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Doubt, Ducks, and Squirrels

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Doubt, Ducks, & Squirrels 

Self-doubt is a powerful emotion that can severely impact someone’s potential. As I become more confident in myself and reflect on who I have been throughout my twenties, it’s sad to recall the things I didn’t do or convinced myself I couldn’t do all because of self-doubt. It’s a seed that once planted needs very little water or attention to grow and can very easily overtake all of the other positive feelings in your mind.  

I came to realize that I had a big connection between self-doubt and my perceptions of what others thought of me.

It also seemed to be linked to perfectionism and fear of failure. It wasn’t necessarily that I thought that I wasn’t capable but more so that I was worried that others thought I wasn’t capable or would judge me if I didn’t succeed. Other times it was rooted in feeling like I wasn’t capable and self-selecting out of opportunities because I had convinced myself that there was some sort of arbitrary prerequisite required or an arbitrary level of experience I had to reach before I could pursue an opportunity.  

One I’ve spoken about before was my journey to volunteering with the Chamber. Without the encouragement of several colleagues and mentors along the way, I’d have never joined the Chamber nor stayed involved in the committees I did – all because I doubted whether I had the requisite skills, experience, connections, or knowledge that I needed to be successful. What I realized through that experience was I may not have had all of those things, but there were many people around the table willing to teach and mentor me along the way. This allowed those skills, experiences, and knowledge to grow. We all have to start somewhere. 

My self-doubt rears it’s head every two weeks when I put together an issue for The Scheffette. I spend more time than I’d like to admit agonizing over what to write; how personal to be; whether anyone will want or care to read that issue; whether anyone will learn anything; and if what I’ve written is engaging and meaningful. It doesn’t seem to matter how much positive feedback or recognition I receive – it’s something I grapple with each time.  

The key isn’t to eliminate self-doubt, it’s to learn how to quiet the self-doubt and move forward in spite of it.

Ever heard that quote “feel the fear and do it anyway”? It’s the same thing with doubt. Some will say that the key to quieting self doubt is not to care what other people think of you. While I don’t disagree, I think it’s more nuanced than that. You should care what others think of you – it’s natural to do so – but what you shouldn’t do is let what others think of you prevent you from doing what you want to do in life.  

Ever heard of the Spotlight Effect? It’s the idea that we tend to overestimate how much people notice us or think about us. We think that there is a spotlight on us illuminating our flaws and mistakes for everyone to see. What we don’t realize is that most people are actually much more focused on themselves, their actions, their appearance, and their own mistakes or flaws than the actions, appearances, mistakes, or flaws of others. If you can get to a place where you realize and believe that nobody is paying as much attention to you as you think they are, your self-doubt will begin to have much less of a hold over you.  

When we realize others aren’t as engaged in our flaws and mistakes as we think they are, it becomes easier to take risks and do things because you want to do them and because they make you feel good about yourself. Take The Scheffette for example, I write the Scheffette because I enjoy doing it. It was something I wanted to do but for years thought that no one would want to read anything that I wrote. I believed that my life and story wasn’t that interesting or certainly not interesting enough to write a newsletter about. On the law side of things, I struggled for a long time feeling like I was too junior or didn’t have enough knowledge for people to take me seriously.  

This past fall I decided to take the leap and put it out there. The key for me was getting to a place where I could feel the fear and do it anyway. I had to take the proverbial spotlight off of myself and publish The Scheffette because it was something that I wanted to do for me. If others found it helpful, insightful, or inspiring, that would be very exciting, but if not, at least I put myself out there and took that leap. 

Another piece of advice that helped me overcome the self-doubt was being reminded that all of my ducks don’t have to be in a row to get started. The quote “I don’t have ducks in a row, I have squirrels, and they’re everywhere” always made me laugh but it wasn’t until I was sitting in a presentation being given by Tania Stilson, CEO of A-WIN Insurance at our inaugural Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce Young Business Professionals Committee professional development session, that it really clicked for me. She spoke on exactly that point. Hearing her speak about the idea that you don’t have to have your ducks in a row to start that project, make that move, or take that leap, it’s actually more important just to start, was powerful and was what I needed to hear at that moment.  

I’ve spent too much time putting things off because I didn’t have it all figured out. Hearing that you don’t need to go through life that way and hearing someone who I regarded as a highly successful female entrepreneur share that life lesson solidified the concept for me. It also allows me to be reflective on a day-to-day basis and ask myself, am I not starting that project, making that move, or taking that leap because I’m worried I don’t have all my ducks in a row?  

Turns out I don’t need my ducks in a row. All I need is to accept that I have squirrels, they’re everywhere, and the only way to begin putting them in a row is simply to start.  

About the Author

Charlene Scheffelmair is a partner with Davidson & Williams LLP in Lethbridge, Alberta. She practices primarily in the areas of corporate and commercial law; residential and commercial real estate; estate administration and planning; and foreclosures.

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