When In Doubt

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” – Honore de Balzac

More often than I care to admit, I let other’s words (opinions, thoughts, perspectives, advice) take precedence over my own. I let their authority, their very well-honed Instagram accounts, titles, accolades, bank accounts, and net worths carry more weight than my own lived experience, my own feelings, and articulations about any given thing. I’m quick to put the accomplished folks on a pedestal. It’s a place that my brain assures me that they belong, because they’ve made it in some way that I haven’t. I’ve since learned that in doing so I remove them from the reality of their own humanity, and I set aside my own power and agency. It’s an unfair position for everyone involved.

I would get attached to their titles or authorship and assume “I had much to learn…”, but often what I’d ignore was my own knowing. More so, through the cultural weight we place on logic, reason, linear thought, and achievements, I’d operate under the assumption that my point of view wasn’t worth an audience, much less worth raising my hand to ask a clarifying question. I’d hang my hat on their theories, ideologies, stories, methodologies as if theirs was the axis around which the rest of the known world revolved.

Giving more power to external voices such that they override your own knowing is one of the many ways we can abandon ourselves. We do this when we believe our self-doubt. We do this in the ways we invalidate our own feelings, experiences, and inner knowings. As Shakespeare wrote in Measure For Measure

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”

It’s hard to trust your gut when the noise of doubt looming large inside of you. Erine Gray, our podcast guest in today’s episode, wrestles with a similar theme in his conversation with Jerry. 

Trusting our knowing is often rewarding in ways our rational brains can’t see or imagine. My rational brain often tries to foresee and mitigate outcomes. It’s easy for me to discount intuitive nudges because they can seem so counter logical according to whatever more favored thought process is weighing heavy on my mind in any given situation. In work-related tasks especially, I constrict around the task at hand and, like a machine, will blow right past anything contrary to what I presume to be ‘efficient execution.’ 

Yet, when I know something, I know it. Something in my body tells me so. This body is a sensor of a wide range of awareness. As an artist, I create that way. As a horsewoman, the 93% of language that isn’t verbal becomes my primary mode of knowing. As a coach, I know that what I’m feeling and sensing in my body has significance for the person on the other end of the line. When I’m called by an intuitive nudge to go walk the land on the farm even though it’s an odd time to do so, only to come across the most perfect owl feather, I am reminded of how much the world beckons us into a larger magic we’re often not attuned into. Like a crimped hose, I can be shut down to the flow of those channels of information and the knowing that comes from my animal body. 

We humans tend to select for other, think-ier modes of ‘knowing’ focused from the neck up. Or, we know something because something outside of us told/tells us so.

Regina Smith noted in the last podcast episode that: “Power is actually energy and it’s neutral. We are all born and have a birthright to claim our personal power.” Often, this is where we get stuck in an unconscious quagmire. A myriad of things can snag our soul and beg for resolution through us and in us. This is our work. The journey to reclaim our power is different for each of us. 

Going back in time to when our world was molded by our caregivers: The first time our experience was invalidated can be the first time that we begin to not trust ourselves. Compounded by time, that can fester into self-doubt at our own experience–what we feel, what we sense, what we know at any given time. If we heed the internalized voice of invalidation, we start giving our power away. 

“One of the ego’s favorite paths of resistance is to fill you with doubt,” said Ram Dass. Like any crow, gremlin, or whatever form your inner critic takes, their assumed role is to keep you safe from the burn of shame and failure. Self-doubt is one of the inner critics many levers. 

Our true, authentic voice is what suffers when we give away our power. Sometimes, reclaiming what’s true for us can be a basic step towards self-validation. What do you feel, right now? What is the thought you are having? What does your body feel? Putting this to practice in situations can anchor you into yourself. As one healing from not trusting my own inner knowing around other humans, for example, it took me a long while before I could say aloud: “Something doesn’t feel right here,” and then make a choice on how I wanted or sensed I needed to act on that. 

The Greek word “gnosis” means ‘the knowledge acquired from experience.’ The way you know the world–the way you take it in and the way it ricochets and reverberates through your proprioceptors–that’s your inner sanctum. You know a lot in there. We’ve each got our own experience. As author Meggan Waterson would say, there’s a lot that you know by heart: 

“These times for me in 2020 scream, “It’s time!” It’s time we listen, inward. It’s time we believe, not in what we see outside of us, but in what we can perceive is true from within. It’s time we call back all the power we’ve given over to the people and places and institutions in our lives that have promised us what in truth we can only give back to ourselves. It’s time to remember where true power rests.”

What is your relationship to your own power? When and where do you set it aside? When did you first begin to doubt it? When, where, and how do you exercise it?

If you’re sitting on a big challenge, or issue, or dilemma, notice where your creative agency (your power) is as you think about what’s in front of you. Then, consider these questions: 

  • What is the emotion, the feeling, you’re having? 
  • What information does that feeling have for you? 
  • What is happening in your body as you feel into the issue? 
  • If there are no words for what you’re feeling, what are you sensing? 
  • If you were to draw or sketch the feeling, what would the lines look like?
  • What is your gut feeling? If your gut could talk, what would it say? 
  • As you look at the issue, check in with your chest, your heart: when does it feel contracted or expansive?
  • What is your instinct? What is the first impulse towards the issue? 
  • What feels like a next move, next step? What in you tells you so? 

There’s a risk in shrinking from our inner knowing. If that habit didn’t change, what might you miss out on? How might your world change if you trusted yourself?