I took this picture in Mombasa some years back from the inside of a tuktuk (explains why it’s skewed). Every time I see it, I find myself asking, “What do you focus on?”
Do you focus on the rainbow at the top-left corner? Or the garbage at the bottom-right corner?
In life, what do you focus on? Do you focus on the victories or the triumphs? On the happy moments or the sad ones? On the positive thoughts or the negative thoughts? Ask yourself that question, “What do you focus on?”
There are times when we think our happiness is dependent on other people. If only “other people” would show up more in our lives, or show their approval of us or just make us laugh then we will be happy. But you can’t really control “other people”, what they do and what they don’t. It really isn’t their job to make you happy. Unless you signed them to a contract and you’re paying them to make you happy. You’re responsible for your own happiness so as the quote by Anthony D’Angelo goes, “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”
About the image: This is my favorite image from JJ’s blog, “Castle of Words” taken from, “Photoblog: Sunrise at Tiwi“. In the midst of trillions of words published online, somehow JJ found my blog and not only did she follow it, but she was also inspired to start her own blog. Now, I have to admit that the student has surpassed the teacher. With all the different forms of JJ’s creative expression (especially the images taken of beautiful Kenya), I find it really amazing to watch JJ’s journey unfold.
They say you must always try to strike the balance between holding on and letting go. While doodling today I found myself writing, “I’m letting you go so I can free my hands to catch all the beautiful things falling out of the sky.”
And there have been beautiful moments these few months. Among the anxiety and the stress and pain there have been moments of pure joy where I stopped to acknowledge them. Not necessarily by taking a picture of anything and recording it, but by only feeling…
Because things happen and things change, inequalities flip sides and balances get tipped. And such is life.
So when beautiful things fall out of the sky, stop and hold out your hand to catch them. Stop. If only for a few seconds….
Also, don’t try to do everything on your own. Friends and family are there for a reason. When you’re happy let them share your happiness and when you’re having a tough time they’ll support you and make it feel better. At least that’s what they’re supposed to do anyway.
I’ve had issues with self-doubt for as long as I can remember. In a journal excerpt written back in 2003, I write about how I stopped writing something because I was paralyzed by fear. “Maybe it’s because I won’t be able to complete it. Or maybe I would finish it but nobody would like it.”
It’s interesting because sentences like these find themselves wedged within entries that span my entire life. I haven’t found a way to get rid of it, but at least now I try to control it instead of having it control me.
1. Know thyself
If you think you’re “not good enough”, then maybe you need to learn to value yourself by yourself. The problem is, as human beings we tend to look outwards for self-validation. And that’s always going to be a source of misery because we can’t control the way people feel about us. They can love us or hate us, or love us today and hate us tomorrow…external measurements are that fickle. What we can actually control is how we see ourselves, and how we value ourselves. The best practical tip I heard on this was, “Every day, write a couple of things you value about yourself, and a couple of ways you added value to someone else’s life.”
The more you do that, the more you’ll know your where your strengths and weaknesses lie. When someone I know found themselves jobless, the first thing they did was work on their version of a “S.W.O.T.” matrix. A “S.W.O.T.” analysis is common in business and the letters stand for strength/weakness/opportunity and threat. Someone else might have been paralyzed by the fear of ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ but instead they put together an inventory of what they already had to work with and started from there.
Self-doubt comes from your inexperience with what you can and cannot do. So it always helps to know your strengths and weaknesses and the older you get, the better you are supposed to be when it comes to dealing with self-doubt, (‘supposed to be’ being the operative phrase here). And to have a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses, you need to actually…
The opposite of doubt is certainty. The best way of getting rid of self-doubt is to know for sure. And to know for sure, you’ve got to actually do something. Roll up your sleeves, and get to work.
This is based on the famous productivity idea of “ready-fire-aim” instead of “ready-aim-fire”. After taking the first step, you can always readjust your course of action depending on whatever results you get, but if you insist on perfecting the plan before its execution, you might find yourself mired in a perpetual state of indecision. And by not taking a step forward, you might never answer the question, “Am I good enough?” and you’ll always be left wondering.
Even if you end up failing after you’ve acted, you’ll at least be able to definitely tell yourself, “Nope. I’m not good enough for this, so I could either work to improve or if it’s not worth my time then forget about it.”
When the weeds of self-doubt clutter your thoughts, it is very easy to second-guess yourself. This happens a lot when you find yourself comparing yourself to other people (I’ve written about it in a previous note – Lesson Learnt from a Bicycle Rider on a Highway – so I won’t write about it here). Since you don’t trust yourself, you try to measure your success based on what everybody thinks your successful life should like. Some people take a step further and delegate their entire decision-making process to other people because, a) they don’t trust themselves to make good decisions and, b) they would like someone to blame tomorrow if it doesn’t work out. In that case, realize what you’re doing and take responsibility for your own actions.
3. Avoid naysayers like the plague.
We have enough inner voices that make us doubt ourselves internally. We don’t need external sources of such voices to reinforce our self-doubt. Enough said about that.
4. Be Grateful
I’ve written about this in “A Lesson in Gratitude” and “Attitude of Gratitude“. Since self-doubt tends to stem from a position of scarcity, where you tend to think you don’t have enough (brains/beauty/talent/wit/whatever). And gratitude always puts you in a better frame of mind as it shifts your perspective from one of scarcity to one of abundance. So practice gratitude.
5. Have faith
As Muslims, we believe that whatever misses us could never have hit us and what hits us could never have missed us. So in the end of the day, all we’ve got is the effort we can put into something and make du’aa to Allah (SWT) for the best.