I have a friend and colleague who recently wrote a blog post in which he admitted he wasn’t a confident person, and that self-doubt was always present in him.
I was completely taken aback by his admission. Some people wear their self-doubt on their sleeves. They’re indecisive, or when they do make a decision are often consumed with a sense of buyer’s remorse that they’d made the wrong choice. Or they use a lot of qualifying, conditional language when they speak or write: perhaps, possibly, might, maybe, I’m not sure.
He does none of this. He comes off as supremely confident, controlled, and intelligent. He’s a dynamic leader, a deep thinker, and a highly successful business professional. If he’s suffering from self-doubt—and hiding it well—what does that say about the rest of us?
It says that everyone has a degree of self-doubt, and probably should. Self-doubt is not only natural, it can be an asset to help us find our blind spots and weaknesses, which gives us an opportunity to work to overcome or at least minimize their negative impact.
He was writing about a transition time in his life and career, and how he went through an exercise to discover his “unique ability.” As he started the process of identifying what his strengths were, self-doubt surfaced. That may seem counterintuitive, but in reality this makes perfect sense. If you look at what you’re really good at, you are likely to find your weaknesses as well.
For example, he willingly embraces daunting challenges. The flip side of that is not realizing when a challenge can’t be overcome and the time has come to move on. He’s also an assertive person who freely contributes his ideas, but that positive trait can cross into the territory of becoming aggressive and dominating.
His piece made me think about some of my strengths and how they also signal my weaknesses. I’m really good at taking on a task and getting it done, but do I sometimes rush to the end just to achieve completion? Another: I can often quickly hone in on the essence of a situation or get a grasp on someone’s character, but my weakness might be a rush to judgment. I have the fortitude to endure in the face of setbacks, but am I unable to recognize defeat?
In his post, he describes a process for identifying your unique ability, which starts with sending a carefully worded email to ten people who know you well. There’s an example email in his post and, if you’re interested, here are six tips for identifying your unique ability.
I’m thinking of composing a similar email and sending it out, but self-doubt is holding me back. What if I discover my unique ability is limited to being really good at using punctuation?!!! Or that I’m merely a top-notch profreader? Or my expertise resides in making not-so-funny writerly puns?
I’ll eventually summon the courage to move forward. I almost always do, eventually, after suffering an anxiety episode. Valor sourced from panic—it’s one of those strengths/weaknesses things.