Friday, January 1, 2016

Don't Doubt Me

How many times have you doubted yourself? How many times have you looked yourself in the mirror and seen failure staring back?

Never? Look closer.

Often? Don't beat yourself up. You're in good company.

One of the best ways to understand human nature, and in turn ourselves, I believe, is to study the lives of people who accomplished big things. Notice I didn't say great things, or even good things. I said big things, because I believe it is just as important to study people like Hitler and Stalin as it is to study people like Washington and Lincoln. We need to understand the good as well as the bad.

Last night I watched a documentary on JFK's handling of foreign policy surrounding the Bay of Pigs fiasco and his interactions with Khrushchev in general. During their face-to-face in Vienna, the Soviet leader bested Kennedy, even bullied him, according to the only two men (the interpreters) who were in the room with the two leaders for the entirety of the summit. Kennedy left Vienna feeling as though he had failed. Behind the scenes, the man America saw as a tough leader with nerves of steel, suffered bouts of self-doubt. The reason he was able to force Khrushchev to blink during the Cuban Missile Crisis is that he didn't let that self-doubt keep him from doing what he knew to be the right thing.

After that documentary, I watched two shows investigating the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Robin Williams. The commonality between those two celebrity icons is that they both suffered from bouts of severe depression throughout their lives. Monroe's desire to be taken seriously as an actress, coupled with her failed relationships with men, drove her to a dependance on sedatives to sleep, stimulants to wake up, and anxiety medication to cope with being awake. To believe the evidence, the woman the world still uses as the yardstick by which glamour is measured, saw herself as a failure, and doubted herself so much that she overdosed on a deadly cocktail of sedatives.

Robin Williams, though I never personally found him to be funny, is widely regarded as a comic genius. His ability to ad-lib his high energy scenes endeared him to millions of fans throughout his career. Humor, of course, is so often used as a mask that it's hardly shocking anymore to learn that so many of the great comedians are and were a basket case of mental tripwires.

Still, it's hard to imagine that someone who has achieved so much success -- whether they be a president, actor, writer, singer, etc. -- can look into the mirror and see failure. How does someone who has accomplished so much, suffer from self-doubt?

It's too common to be overlooked.

My lifelong dream has always been to become a great writer. Not just a writer, but a great writer. The closer I move myself toward that goal, the more crippling the self-doubt becomes. I've published four novels, have the fifth novel almost ready to go, and am currently working on the sixth, so I can confidently call myself a writer. In some ways I'm living my dream (I'm a writer). In other ways, that dream will always be just out of reach (that part about being great). It's the way of dreams, I suppose, and the evidence I've found by studying famous people certainly backs that up.

Life is not a Facebook status. Don't be afraid to fail.

I'm not a psychologist, but my lay interpretation of self-doubt is that it is simply a person's inner desire to be better tomorrow than he or she was yesterday. Oftentimes we hear of people writing positive messages to themselves on their bathroom mirror. Perhaps all those well-intentioned pep talk scribblings can best be summed up with one simple phrase: Don't Doubt Me.