Spiritual doubts are one thing.
Self-doubt, or lack of self-esteem, is entirely another.
Both are addictions common in our modern-day culture, though the root cause of each is quite different, and the strategies you use to deal with them are also unique.
We talked about the spiritual doubting recently. Today we’ll talk about the esteem issue.
This was prompted by a blog post that’s probably worth reading: What Can Stop Your Career from Ever Starting. It’s about much more than career; it applies to every aspect of the spiritual path, too. Go check it out and then come back.
When you embark on the spiritual path, you’re being brazen and reckless and foolhardy – at least, by society’s standards. You’re making a broad proclamation that you’re pursuing Enlightenment. You’re shouting out to the world that you’re going to go for it, that you’re going to make the most of this life by doing things that bring light and happiness to yourself and others.
You’re putting a stake in the ground, with a direct statement to the Universe that you’re ready to change.
Once the initial high wears off – once you’ve been coming around to your group for awhile and the newness is gone and you start to realize what you signed up for – then that’s when the doubting may manifest. “You’re going to do WHAT?!” says the inner voice. (Or sometimes your mother.) The pathway to Enlightenment? It sounds a little crazy.
If you’re on a karma yoga path, then you’ll be given assignments and tasks and you’ll have projects to tackle. These are ways for you to grow stronger. A task from a spiritual teacher, properly done, will let you bring light into the world. They are usually big, scary, and intimidating. Tasks offer built-in opportunities for your ego to freak out.
That’s when the self-esteem thing often kicks in.
The same phenomenon happens to anyone trying to do something big, whether it’s get their degree or go for a black belt or learn to play the guitar. “I can’t do it.” or “It’s probably not worth it.” Or just “It’s more work than I thought it would be.”
These reactions are common. They’re to be expected. If you know about them upfront, then you can be better prepared for them when they strike.
One of the most effective ways to counter-attack and slay the self-doubting minions is to talk to someone who’s trying to do the same thing. It’s great if you can talk to someone a little further along the path than you are, but even a conversation with a peer who’s in the same exact boat can help you stabilize and get your center again.
Another antidote is to read an inspiring book — either something like Nothing Is Impossible by Christopher Reeve — you remember, Superman? Who got paralyzed when he was thrown from a horse? Or the more in-your-face form of inspiration from Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin empire) in his quick read Screw It, Let’s Do It. Sure, these books are written by famous people, but they weren’t born that way! They had hardship and strife and whatever challenges that their karma brought them, and they kept truckin’. What sets the winners apart from the also-rans is the successful ones keep at it. They learn how to disregard the naysayers, whether those voices of dissent are coming from the masses outside or from that small nagging inner voice of doom.
It’s normal and natural to struggle with self-doubt. The difference you’ll make in life is how you react to it.