How To Stay Strong When Everyone Doubts You (Including Yourself)


There is a funny thing that happens whenever you try to achieve something special – you’re going to find a lot of doubters. Even though last month was one of my most successful months blogging (in a number of ways), I still have a hard time telling others that this is what I want to do for a living.

That’s because, almost without exception, I always sense some kind of doubt from the other person. Sometimes it is more subtle, like in their tone of voice when they say, “Well, good luck with that.” Other times it is more overt, like when they say, “Yeah…or you could get a real job.”

Yeah, it hurts. A little. Not enough to get me to stop though. I know that no one has more faith in this blog than me. And I know it’s always going to be that way – this is my baby.

Well, actually, she’s not even a baby anymore – she’s a toddler – because the beginning of this month marks my 3rd year blogging. Two whole years being a full-time blogger – that’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but what do I have to show for it? Well, a lot, I would say.

I have posted over 260 posts within that time. Not all of them were great, but many of them I think are very informative and will continue to be informative to others for years to come. I have also gathered over 1,000 subscribers on my new newsletter that I started in January. That is an accomplishment that I am very proud of, because I know not many bloggers have done that.

At the same time, my short history of blogging is rich in failures. But that is what I have come to expect and even embrace. I have failed before, and I will fail again in the future. If I’m not failing every now and then, am I really pushing my boundaries? Probably not.

Over the past 2 years I have experimented with many different aspects of blogging (and in my life more generally), and a good percentage of those experiments have crashed into the ground and exploded right in front of my face. It fucking hurts, but I learn from it, brush it off, and get back to business. This is one mantra that plays out in my head constantly:

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

Thomas Watson

Of course, doubters make failure feel even worse, like pouring lemon juice on an open wound. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes what it takes to develop a thick skin.

Eventually, you come to accept that failure and criticism are natural stages of personal development. They still hurt every time – but you begin to find that they are short-term costs that can transform into long-term benefits. You begin to accept the occasional bump and scratch, but continue on the path anyway. Your scars become battle wounds that remind you of past resilience.

It’s also natural to sometimes question the path you are one and if it is right for you. Maybe you do need to change something. Maybe other people are right when they say your path is leading to a cliff or dead-end. It’s important during these times of doubt to:

  • Reflect on your values. Are you acting in accordance to them, or is there some internal conflict?
  • Examine your wounds. Have they healed and made you stronger, or are they still bleeding?
  • Accept the facts. Are you ignoring or learning new information you find along the way?
  • Look long-term. Are you only after short-term gratification or are your actions a part of a bigger whole?
  • Be ready to fail more. Are you prepared for future obstacles or are you looking for the path of least resistance?
  • Learn how to take criticism. Be actively willing to hear other people’s opinions, even if they clash with yours.
  • Be patient with yourself. Sometimes it takes awhile for things to begin to click, don’t sell yourself before giving an honest effort.

I believe all of these things will make you more persistent in meeting your values or goals.

Undoubtedly, everyone experiences some difficulty. And undoubtedly, you will doubt yourself from time to time.

I remember attending a book signing with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close”). He mentioned how 99% of the time when he writes he’s not exactly sure where it’s heading, but then there is that 1% “eureka moment” where it all seems to come together. I’ve experienced similar eureka moments while blogging. Much of the time there is uncertainty, but every now and then things begin to “click” – and it’s well-worth the wait. You discover a new plateau, and then it’s back to exploring the unknown.

And that unknown will again instill some doubt in you. And you will fail again. And you will find – again – that there are others who still doubt you, and perhaps even wish you to continue failing. And you will be expected – again – to renew faith in yourself. It’s a patten that all growth seems to follow. It’s a pattern that “successful” people learn to recognize and embrace. I don’t believe there is one single “successful” person I know who doesn’t implicitly or explicitly understand this cycle of personal development.

It doesn’t matter what it is you are trying to achieve – become a musician, athlete, artist, writer, accountant, doctor, etc. – all endeavors seem to follow this cycle. And the more special the thing you are trying to achieve, the more criticism and doubt you will have to face.

“Quit now, you’ll never make it. If you disregard this advice, you’ll be halfway there.”

David Zucker

I had to include this quote in my post because it so accurately depicts my attitude. I don’t think it is possible to go through life without critics and people telling you to stop being yourself. While I encourage people to listen to their critics, I also think there is some criticism that is worth ignoring. If someone is telling you something that doesn’t align with your core values, you need to disregard their input and carry on anyway.

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