Living with Doubt


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By Ann Skinner

Coach, Doodle Artist and Author/Illustrator of The Art of Contribution and Annie and Eva Love Devon.

5 Apr 2021

Living with Doubt as a Source of Fear and Wisdom


How familiar are you with doubt? Does it come to visit you during the day, during the night or both? Does the mind chatter come in as you’re doing the washing up or when you are sitting down with a cup of coffee? Does it question who you are, what you say and do?

I live with doubt every day. You could say I am very intimate with it and have come to appreciate it both as a source of fear as well as wisdom.

Much of my doubt stems from a deep-seated fear of rejection. I have often felt slightly off kilter in this world, like a square peg in a round hole and this feeling of separateness has created a deep longing for belonging. If you were to live in my head you would hear questions, such as:

Did I do or say the right thing?

Was I too much or not enough?

Did I laugh too loud or say too little?

Maybe you recognise these questions or maybe doubt shows up differently for you.


Risk Assessment


If you had to put doubt in a business category, it would be risk assessment and insurance.

If you had to put doubt in a business category, it would be risk assessment and insurance. Assessing risk is a necessary life skill, however, life can never be about insuring the outcome of every word we speak and action we take.

The only insurance that level of control would give us is a one way ticket to nomansland – a place where we don’t recognise ourselves and where nothing of true value happens and no-one does or says anything worth doing or talking about for fear of being laughed at or shot down.

Perhaps you also know this place I am taking off. I know I do.


Doubt as a Source of Fear


For many years doubt ensured that I made sure I blended in. However, every time I was concerned with maintaining the status quo in order to feel accepted, it came at a cost. It was often so subtle that I didn’t notice it until I found myself getting sad or angry for having allowed myself to shrink to a size that I didn’t recognise. Then my survival instinct would kick in and I would find myself pushing back against the status quo in a way that wasn’t always very helpful or empowering for either party. When it became too much I would just drop everything and travel, move or do something different so I could find myself again.


Although overall I have had a very good life with many wonderful experiences, the efforts of many years trying to blend in ultimately made me bland and in the end I became unrecognisable to myself. Sure I had fun and I enjoyed myself but my colours were muted and the more I was trying to connect to others by trying to please, the more disconnected I became from myself.

Doubt highlights where we feel most vulnerable.

This need to feel accepted kept me in a place of servitude rather than service. A place of being cast in the role of supporter rather than leader. To learn to become a leader and in service I first had to learn to be ok with feeling vulnerable. Doubt highlights where we feel most vulnerable.

Sometimes, even today, I feel the need to hide my doubt with an air of confidence dressed up as certainty, or worse, talk myself down before somebody else will. These days, however, I can recognise this behaviour as feeding my need for safety.

Safety for me means knowing that I am accepted and acknowledged.


Doubt as a Source of Wisdom


Whilst I intimately know doubt as a source of fear and discomfort, I have also come to appreciate it as a source of wisdom and an invitation for growth. Because of doubt, I have lived in a lot of places, have done a lot of things and gained a lot of experience, skills as well as wisdom.

Doubt has a job. Its prime job is to keep me safe and that’s a good job too. Doubt has been very good at showing me what drives me on a subconscious level and once I understood my drivers, I was able to see doubt as a source of information to apply wonder to. What is really driving my need for recognition and belonging and how can I address my needs in a more empowering way, from a place of love rather than lack?

A life with a false sense of self will always give a false sense of security.

Deep down, doubt reminded me of who I was by making sure that I could not stay comfortable with trying to live a life that wasn’t meant for me. Doubt has been a compass for me and has shown me when I am disconnected from my true self. After all, it is disconnection that creates feelings of separation and the need for external validation. A life with a false sense of self will always give a false sense of security.

These days I am listening more closely for what doubt is teaching me, and I am learning to gently redirect my focus when I am looking for outside insurance where there is none. It is a reminder that I must go within and most of the time I manage to strike a balance but every day there will be moments when I forget.

Yes, my head is still filled with questions, even now as I write this and wonder if what I have written is good enough/interesting enough/too long/too boring for you to read. I am learning to deal with these questions by accepting that it is part of my human experience and by appreciating that it is an invitation to reconnect to myself in a way that is more loving and accepting.

I wonder how or when doubt shows up for you. What deep-seated need is being highlighted for you?

As you reflect, do remember to apply a little love and acceptance for your humanity.



Ann The Heartworker

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