The Voice Of Self Doubt
Over the weekend, I began reading Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton (one of my purchases from the Humble Bundle – a website that offers packages of eBooks, games, and more at a price that you choose and with the money going to charity, the authors, etc. as you define it). One of the things that stood out instantly was a voice in Wil’s head was the same voice as one that I’m plagued by.
Wil described two voices (at least up to the point I read). The first was Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn’t A Mistake. That voice I don’t really have a counter for. Perhaps it’s from Asperger’s or years of bullying or something else, but I don’t really care what people think of me. There are exceptions, of course. I would really hate it if my wife suddenly thought I was a horrible person. For the most part, though, I don’t care if Random Stranger In The Store #17 thinks I must be a bad father because I’ve been forced to pull my son out of a store while he screams bloody murder. (On the flip side, I’ve learned not to be judgmental if I see a parent doing the same thing. If anything, I almost feel the need to walk up to said parent, give them a consoling hug and say "Boy have *I* been there too! You aren’t alone." I don’t do that, though, because people tend to get the wrong idea when complete strangers give them hugs. So I just send some mental good vibes their way. Much less efficient, but much less likely to get security called on me.)
Back to my point, though.
Wil’s second voice was The Voice of Self Doubt and boy do I have that one! I’m not sure what my Voice of Self Doubt’s origin was. Perhaps it was navigating a neurotypical world as an Aspie (especially one who didn’t know what Asperger’s was and just knew that this "socialization" thing was easy for everyone else but not for him for unknown reasons). Or maybe it was from constant bullying which left me paranoid that anyone and everyone was out to get me.
Whatever the reason, I’m pestered by The Voice of Self Doubt constantly. This past weekend, while working on my "sew my own bow tie for a Doctor Who costume" project, the project started to go wrong. The Voice of Self Doubt immediately chimed in. It told me to give up. It said that I’d never be able to do this right and I shouldn’t have even tried. Thankfully, The Voice of Stubbornness decided to interrupt and tell me not to give up and that I should keep trying until I got it right no matter how many times it took. After one more try, I got the project back on track and The Voice of Self Doubt went silent.
Unfortunately, sewing projects are only The Voice of Self Doubt’s opening act. Earlier this year, I wrote about my Imposter’s Syndrome. That’s the Voice of Self Doubt there. It’s constantly telling me that I really know nothing about making websites and one day someone’s going to just realize that I’ve fooled everyone into thinking I’m a good web developer. Any successes the Voice writes off as dumb luck.
In reality, I’m a very skilled web developer. I just happen to know of some people whose skills dwarf my own. That’s pretty par for the course. No matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone better than you. On the other hand, I don’t like to judge people so I don’t tend to present people who are worse than me to The Voice as counter-evidence.
If things at home don’t go perfectly, The Voice starts whispering in my ear. It starts making me doubt whether I’m a competent husband and father. The Voice will often show me blog postings of people who keep their house perfectly tidy, who cook exceptional meals every day, who engage in elaborate crafting projects with their kids, and who earn enough money to often take their families on lavish vacations. The Voice tells me that this is proof of my inadequacies.
The truth is that blog postings often leave out the whole picture. Beyond that photo of the a perfectly clean dining room is a living room overrun with toys. Beyond the recipe of the perfect dinner that was posted is the not discussed empty McDonald’s containers in the trash. Beyond the blog post about a husband and wife having a perfect time out is the non-blogged-about argument the previous night. Those details tend to get whitewashed out of a social media presence. The result is that your average family, warts and all, looks perfect online. Then, when you compare your situation (with the warts not glossed over) with the seemingly perfect online lives of others, I know this is true, but The Voice of Self Doubt twists it to play to my insecurities.
The Voice of Self Doubt seems to enjoy having me wallow in misery. The more miserable I am, the more I resort to my old high school anti-bullying tactic of "hide your feelings down deep and avoid all social contact." The more I resort to that tactic, the more it’s just me and The Voice there. The happier I am, the less time I spend with The Voice of Self Doubt.
I’ve fought The Voice of Self Doubt for many years and will likely fight it for many more. As I continue to read Wil Wheaton’s book, I’ll be sure to keep an eye on how he handles his Voice of Self Doubt. Maybe it will give me some ideas for silencing my own.
NOTE: The "question face" image above is by nicubunu and is available via OpenClipArt.org.