self confidence

Why You Doubt Your Purpose

You’ve decided your life is going to be different.

Instead of a hollow, empty life like those of so many people, you want something more. Something better. You refuse to reduce yourself to another mindless cog in the machine. You have talent. You want to change the world and affect the lives of the people around you in a positive way. You want to be remembered for the wake of beauty you leave behind.

Most of the time you’re happy with your decision to shrug off the expectations for you to conform. You ignore the herd. Your work is important. What you’re doing matters. It’s your purpose. You’ve found meaning. You’ve chosen your path (or it’s chosen you) and you focus on the things that are important to you.

But even though you’re following your heart and you always put your values first, you still feel the pressure to fall in line; to follow the proven path of “success” that so many people before have taken.

At times you feel unsure about about who you are, what you’re doing with your life and the decisions you’ve made. Deep inside you know the direction you’ve chosen is the one that’s right for you, but when you look at the lives of other people, people who by all appearances have it all figured out, you begin to feel small and insecure.

You’re following your dream but still haven’t quite fully realized that dream. You struggle to make it all work. You work your ass off without recognition, accolades or appreciation. You toil and pour your soul into everything you create only to watch the world ignore your efforts.

You feel pathetic and small. Just a scared little girl who will never amount to anything. All around you the world is filled with smiling happy people who all seem to have their shit together … and then there’s you.

A failure.

You want to follow your dreams but it seems like it’s never going to work. You thought it was going to be so perfect. You knew what you were put on this Earth to do. You knew!!! There was no doubt in your mind when you set out on this journey but now doubt is your constant companion.

Everything about your life is nothing you’d expected it to be. You’re miserable. Nothing seems right. Even worse, nothing feels right.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

You wonder if the struggle is worth it. “Maybe I’m not cut out for this,” you tell yourself.

***

Most of the people in this world ignore their dreams precisely because they’re difficult to attain. Following their passions means sacrificing the comforts of a “secure” life and they convince themselves the struggle isn’t worth it.

On the outside the lives of those people who make you feel insecure all seem so desirable. They “have it all.” But when you look closer you begin to see that they’re not the kind of life you actually want for yourself. Their lives are empty and hollow, just like you knew they were.

You look at your life and see the sacrifices you’ve had to make but you probably haven’t considered what they’ve had to sacrifice to have the things they have; time, freedom, relationships, creativity. You can only see the things they have that you don’t.

It’s hard not to be envious of other people when you compare your failures to their successes. It’s impossible to feel good about yourself when you look at your imperfections under the light of the picture perfect lives they project on the outside. But you’ve probably never thought to question if maybe they envy you and the life you’re living. “Sure,” they say to themselves, “they don’t have everything I do, but at least they’re following their dreams. They didn’t give up like I did.” Maybe they look at their lives and feel exactly the same way you do about theirs. That something in their life is missing. That their life just fucking sucks.

“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself, ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are.

“The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” ~ The War of Art

The work you’re doing matters.

Follow your dreams and do what you love, even if you doubt yourself and you’re scared to death. You’re on the right path and exactly where you should be.

***

Steven is the author of Hundred Goals, a blog (and book) about living a life of purpose and intention. He travels around the world in search of adventure, fun and meaning.

  • http://selfstairway.com/ Vincent Nguyen

    Hi, Steven. This seems very true for what I’ve been experiencing. I followed my passion and began to have doubts a few weeks in (so early!) 

    I doubted my own skills, what I was doing, and whether or not I’d make anything worthwhile.

    Then several days after, I got my confirmation. I was accepted as a consistent contributor on a much larger site, I had many people become active in my community, and people were emailing me positive feedback on their own time! 

    I knew that I was doubting myself for no good reason because it was far too soon. I really was comparing myself to others and became envious because I wanted the success they had.

    Today, I’m getting there. I’m not close, that is for sure, but there is still so much to learn, so much to do. That self-doubt is gone and I’m carrying on closer and closer to success powered by passion.

