What the hell am I doing? I woke up nagged by this question today. Two years ago, I quit my job and left the country in search of purpose. On this quest for meaning and enlightenment, I rediscovered myself and gained a great deal of confidence. Yet today I still battle with the voice that tells me I’m not good enough. My coach encouraged me to give it a name, an identity. I called it Stuart, don’t ask me why. It was in one of those tap-into-your-unconscious exercises where you’re challenged to close your eyes, put your mind to rest, and just feel from your gut. I felt the name Stuart.
Stuart shows up about once a week, typically in the absence of sun, in a shitty mental and emotional pattern that halts my progress, sucks my energy, and dims my light. Since leaving corporate America I started cultivating new dreams. I began envisioning myself as a solopreneur, aspiring to create something meaningful that would allow me to make a living while directly impacting peoples’ lives. This desire is so strong within me that it cannot be ignored. It drives me, it excites me, it simply feels right… Until Stuart tries to tell me I don’t have what it takes. I instantly believe him and lazily abandon myself to the overwhelming disappointment. I wallow in the confusion and resign to self-pity. Me, a solopreneur? Who am I kidding?
It takes a lot of courage to build something from scratch, and on your own. Courage takes confidence. Confidence can be irritatingly volatile. Even on my best days, when I feel like hot stuff and virtually unstoppable, all it takes is one rejection, one negative comment even from a random stranger, for Stuart to reinforce his case: You see, you should just give up! Stuart then convinces me that the best thing to do is hide at home and avoid social interactions at all costs. My introvert side celebrates. It’s a great excuse to sink into the couch with whatever comfort food I’m craving at the moment and the latest bingeworthy Netflix series. Sadly, while we all need and deserve these moments in our lives, they are not a good solution for addressing self-doubt. Self-doubt is a lonely place to be.
Here’s what I’ve figured out about loneliness. It accompanies us throughout our lives. And it’s best experienced with low levels of confidence. That said, it doesn’t matter if you have a million IG followers, the best of friends, a perfect partner, or the most supportive family in the world, you will still have to face loneliness. While you can (and should) lean on others and ask for help when needed, the hard truth is that in the end You’re On Your Own. Stuart tried to remind me of this today to deprive me of any lasting shred of fight. I wanted to dispute it. I thought about all the people in my life, those I can call and trust to go out of their way to be there for me, and I thought about the strangers, the infinite number of good souls out there who may be nothing like me yet they’re sharing similar paths, or similar challenges. I have no reason to think that I’m ever alone. Yet the feeling occasionally transpires and I just can’t shake it. So, today I decided to give into it and I quickly realized that I was about to face a great fear. The fear of facing myself. Of having only myself and nobody else to count on. Of myself being enough: good enough, strong enough, whole enough. As Stuart’s voice finally went quiet, I basked in a moment of pride for having had such courage. And the great thing about courage is that it reinforces confidence. Suddenly, I felt empowered. Alone, but not lonely. I recognize I am no master at self-love, but the only chance it has to grow is if I continue holding up a mirror.