The other night, hanging out at home, my husband asked me:
"Do you think you're a good mom?"
My reply came so quick, it felt like reflex:
"Hell yeah, I am. Every day is a new frontier that keeps me researching and learning, but yeah, I'm doing a great job."
And as soon as I finished saying it, I felt a rush of shame rise up, just like it always does when I let my brash self-confidence show. But the truth is I just don't have any self-doubt when it comes to being a mom.
When my son was born with a fractured clavicle.
When I decided to stop nursing him at six months.
When JJ and I left him with my parents for a week away just the two of us.
When I spent days upon days researching how to guide us all to blissful sleep.
I always feel confident that I'm doing my best. I know I'm the right person for the job.
And, of course, I'm baffled by this. I wonder to myself:
"Where does this confidence come from?!"
I have moments where I feel conflicted, of course. (I'm having one right now, while I decide whether or not I should let my little guy go to nursery school a few hours a day so I can work on my creative projects.) And I routinely have moments of not knowing what to do. (I'll never forget the first time he had stomach pain, letting out piercing screams, while we fumbled through his medicine bag wondering how to help him.)
Yes, I have doubt. But I don't have self-doubt.
What's the difference between the two?
Recently, Tara Mohr wrote a beautiful post in which she shared the following idea:
"The problem for so many of us is that we think that our uncertainty about whether we’re doing right, or as well as we could, means that we aren’t the right person to do the work–to create, innovate, lead, teach, write–whatever it is we are doing."
So, according to Mohr, we should all be questioning, learning, researching, testing our approach to our work and our lives—and it's not just "normal", but critical.
As creators, as friends, as parents, as bosses, as every role we hold.
She goes on to say:
"The right kind of leader continually questions and doubts, looks critically, and stays open."
And, yes, these activities can be packaged as doubt, but they don't have to be self-doubt.
Thought, over the last year and a half I've spent being a mom, I haven't packaged all my questioning as doubt at all—I've packaged it as research. The way I see it is:
- It's absolutely normal to not have all the answers. I'm new to this, so...
- I'll call my fellow mom friends to ask about their experiences, or...
- I'll google it until I'm blue in the face and have a strategy in hand.
Motherhood feels like a huge science experiment. But, unfortunately, not all the other areas of my life feel the same way.
Adding the self to doubt
To be completely honest (and I always am), my struggle with self-doubt is painfully strong when it comes to my creative life as a writer.
What transforms my doubt into self-doubt are my expectations of a specific outcome.
When raising and teaching my child, I can't have expectations of any outcome. I can try to teach him new words all day, but he won't repeat them until he's ready. I can try different discipline methods, but he won't stop throwing tantrums until he's ready. Sure, what I do has an effect on him, but it's impossible to be completely in control of another human being.
When it comes to writing, though, I act as if I'm in the driver's seat and reaching the destination is all on me. As in, the good outcomes are thanks to me, but so are the bad. But the truth is I'm not in control with my writing, either. Yes, I can control how much I write and how often I practice—but I can't control anyone's reactions to my words.
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of then, become original without even having noticed it."
The trick is letting go of the outcome.
Which you'd think I'd learned by now—my entire podcast is about this very topic. ;-)
But I'm taking Tara Mohr's words and C.S. Lewis's words and folding them into my practice this week. While I work on Make, while I record new episodes of Process, and while I work on some other stuff that's got me all excited—I'll do my best to let go out of the outcome and know that, if my duty is to the tell the truth about my life, then I'm the right person for the job.
This week, I'll remember: I'm doing a great job at being a mom and a great job of creating, too.
Until next week! :-)
PS. I'll be diving deeper on this idea of doubt vs. self-doubt on a solo episode of my podcast later this week. Sign up here to be notified when it's live!