    • Steven Severson

      I go through moments of doubt and of inspiration. But when I question myself, I know what I want, even if it means struggle. The moments when you ask yourself, “Am I really good enough?” and the answer is a resounding “YES!” are some of the most rewarding times, and they make it worth the effort.

      It does feel good to have people affirm your work, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to be happy with what you’re contributing to the world. Even if people hate what you’re doing, if you’re happy, that’s what matters.

  • Scumbag

    This is sick and sadastic. Stop ghostwriting for the devil

    • http://www.passiveproductive.com/ Sam Matla

      How are you doing, really? Anything you’d like to discuss? Anything on your mind?

  • http://www.passiveproductive.com/ Sam Matla

    I truly think that it’s harder to follow our own path than the one the world sets us. But it’s also easier at the same time.

    Sure, you have to work harder because you have to make more decisions, in the corporate world – there’s not much need for that. If you follow your passion then you’re gonna be happier, it’s a given. 

    Thanks for the motivating and inspiring post!

  • http://www.acalltoaction.net/ Trevor Wilson

    Excellent post.

    The difficulty with making your own path in life is that the road is often unclear. It’s damn near impossible to always be sure of oneself when the way ahead has yet to even be paved.
    But in order to live on your own terms you will need to accept this fear and doubt as a part of your life. There is just no avoiding it.

    Following your passion means taking risk. It means hard work. It means sacrifice.

    The proven road may look so much easier. But it will never lead you as far as the path you forge yourself.

    Cheers!

  • Hanne Bro Jensen

    This sentence “Their lives are empty and hollow, just like you knew they were” is harsh – or is just me?

    • Steven Severson

      I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Do you look for a higher purpose in life than the “average” person who seeks happiness in material objects? Do you wish to define youself based on the impact your life has on others, or how much income or status you’ve attained? Do you derive a certain sense of satisfaction from the car you drive or the difference you’ve made in the world? Are you creating or consuming?

      If you seek a higher purpose in your life, you aren’t going to be satisfied with the kind of life so many people lead. Not because they aren’t satisfied with it, but because YOU won’t be satisfied with it. It will feel hollow and empty to you. You will long for something more. You will be left with the feeling that you aren’t living up to your potential and you will yearn for a life of greater reason.

      So many people live the average consumer lifestyle and are so perfectly satisfied with that. They never give it a second thought. And that is okay … for them. But for those of us who want more out of life, it’s empty and hollow. Just like we knew it would be. For us.

      • Hanne Bro Jensen

        I see your point when you write “you won’ be satisfied with it”. But THEY don’t necessarily believe that their lives are empty and hollow. Just as much as I want to the live how I want to live without being judged by it, I should respect how other people live their lives.

        • Steven Severson

          That’s absolutely true.

          Plenty of people live perfectly happy lives in ways that I personally would find no fulfillment from. It’s not about judging anyone. It’s about what’s right for me, for you, for anyone. Is my way of life (or anyone’s, for that matter) ”better?” Of course not. It’s just different. And while I might find the way many people live to be empty and hollow, they could just as easily look at my life and feel the same way, that my life seems empty and hollow, from their perspective, with their values, filtered through what they believe to be important.

          It just depends what a person wants out of life, what matters to them, what their purpose in life is. I think once a person finds their purpose, the things that matter become strikingly clear. Once a person has that vision, finding comfort and solace in any other way (such as through the aquisition of material possessions, like so many people try) will always fail to bring joy into your life. Maybe for a moment, but that moment will always be fleeting.

          Only by following our purpose and pursuing our dreams can we find true satisfaction. The rest will feel hollow and empty.

  • http://www.smartselfdevelopmentplan.com/ Jantje

    Thank you, Steven! Even though moments of doubt are not fun, I guess they are part of the game. After all, following your passion is not just some easy path, it is a hike on a mountain, with ups and downs. At least in my view. You just need to be sure where you are heading to.

  • http://www.fearlesseverything.com/ Jeff Thomson

    Great post.

