Atelophobia is the fear of imperfection, fear of never being good enough. The thing we know as self- doubt.

Have you noticed something strange? Those who are experts—painstaking and thorough in their work—are the people with the deepest self-doubt. The clueless ones are bristling with offensive self-confidence. But then…

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.

~Robert Hughes


Jokes aside, my experience with self-doubt, my observation of it, has been painful and perplexing. I have seen it sitting on the shoulders of people who are acknowledged experts in their fields. Its marauding presence soils the secret self-talk of those who seem to lead charmed lives. I have seen its muddy paws on the pristine souls of those who are sensitive, intelligent and humble.

To look at these people from where the world looks at them, they have no business suffering even a nanosecond of self-doubt. Yet, inexplicably, it is there—strident, belligerent and mocking. It tears at them so furiously that you recoil in horror.

I want to ask them, these gods and goddesses, why they suffer under the yoke of so ignoble an affliction! My sense of justice revolts against the thought; I am deeply hurt by this unfairness. To see divinity doubt itself while the inglorious beat their chest and shout with undeserved, raucous confidence seems like a sick joke. I don’t know why, but it seems like a personal affront to me. I just cannot bear to see it. This pain is the only downside to my work.

Having seen self-doubt uniformly in all souls worthy of admiration and emulation, I have had to conclude that perhaps it is this undesirable darkness within them that drives them into attempting to shine so brightly.

I can’t think of anyone I admire who isn’t fuelled by self-doubt. It’s an essential ingredient. It’s the grit in the oyster.

~Richard Eyre

Perhaps the burning sands of self-doubt is a sort of rites of passage. Perhaps you reach an oasis of wisdom only after you have proved your mettle to the universe. You have shown it that although the inhospitable desert did sometimes slow you down, though it robbed you of hope sometimes, yet there is something stronger than the beast within, which made you get up again and walk on.

By fully experiencing and going beyond an emotional block – through the layers of doubt and fear – you experience the emotion of who you truly are.

~Stephen Richards

I am still coming to terms with the self-doubt I see in people. Though I am yet to accept it, I have reached a place where the pain has dulled its edge. I have accepted its presence, though I am still to find a way to justify it. To my fastidious soul, it seems a needless waste of effort.

At the level at which I work with people, their great talent is paired with great insecurity. Self-doubt is literally the twin of self-confidence. And I have to be there for both.

~William Ivey Long

Self Doubt and Self Belief

It seems as if only an atmosphere of crippling doubt can goad you into spreading your wings and taking off. If that is so, I will embrace doubt. For truly, nothing is more exhilarating than to see a human being defy gravity.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

~Kahlil Gibran

If self-belief is indeed the twin to self-doubt, there is no point in questioning its existence. What you need is to learn how to handle it in such a way that it doesn’t cripple you. You need strength, not to be better than others but to fight the demon within you who stops you from being as good as you can be; as good as you ARE!

Turning pro is a mind-set. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up; amateurs crap out; amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.

~Steven Pressfield

The best and the greatest among us have suffered debilitating self-doubt. Yet, they showed up. Their insecurities might have laid terrible traps for them, yet they showed up. Their fears might have breathed malicious words of inadequacy into their ears, yet they showed up. Day after day, every day. That is true courage.

Belief in oneself is incredibly infectious. It generates momentum, the collective force of which far outweighs any kernel of self-doubt that may creep in.

~Aimee Mullins

Many years ago, the book I was reading (I forget which, sorry) asked me to write my epitaph. After days of introspection, during which my self-doubt had a wonderful time tripping me up again and again, I wrote, edited and rewrote. This was the final version:

Here lies a woman who didn’t let her own fears stop her from doing what she knew was right!

You have your own ways of making room for the inexplicable within you. Like us all, you have coping strategies. You learn how to soar with your baggage strapped to your back. You do it either by whittling down the extra load or by developing a strength greater than its pull; or by a combination of both. Whatever works for you.

You must never allow your self-doubt to bully you into throwing away your wings. There are many waiting to see your flight; for your flight is to give them the courage for their own. Surely you will not let them down?!

Has self-doubt tripped you up too? Care to share your tryst with it in the comments below?

Note: I wrote this post in Feb 2014.