Stricken with Self-Doubt

Stricken with Self-Doubt

Who am I to get something published? Who am I that anyone would care to read what I thought? Who am I that anyone would care what I had to say? And pay money for it?

As the World Series starts tonight, we thought of Justin Verlander, 29, the incredibly successful pitcher for the American League champs, the Detroit Tigers. Verlander has pitched no-hitters, is a five-time All Star, and one of only two pitchers who has won the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie-of-the Year Awards. He is also very confident in his pitching abilities and has always been. Justin Verlander, doesn’t doubt himself on the pitcher’s mound.

Verlander’s confidence is enviable. But it’s not typical. Not by a long shot; because just about all of us, if not all of us, struggle with self-doubt and insecurity in some aspect of our lives.

Charles Schultz, the immensely popular creator of Peanuts – Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy – struggled with self-doubt his whole career. When he wrote his now iconic program, A Charlie Brown Christmas, he didn’t believe it to be good enough and wouldn’t show it to anyone. He refused to allow others to see it. But it took the persistence of those who had confidence in him to uncover it introduce it to the world. It was because of them that the show found its way into the world’s heart. Schultz didn’t have the confidence to do it.

Vincent van Gogh once said: If you hear a voice within say “You cannot paint”, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. His own short life was filled with mental illness, anxiety and self-doubt. Yet van Gogh produced some of the art world’s greatest and most recognized works. His influence is world-wide, far-reaching and lasting.

For the bulk of my (Tom’s) life, I struggled with self-doubt and anxiety about whether or not I had something to offer to the world. Yesterday, I had my first ever published essay – “Uncovered” (see below) – hit the stores, in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive. Michael suggested to me that I share the story and its publication on Facebook. But because of my own struggle with self-doubt and self-worth I was very reluctant to do it. I had to be convinced that it was okay – that it wasn’t prideful, self-promoting and arrogant. And that what I had written and had published really was of value to share.

Who am I to get something published? Who am I that anyone would care to read what I thought? Who am I that anyone would care what I had to say? And pay money for it?

But I was convinced to post it and even though I still wrestle with some self-doubt about sharing it. But that’s why we all need encouragement, affirmation and support from others. Self-doubt is a part of everyone’s story. Maybe you are confident and successful in your career; but maybe you struggle with doubt about your effectiveness a parent. Maybe you worry that you cannot measure up in the business world, even though you know that your resume measures up with all the others around you. Maybe you are a writer and writing is hard, taking a lot of work and effort – and you have to be reminded that you have a gift for writing, nonetheless. In each of life’s self-doubts we need to remember the gift of others who love us who can support us and encourage us and build us up when we doubt our abilities.

Why do you doubt? Is it because you didn’t receive the encouragement or affirmation you or something else you needed? Is it because of a fear of failure or judgment? Is it insecurity? Let us know what causes self-doubt in you …




While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.
     ~Angela Schwindt

I consider myself to be a fairly positive person now. I wasn’t always that way.  Living in the attic of your sister-in-law’s home in the middle of July without air conditioning and only a twin-sized mattress for a family of four can bring out the worst in you.

I remember the night very specifically; it was July 12. The clock read 2 a.m. and the temperature gauge 105. The sweat was pouring down my forehead — and not just because it was hotter than a sauna in the attic — but because I was dejected. Earlier in the day I had received news that I didn’t get the job. That made it three jobs in a row where I had been one of the final two candidates — only to lose out in the end.

Friends and family kept telling me that they “understood” because they had “been there.” Did they really understand and had they really been there? Had they really had the carpet suddenly pulled out from under them? Everything that is comfortable: job, health, house, car, freedom, future security — GONE!

Despite the heat, I pulled the covers over my head and curled up in a little ball. The tears started streaming down my face, dampening my already dampened pillow. I felt so alone, even though I was sharing a twin-sized mattress with my wife, three-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son. I started punching my pillow and obsessing over what I was going to do.

I can’t remember how long I lay in that position trying to hide my tears from my family, but I remember it seemed like an eternity. I stayed there as long as possible because it was the only place that felt safe and secure from the world around me. Those were the darkest moments of my life. As a man I can’t think of anything worse than feeling like you aren’t measuring up, that you can’t even take care of yourself, much less your family!

I grabbed another pillow to throw on top of my head to hide further and further from the “real world” out there. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to a little bit of light creeping under one of the pillows. I heard a bird chirping outside the only attic window. I rolled over because I still didn’t have the energy or the emotional stamina to pull the covers down.

But then I heard laughing. My two kids were having a tickle fight on the other side of the tiny mattress. They stood up and started jumping up and down and smiling and laughing and carrying on as only kids can do. Or, can adults do that too? The kids grabbed two pillows and started relentlessly clobbering me and wouldn’t give up until I picked up a pillow and fought back. I couldn’t. I couldn’t face another day “out there” so I pretended to be sleeping. Another strong blow to my lower back. “Daddy!” “Daddy!” “Wake up!”

After a few minutes of trying so hard to hide my feelings of shame, disappointment, and discouragement, my kids started pulling down the covers and wouldn’t stop until they could see my face. They pulled harder and harder. I pulled harder and harder to stay in my little cocoon of safety and security. I heard more laughing. My kids thought this was one big game of tug of war. Didn’t they know that Daddy was a loser?

More pulling of the covers until finally more light appeared. More laughing. I finally gave up. My kids had won, but not just at our tug of war game. They had won because they had reminded me that they didn’t care whether or not I had a job, they didn’t care how much money I made, and they didn’t care where we slept. They only knew there was joy in the moment.

If you want to learn how to stay positive, spend a day admiring your children or grandchildren. Watch how their joy isn’t dependent upon their circumstances. Watch how they love without strings attached. Watch how carefree they are and how even the simplest, most insignificant experience can make them so happy. Thanks to my children, I have learned how to stay positive even when life has taken its toll.

~Tom Kaden


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