    I think everybody who is in pursuit of anything has these doubts from time to time, but it is easy to forget that it happens to everyone because you feel alone in the moment. It’s nice to read a reassuring article like this remind us that these doubts are where great successes come from.

  • http://LindseyHarper.com/ Lindsey Harper

    Wow thank you so much you have no idea what reading this meant to me.  I literally just turned down a world tour singing backup for an amazing artist to stay home and record my own music…. Because it what I feel I was put here to do and I can’t run from it anymore. So thank you.

  • Varsha

     Hi Steven, your article makes a lot of sense to me and at this point in my life, I can so totally relate to it. coz I feel like im going through some sorta quarter life crisis. U see i left a good job mid last year, coz a good friend and ex colleague wanted me to be part of her start up venture into training and development. I thought this would be the best way to explore my full potential as a language trainer. I always wanted to do something more than just work for a company and follow my boss’s orders. so I decided to take the risk, quit my job and take the plunge. I had a very good feeling of this thing working out and making it big and I really knew I was following my heart. But its been about 8 months now and no great work has come my way. Im jobless, cashless (husband supporting me tho’) and really dont know wot to do next. I’m totally lost. I suddenly dont know what i want to do with my career. Should I go back n look for a job? should i change my field altogether? if so then what would that be?

    I feel so downright demotivated! im scared to death, taking these steps, feel like ill have to start from scratch again! Im so tensed. Sometimes I feel like I just wanna run away from all this. I dont wanna give up on my dream, of doing my own business, but i have no clue how to go bout it. Pls help! what do u think I should do. Do i need career counselling?

    • Steven Severson

      What should you do?

      It depends. Are you pouring your heart and would into this? Are you giving it everything you’ve got? Are you absolutely committed to your work? Do you show up every damn day? If you answer “yes” to these questions, keep working. If you’re not absolutely dedicated to your work, quit.

      There is a difference between a purpose and a hobby. You have to make that differentiation in your mind. What is what you’re doing? Would you be happy doing it in your free time or do you feel like your life would be empty if you weren’t doing it?

      Think about these things and come to a decision. Make a choice and go from there. If you decide to follow your dream follow it, with ruthless intention. Don’t just show up from time to time. Put in the work, be dedicated to it.

      • Varsha

         well the answers to all ur questions for me are a ‘no’. Im not quite into this thing. I feel like im dragging someone else’s dream. Maybe im chasing the wrong dream. Thanks for making me rethink my decision. Im gonna now try figuring out what I really love doing!

    • Karen Sargent

      Hi Varsha

      I wanted to acknowledge your courage to take the leap and start building your own business. 

      Your story is the part that we don’t get to hear that often – the struggle and the challenge and the hard work it takes to actually get the place we dreamt of. The reason why many people choose to live safe but unfulfilling lives.

      Even though you describe yourself as ‘jobless and cashless’ it seems that you have a supportive husband and at least 1 friend who wants to succeed on her own. It’s a great place to start from. 

      It sounds like you need to take a break from your efforts. Spend a weekend doing something you enjoy and promise yourself not to even think about our business. Tiredness and stress are killers of creativity and fodder for self-doubt.

      I get the sense that you’re in ‘all or nothing’ thinking mode. “I either make this work or I give up.” There are many other options in between. Could you get a part-time job while you work on your business? Could this part-time job introduce you to great contacts that will help you make strides in your business? Is there a different angle you could take? Do you know anyone who has a similar business who’s being successful? Where could you find them? Is there another skills you could use to help you earn some money in the meantime?

      Keep in mind that this is the first time you’ve tried to start a business – you’re still learning, you’re in ‘apprentice’ mode. Give yourself the time and space to develop your entrepreneurial skills.

      I wish you the persistence and the perseverance that will help you get there.

      x

      • Varsha

         Hi Karen,

        Thanx so much for ur encouraging words. That was the best motivation I got today and felt so much better after reading it! I will take my time to really discover my true purpose and give myself the time to hone my skills. U r so right about stress being the killer of creativity. Its really not worth it. I’m really lucky to have a husband who supports my decisions. That gives me all the time to explore myself and experiment with a few choices. Thanx :)

  • Karen Sargent

    What a great post. It’s so unfortunate when people with talent and courage to follow their dreams beat themselves up because they compare their whole life with a small part that someone else wants them to see. 

