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How I'm Debilitated By Career Self-Doubt | Matt Sloan
self-doubt man sitting on ice with mountains in distance

How I’m Debilitated By Career Self-Doubt

Blog The Shadows at Sunrise

By the time you’re 30, you’re supposed to know who you are, right? Things are pretty much meant to be on track with just a few exceptions?

I’ve been doing some heavy soul searching lately, driven largely by a depression-centric feeling of time being wasted, the hours and days and weeks ticking away until inevitable death. I know, that’s pretty grim, but it’s how my mind has worked for a long time. It’s been an especially defining factor since my dad’s death, and only got worse as I spent the majority of my 20s in a depressive stupor.

I always said I wanted to be published by the time I was 30. At the same time, I’ve questioned my own ability and choice to write. Writers speak of writing the way non-writers speak of breathing: it’s something you have to do. It’s something your life is centred around. It’s something all-encompassing and essential. The same is said for reading. “Why do anything else when you can read?”

I watch friends, acquaintances, and total strangers measure their success by how many words they have written; how many short stories they have published; how many books they’re able to read in a year.

Me? I’ve barely written in years. I’ve had a three flash fiction pieces published by smaller publications and a competition, but the last one was maybe four years ago and now the short fiction well seems to have dried up. I’ve read maybe two books a year for the past… well, you get the point.

If you’re reading this thinking I’m just whining, self-pitying, or maybe lazy, then I ask you please reconsider what I’m saying. That’s not the case at all. In fact, as I type this, I’m using it as a way to try and figure out what’s rattling around my head. This is stream-of-consciousness, and I’ll likely publish it without editing. My point is, I don’t know how much of this is fuelled by depression, and how much is fuelled by my own lack of desire.

And that’s just it — I don’t know if this is what I desire.

I’ve written a novel, true. I have ideas for two other novels, one of which is pretty fleshed out. I’m desperate to have The Shadows at Sunrise published. I miss reading but find it so difficult to pick up a book. Problem is, I’m also debilitated by the work. I look at The Shadows at Sunrise, and despite having a publisher interested, I wonder why they ever would be. I can’t believe the compliments others give me. Sometimes, I wish I could shake those who pay me compliments and ask why they don’t see how shit it all is. How derivative. How bland.

Another dream desired is to work in gaming, somehow. I love gaming. I love the games industry. I also love streaming on Twitch, when anxiety has allowed me to do so. That’s been sporadic, and attempts to return to it are marred by indecision and doubt and fear that what I’m doing is just, well… more of the same. I watch streamers I know become affiliates, and as happy as I am for them, that old self-critical voice returns to deride and compare me. But I love the idea of being a Twitch streamer, and making a living from it, and watching my audience grow and building a community of people who support one another, and hang out, and have fun. I’ve purchased equipment and Photoshopped graphics and set aside a room in our house as a dedicated streaming room, but when it comes to the actual streaming…

And then there are the other hobbies. Drawing, astronomy, a fascination with folklore… all incapacitated by doubt and time.

I was in the garden today, letting the dog out, and something hit me — the heart, perhaps, of all of this. You see, I was bullied for a long time. All I ever wanted though — all I ever want — is a chance to prove myself. Working in retail, I begged for a better position with more responsibility. In my current job editing for The Mighty, I’m desperate to do more.

I think what drives me is not any one dream — not writing, nor gaming, nor building a successful career — but a desire to be respected. That’s all I want, I think — to be respected for my accomplishments by my peers. That’s what pulls me in these different directions.

And yet… why respect me? Why should I deserve anyone’s respect?

So I’m frozen by this — marred in the sludge of self-doubt, doing nothing but wishing I could be writing and wishing I could be streaming. Wondering how I could ever do both while maintaining a 40-hour job — a job I am so thankful for, yet crave more from. The paradox continues.

Writing. Gaming. Editing. I’m pulled in these different directions and frozen between them all, watching the time tick away.

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  • Miranda kate
    December 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Oh gosh. Self-doubt brings with it self-sabotage too, and a host of others. The only thing that combats self-doubt is self-love and self-compassion. Then you might be able to start getting some self-belief going and start being able to know for sure what you want to do. I now know that when I start questioning if writing is for me, I am feeling self-doubt and not loving myself right, ie. believing the can’t’s and not the can’s. It’s tricky and really hard to hit a balance.

    I still find setting goals helpful – small ones, and moveable ones (got to feed the procastination! ;-)) but it was something I was taught in therapy to do. Write a list of all the things I wanted to do in life – no matter how far fetched – then pull out a couple of realistic ones, and then break them down into steps and see that they were manageable.

    The less overwhelmed I am by something I want to achieve, the more likely I will do it. With writing I no longer think about the end goal, I only think about now and today. What I can do this day. And that way I started to achieve small steps and then I could start feeling as though I was achieving something. Then I knew I could, and then I managed to find a positive way to encourage myself.

    Baby steps Matt. But I hear you, feel you, and understand you. xx

    • Miranda kate
      December 19, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      And bear in mind I’ve had 6 years of therapy recently (stopped in 2014) and also in my early 20s and I never stop using self-help books. I even have my own blog. findingyourcalm.blogspot.nl
      I’ve just done one on limiting beliefs, and am putting on together on self-sabotage. But there are some up there on self-belief too.