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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

The Angel, the Raven, and the Poison of Self-Doubt

Do you have an ugly raven that sits on your shoulder and whispers sweet nothings of negativity and self-doubt into your ear?

Has that raven followed you around from the time you were little, reminding you of your failings and inadequacies, and negating the many things you have accomplished over the course of your life?

Do you keep shooing that raven away, only to find it keeps coming back to perch on your shoulder as if it belongs there?

I do, and that raven was busy trying to bring me down this past weekend.

Now, admittedly, I was vulnerable. I had gone to a funeral of a good friend on Saturday afternoon and hadn’t been sleeping well. Plus, I had been struggling with a scene of a novel that I’m working on, and so in addition to being sad about losing my friend, I was frustrated.

This is typically when the raven of self-doubt decides to strike—when we’re tired and vulnerable.

On Sunday morning, I was up at five o’clock, wide awake, thinking of my lost friend and the things we were planning together that we now couldn’t do … which got me thinking about getting older, and how short and fragile life is, and how I still haven’t achieved many of the things I’ve always dreamed of doing, like being a published author and having a bunch of my books out there.

And there was the raven of self-doubt whispering in my ear–

Well, maybe you’re not good enough.

Maybe you should give up these silly dreams of yours.

Maybe you don’t have what it takes.

Before I knew it, I was feeling utterly defeated. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, let alone going down into my office to fire up the computer and get down to writing as I normally do on weekend mornings.

Now, keep in mind that while I’m no Stephen King or John Grisham, I do have a nonfiction book under contract and am working on two novels that I’m pretty darn excited about. I’ve also had my articles, stories, poems and blog posts published in a bunch of different online and literary journals, so technically speaking, I actually am a published author.

But the raven of self-doubt isn’t a rational bird, and it sure as heck isn’t encouraging.

The voice of that little critic comes from the needy, insecure, perfectionistic ego-mind, which is never satisfied and is always looking for more reasons to justify its existence and prove its own self-worth.

So there it sits on our shoulder, reminding us that we’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, rich enough, whatever enough. Each one of those negative thoughts is a little vial of poison intended to make us feel bad, and when we listen to the voice of the raven and believe what it is telling us, we are dumping the contents of that vial down our throats and voila!

We feel crappy. We feel down.

What happens then, at least for me, is I get in a vicious cycle. Because I doubt myself, I don’t bother to make an effort to go after the things I want. Why bother if I’m not good enough? I then surround myself with distractions—surfing the web, checking my email, doing the bills, anything but what, deep down, I really want to do.

The more I avoid and distract myself, the worse I feel.

And that little raven of self-doubt just sits there on my shoulder smiling victoriously.

But fortunately, we humans have two shoulders, and while the raven takes up one of them, we are blessed to have another bird sitting on the other one.

The other bird has wings too, and the voice of an angel, because it is an angel.

It is the angel of faith, whispering in our other ear, offering us a different, more encouraging perspective—

Don’t listen to that stupid bird!

You’re just as capable as anyone else out there.

All you need is to believe in yourself!

So get out there and give it another try.

Never give up. Never!

Unlike the raven of self-doubt, the angel of faith doesn’t squawk and scream to get our attention. She her words of encouragement act as a powerful antidote to the raven’s vials of poison.

Which bird we listen to is up to us.

And so today, on this first day of spring, I’m going to listen to the angel-bird.

Go away, raven-bird. I have no time for you.

It’s back to the writing table. I have work to do.

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