    I loved your quote from the War of Art – I haven’t read it yet but I think I might have to

  • http://twitter.com/JackGrabon Jack Grabon

    I appreciate your directness in this post. I agree with you that we tend to compare what we see about others on the outside with how we feel inside. While we don’t often think that others may be envious of us for “going the distance,” I think the most important thing is that we continue forward with what seems most important and try to be fulfilled with the journey, even if we’re forever a leader with no followers.

  • http://twitter.com/mattabraxas Matt Abraxas

    As a full-time artist/illustrator, I know the battle of self-doubt, especially when the inflow of money doesn’t reflect the outflow of my work. Building passive income is my answer for now, leaving me room to focus on my true skills. That, and diligently not comparing myself to others.

  • http://www.saysaga.com/ Selim Yeniceri

    A perfect subject, which I experienced completely, from failure to success. And trust me, Steven, the thoughts and emotions were just like you explain here. I had a friend once. We both wanted to become rock stars; at least nationwide, even not internationally. We promised to each other that whoever goes up first, he would pull the other. He joined a contest ten years ago, and made it second. However, he became an actor on some TV series instead of making rock music. Moreover, he chose conformity, and became famous as a pop star. He also forgot his promise to me.

    Frankly, I always asked myself what I couldn’t do while he did? I envied him, honestly. And I was confused, broken, because I still remembered the days I helped him for learning how to play guitar in his early days.

    In the meantime, however, I became quite successful as a book translator and author. I think I’m one of few among my generation now… even worldwide, yeah. Just a year ago, we met and were having dinner together somewhere outside. My friend’s popular days were alrady in the past, and people knew his face, but didn’t remember even his name, so they would mention of him with the name of one of the characters he acted ten years ago, which was his only hit. He had made a pop-rock album, but it didn’t sell well. And during our dinner, he said something quite unexpected:

    “You know, people know my face, but not who I am. They don’t know your face so well, but they know your name. I wish I were in your place.”

    I was shocked, because I always thought he had a life beyond his wildest dreams. It seemed I was all wrong. And strangely enough, he ended our friendship, not me.

    http://www.saysaga.com

  • http://twitter.com/SuzanneJonesBiz Suzanne Jones

    I have definitely felt this way before. I have gone my own direction only to get pulled back in…my instinct has always won over though and I always veer back to where I am directed. Sometimes it just seemed easier to give in and do what everyone else is doing. I’m glad however, I didn’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001521285425 Adam Frederick

    I think too many people strive for this imaginary perfect life that’s filled with happiness everyday. This i what is portrayed on television and until you realize life is strife and its not perfect at all, you can’t transform through the worst of times. A year and a half ago my wife and I were blessed by the birth of our daughter. The delivery didnt go as planned, she suffered from a traumatic delivery and as a result has severe brain damage. I’m now living a life that I once feared more than death but I have thrived as an individual through this time. I have transformed into someone new that is happier than ever before and it’s been through some of the worst imaginable times of my life. You can grow through anything once you just stop acting like a victim and face whatever obstacle you are dealt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      I have to agree. The worst times in my life are what have made me the strong person I am today. No one wishes for bad things to happen, but when they do (and eventually bad things will happen to us all) we can crumple under pressure or rise to the occassion and gain even more strength.

  • Gwyneth Jones

    Thank you! That was beautiful. I try to inspire the same feelings in the people I work with, and yet fight my own self-doubt all the time. It’s hard to strike out on our own when we’re surrounded by people who just want to get a job (any job), make money, watch TV and spend all their money at the pub, but ultimately “the calling” inside you will not be silenced. Fighting it and living the life you feel you “should” will only turn you into another zombie-eyed minion, and for what? How many people say, on their deathbed, “I wish I’d worked longer hours?”

    http://makelifemagic.blogspot.com