Watch this talk I did at A Fearless Force: Public Speaking for Visionary Women Leaders, on which I shared my personal journey with Self Doubt.
I’m lying on the hospital bed, in a white paper gown. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, with our family back at the house. My husband, Krishan, is by my side. We make small talk, nervously joke around, and wait the few hours till the doctor arrives. Blood is drawn several times, and the doctor whizzes in and out. Krishan gazes into my eyes with compassion, and says, “Don’t worry, this is normal!” as he caresses my arm.
We finally get pulled into the XRAY room, where the tech begins the examination. She scrunches her forehead, shakes her head, and we ask somewhat frantically: “What? What do you see?”
She says, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see the heartbeat of the baby. It looks like it died at 9 weeks.”
Our hearts drop. I could see the disappointment wash over Krishan’s face.
Secretly, deep inside, I’m relieved.
I am, a 36-year-old woman, entrepreneur, married to the most loving husband I could ever imagine. We live in our dream home in Manhattan. I’m asking myself – am I ready to be a mom? Can I have my own dreams? And, can I be a loving partner? Is it possible to have it all?
As I move toward my seemingly elusive dreams, I feel doubt, I feel resistance and I feel fear.
Currently, the big barrier for me is self-doubt and all the excruciating thoughts.
Am I really good enough? Do people want what I have to offer? Does what I am saying make sense?
These voices are like a wicked witch that is out to destroy me with self-doubt.
My only conclusion: self-doubt is the killer of dreams.
Let me tell you a couple stories of how I came to this conclusion in various parts of my life.
It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m sitting across from Krishan, it’s our 10th date or so, at the local pizzeria. We share a delicious mushroom thin-crust pizza and a Pepsi. In my mind, things are going well until he pulls the rug from underneath me.
He looks me straight in the eyes, “Sarika, I am not sure you want to be in a relationship. If you don’t want one, let me know and we can both move on.”
I freeze, and my heart begins to beat uncontrollably.
My mind goes into defense, “I barely know this man! Who does he think he is?”
My self-doubt reminds me of my recent break up with a man I was engaged to, and all of my past breakups. It wants to keep me safe, in the man-free, happy zone.
And yet, the vulnerability with which he asks this no-doubt scary question disarms me. His persistence in my life – and his openheartedness breaks open my heart.
I’ve always been a romantic, and have always wanted a life partner – but now that it seemed so close – it seems that I can neither trust him, nor myself.
In that moment, my fight or flight responses where in hyperactive mode.
I decide to take a leap of faith and be vulnerable. My walls come down, and I tell him, “Krishan, I DO want a relationship. I’m scared though and am working through my fear of love. I hope you can support me through this.”
And here we are, 4 years later, happily married! I’m so grateful to be married to a man who continues to push open my heart even more – and love me, even when my self-doubt arises about how lovable I really am!
Trust is a muscle. When you see a great opportunity in front of you, the only way you can beat self-doubt is to learn to trust, by being vulnerable and open.
The second story has to do with my career.
It’s Monday morning, and I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I look at the week ahead of me with dread.
It’s been a year since I’ve left the corporate world, to start my own business of serving other women who are struggling in their love life, and want to open their hearts to greater love, joy and abundance.
I’m worried, as I haven’t signed on any new clients in a few months. I had taken out an $11k loan to start the business, and it’s due soon.
My heart is heavy, and I’m filled with self-doubt.
Maybe I haven’t hired the right coaches? Or gotten the right certification? Or read the right books?
I feel envious of other entrepreneurs who seem to be successful, and wonder whether I got left behind.
I’m ready to throw in the towel, and I wonder if I should just give up, and go back to the corporate world.
That day, I have my session with my coach and tell her about my predicament.
She asks me, “Sarika, have you gone to a networking event lately?”
I say no.
“Have you called up any potential clients, or asked for any referrals?”
Again, I say no.
Then she asks, “are you looking for my approval to go out and get new business?”
And in that moment, I realize that I haven’t been doing the basics for my business, out of self-doubt. I’ve been leaning on other people to guide me or give me permission.
Still, my doubt persists.
I call up a wise friend to ask whether I should just give up.
She says, “Sarika, what you’ve planted is like a seed of a mango tree. The tree only blooms in 20 years, and once it does, it becomes a beautiful tree with abundant numbers of mangoes! You can’t give up, after just 1 year of trying! Be patient, and persistent. And have faith!”
I look at all of my unfinished projects – books that I’ve written and yet never published because of my fears.
My mom, my greatest champion, once told me, “Sarika, you have such an amazing voice! You would be such a great singer, if only you gave yourself a chance and practiced every day.” I realize this is a metaphor for so many things in my life, of how doubtful I am of my abilities.
That day, I had a choice – whether to stay, or throw in the towel.
And I decide to double down on believing in myself.
The very next day, things start to shift! Friends start calling me to help me. New opportunities begin flowing to me.
And here’s the second lesson about self-doubt: Continue to be authentic to your calling, be persistent and dedicated – and have a ton of patience!
As I reflect on the role that self-doubt has played in my life, I feel a sense of gratitude for the gifts it’s given me.
In a way, it’s helped protect me from taking major risks, and failing miserably. It got me into some of the best schools, and I’ve worked at top companies, in order to secure a doubt-proof resume. It’s also kept me from being truly humiliated.
However, at this point, it is no longer serving me — as I continue growing as an entrepreneur, wife, daughter, sister… I find myself making even more difficult decisions, and needing to be more brave.
I look at some of the great leaders for wisdom.
What if MLK had started writing in a journal, “I have a dream… but, seriously, it sounds a just plain insane! I’ll just keep it in my journal”. What would have happened to segregation in America?
Or what if Gandhi started writing his book, “My experiments with truth” And then thought to himself – Screw it, no one wants to hear my journey!” What would happen to modern-day spirituality and the world peace movement?
Or Malala Yousufzai, after the bullet in her head – what if she said, “I give up! Maybe the universe is telling me to give up on this fight this fight for girls education!”
No doubt, the world would have lost out on these leaders’ insights, their gifts, their vision.
I believe that EACH of us has a unique message to share – that can only be shared through us, in our unique ways.
So how did these leaders overcome their self-doubt, which I’m guessing they had?
First, I realize that it takes a ton of self-compassion, trust, vulnerability, authenticity to follow one’s own vision. And not seeking approval from others.
But there’s also an IT factor that they each have.
They seem to have faith in something greater that’s within them, a power, that’s beyond their human capabilities.
They believed in something deeper – a mysterious, powerful loving force that is beyond our human mind – whether we want to call it Christ consciousness, Buddha, God, universe.
And I realize that in order for me to continue my journey that I CAN have it all – I need to have faith and belief in myself, and a knowing that I can access this power. I need to have faith that I’m not limited to my human form, that I CAN follow my dreams – and that I’m not alone. I’m profoundly supported in uncountable ways!
So I call up my coach and ask her for how I can do this, and overcome my persistent self-doubt.
She says, Sarika, you’ve got to have faith in your unique self! You have to love and accept yourself so deeply – all parts of you, including the good, bad and the ugly!
So I decide to follow her advice.
I’m in Miami, on the beach, looking out at the waves. I’m wearing a white, floral dress with sequence on it. I have flowers in my hair. It’s sunrise, and the seagulls are being boisterous. I’m happy and content.
I call up my husband, and tell him, “Honey, today I’m gonna marry myself! I’m going to love myself, and all parts of me – the good, bad and the ugly!” I can see him laughing and shaking his head, thinking “typical!”
And then I take out my ring and perform this ultimate act of self-love – marrying myself — without a single doubt.