Meditations on doubt

“It was okay to be wrong, as long as it was funny.”-Lewis Black

Lately I have been working on writing–a LOT- and I have finally created a list of 10 classes I would like to bring into the world. This doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Lots of people teach classes and write stuff. But I am not interested in teaching herbalism 101 right now. I am proposing classes such as: finding your movement practice, play therapy, exploring the mind-body connection, the healing power of humor, critical thinking for herbalists and obstacle courses as a metaphor for life. It is not always what others are looking for–or, to be more specific-they don’t YET know they are looking for it! And the proposal process is hard for me, the need to sell myself, to make myself into a brief bio, to convince others that i CAN do it, that I will show up and kick ass…even though I am in many ways self-educated, loud, working class and still a little rough around the edges.
Presenting these classes and this writing feels personal, to me, and though I value constructive criticism very highly it can be hard to hear-and I can be my own worst critic. I can be cheerfully walking along and BAM! in comes a moment of doubt. Am I doing the right thing? Can I pull this off? Should I stay in a “safer” zone? And why am I so driven to push my own and others’ boundaries anyway?!? Wouldn’t it be easier to just teach how to make a salve, or write about love and hugs, or just get a nice hairdo and take a job at the mall?
And this is doubt, which can be both a blessing and a curse. As a person who thinks a lot, and I love to think, it sometimes gets to be a little bit too much steam and rolls my ass over. All gifts, paths and talents have a darker side. Thinking is a tool and I can use it as such-to build a piece of writing or a great class. But, like a hammer which can build a home or build a protective wall, knock down barriers or destroy a work of art–my doubt can either push me into a new level of effort or send me back to my cave of worry.
I do believe that most of us have some fear, some self-doubt inside and it is very easy to let that rule us, to be an excuse for not pushing ourselves further, for not getting up in front of a group of strangers and spilling our guts. I wonder how we can use this doubt, to accept our imperfections and rejoice in them, and to avoid getting stuck in circular thinking like quicksand? When I get stuck in the depths I look around, I open up and I hear an amazing song, I read a mind-altering piece of writing or watch someone else succeed despite their struggles and challenges. I look to my friends, to nature and to my heroes and examples to show me the way.
Because doubt does speak, and it says to me that maybe I am pushing some of my boundaries. It says I am going somewhere and that has a risk, as putting oneself “out there” is opening oneself up to others’ opinions and criticisms. It says shit or get off the pot. It says stop being so self-indulgent and that noone else is as worried about my pants falling down mid-class as I am! And it says own it, commit, use that doubt like a judo move and turn it around, see the humor, see the lineage of doubt and use that sharp edge to rip up the chrysalis and emerge! Moments of great discomfort can precede moments of great breakthrough and genius emerges best for me in dark moments rather than cheerful times.
I will be a good example and not a cautionary tale, I will take a moment of self-care for the little girl inside of me who still holds onto my fears and I may not succeed at this new endeavor but it sure as hell won’t be from lack of trying.
note: Muchlove to those who ARE teaching herbalism 101 and/or how to make a salve. You are doing important work. It is just not my path.

7 thoughts on “Meditations on doubt

  1. My experience has been that when I choose to speak about my fear and doubt, it is incredible how much power is lost in that moment. It is almost like, OK, I said it out loud and I am still here. There have been other times where I was almost paralyzed but had to keep taking baby steps. I have a friend that reminds me to “Do it scared!” Something else that has helped me is to remember that I am not trying to reach millions of people (the Oprah show maybe?) but just the ones that are ready. And yes, sense of humor!!! If I cannot laugh at myself, I am missing the best joke of all (borrowed from another friend). I enjoy your quirky, in your face style.

  2. I love this entry, traci you are a brilliant thinker and writer.
    AS someone teaching fairly basic level herbalism, and basic to advanced nutrition I will welcome your critical thinking course to refer my students to. But I also hope oneday to offer out of the box courses as well, starting with the shadow side of working with animals – misanthropy, reclusiveness, anger, helplessness (I touched on this in my last PHM article).I just think people need the positive, hopeful outlook to get started, most need to ease into the shadow work – and that includes doubt .Inevitably when it hits, there are not many resources, and I for one hope you keep addressing doubt and shadow, because it needs to be addressed on every healer’s path – I would say on everyone’s path, irrespective of whether you’re a herbalist or not.And no one I know does this with such clarity, compassion, balance and grace as you do.

  3. Thanks, I agree!!
    Great quote. I always say, when I think I can’t do it—“You ARE doing it!”

  4. Hi Traci,
    Great post – I highly recommend Brene Brown’s books _I thought it was just me_ and The gifts of imperfection.
    I grew up working class, dropped out of school to basically party, worked as a waitress/bartender for 20 years while taking ten of those years to complete various degrees. I am ended up teaching at a community college among people with very different backgrounds and so your wonderful post resonated deep inside of me. Best of luck – the most important thing I learned: by being myself, rough edges and all, many of my students and some of my colleagues truly came to admire me for being true to the bone. I will take that compliment over anything else. And I would send it your way…

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