my head.
The accident didn’t hurt my little boy but the damage was caused when the seed of doubt was planted inside myself. The first person I shared my concerns with told me that I was overreacting and shouldn’t worry so much. My gut feeling that something was wrong was suppressed and I kept on going through the motions of life; work, cook, clean, take care of family and repeat.
Not too long later my son had a major wipeout on his Strider bike. I was jogging beside him and when we came to the curb, he plowed right into it and flipped over scraping half of his face. His helmet protected his head but the curb did a number on his face. He was inconsolable and I was heartbroken. Anxiety began to build and build and I was becoming a nervous wreck. I began to avoid playgrounds, bikes and anything else that could cause destruction.
His wounds healed over time and mine resonated deep in my soul. Despite my speaking to family and doctors everyone told me I was overreacting. I sent a referral to a well-known agency to seek some help and received a letter dismissing my concerns and refusing to evaluate my son. The problem was that I really believed it was me! I allowed the doubt to become truth and that was easy to do because I had real evidence from my childhood that I was wrong. It wasn’t until years later that I came to terms with the truth….. Others like to blame and just because they blame they are not always right.
My doubts were so big that they became a self-fulfilling prophecy. One example is when I first attended college at the age of 18. My family told me that I couldn’t do it, my teachers told me that I couldn’t do it and I didn’t do it. However, just because I didn’t do it did not mean that I couldn’t do it. I will come back to this again.
Back to my son. The story is so long that I would need to write a book to share all of it and maybe one day I will, but for now, let me give you the quick version. My son received a referral to one of the top eye doctors in British Columbia and we discovered that his eyesight is severely impaired. It made sense that he didn’t see the edge of the playground and it made sense that he couldn’t see the curb. It wasn’t obvious how severe the impairment was until he was 5 or 6 years old because no one knew that he has Autism. They thought that my son was a “difficult” child and were not able to really help him until I won the hard-fought battle to see the eye specialist that was able to induce his cooperation and tell us what his challengers were.
I took my son to 5 Pediatricians before a Neurologist at a random visit to Children’s Hospital asked me if I had considered that my son had high functioning Autism. When I began to sob, he tried to comfort me and tell me that Autism wasn’t that bad and I had to tell him that I was crying because so many doctors told me that I was wrong about thinking something was different about my son. I was not sad that something was different, I was crying in relief that I was not imagining things. The nudge inside me had grown into a tropical storm and he was the first person to see it and offer me assurance that it would be ok. That doctor gave me hope.
And it was ok, many months later. I can’t pinpoint when life went from traumatic to joyful but somehow it happened. I had removed my son from school and faced the judgement and criticism of everyone that told me I was making a big mistake. I had many doubts until the Neurologist came alongside me and extinguished the flames inside me. I wish it ended here and I could say that I never had doubts again but instead, I studied doubt and learned a lot about it.
Doubt is not always bad because it stops us from running into a burning building unprepared. It gives us the opportunity to examine the evidence as to why we have the doubt and then the chance to made a decision: will we stop, go ahead or gather more information? We can look at our reasons why we would do something or not do something:
- are we acting to please someone?
- are we acting to hurt someone?
- are we holding back in fear of upsetting someone?
- will the thing we are doubting hurt someone?
- what will happen if we overcome and persevere against the thing we are doubting?
There was a cost of pursuing the diagnosis that helped my son. I lost family relationships, the specialists that I went against had disapproving words for me and some told me I was hurting my child, friendships were lost and my personal time was errored into nonexistence. There was also a reward; I gained back my confidence, I watched my son grow into a confident and happy boy, I made new friends with like values, I surrounded our family with professionals that really care about us and I learned that sometimes doubt has its place and that sometimes it is ok to push through it and follow that nudge that comes from deep within.
Back to school. I flunked when I was 18 and went back when I was 39 years old. One year later, I made the Dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA. I had found out the learning disabilities that I had and learned ways to learn that I never knew about when I was young. Seeing I made the Dean’s list exploded my doubts from the past and future all in one. How many teachers told me I would never amount to anything, how many people made fun of me because I couldn’t answer the teacher’s questions? I allowed others around me, from a really young age, to shape my life and that day I took my power back. They were all wrong and I was wrong about myself. That is what is most important, I can change how I think about my own abilities and chose to weigh the doubt and make the decision that is right for me.