Et al. presents: On Doubt


unnamed Get ready: here comes a "Matrix" reference. Remember in the first movie, where Morpheus is trying to help Neo unlock his robot-fighting potential? They’re standing on top of a skyscraper, and he solemnly instructs Neo to “let it all go – fear, doubt, and disbelief.” Then he makes a flying leap from the roof of one skyscraper to the next, expecting his protégé to follow.

When I look ahead to graduation, I feel like Neo. I feel like there’s this gargantuan challenge that I need to meet on the battlefield, but I’m sorely unprepared for the fight. At the end of the day, I’m left looking at what looks like an impossible scenario; making the leap from college to the rest of my life seems beyond my capabilities. I can’t help but wonder if I’m really up to snuff.

This self-doubt has less to do with my actual qualifications and more to do with a chronic mindset. I’ve become accustomed to feeling unsure, to second-guessing myself, to being jealous of others who seem to have their ducks in a row. And to an extent, I don’t mind that. It prevents me from settling for the mediocre and the "getting by." I try to consistently look for ways to both improve myself and perfect my plans for the future. But the downside is clear: it’s an exhausting way to go about life, and rarely a rewarding one. It’s hard for me to be satisfied with my own work, and anxiety can sometimes overwhelm me.

Don’t worry, this isn’t all going to be about Ben feeling bad for himself. I think angst can be a great catalyst for writing, but without some lessons learned it reads more like a pre-teen LiveJournal page than a serious column. I won’t torment you with the former, so here are two important takeaways that I’ve come across in the last couple of weeks.

1. As my father walked with me into the bus station on the last day of spring break, I decided to torment him with some of the doubts I’ve expressed above. He listened carefully to my concerns, and then responded with simple but powerful words of assurance: my parents would always be there for me. If need be, he said, I could always move back home, catch my breath, and search for jobs from there.

What’s most valuable about my father’s advice is the idea that there’s always an Option B. I can get so wrapped up in my perfect plans that I subconsciously proclaim any alternative to be something roughly equivalent to the apocalypse. But it’s not. Even if I fail at one thing, even if things don’t go exactly as planned, I can adapt and thrive. That’s what humans do, after all! Which brings me to my second point…

2. Earlier that day, I was sitting in church listening to the pastor’s message. The sermon passage was James 4:13-17, in which James chastises those who confidently plan out the coming years. “Why,” he writes, “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” I imagine him saying this incredulously, throwing up his arms for emphasis. Instead of finding confidence in my own plans, I ought to find comfort in the will of God.

This passage was a comforting reminder for me that even my most brilliantly constructed plans are fallible. To try placing my confidence in products of my own broken machinations will consistently produce more anxiety than anything else. I can find peace by seeing my plans in light of God’s ultimate sovereignty.

Don’t get me wrong – I still feel like Neo, and the gap between the buildings looks wider than it does narrow more often than not. But the considerations I mentioned above have given me some respite from an anxiety that prefers to give no quarter. I hope they do the same for you!

- benjamin.

Questions to ponder:

  1. What are some ways you encourage yourself about the future?
  2. What does healthy confidence look like? (How do you find a balance between self-doubt and narcissism?)