Shining Light on the Shadow of Doubt

Last year provided growth with many areas of riding and advocating. I felt like I was seeing success and growth with my adventures. This year feels even more promising, yet I'm still struggling with a shadow that likes to lurk in the background.

That shadow, is named Doubt.

Looking back over the past few years, Doubt has been the biggest killjoy. It's like walking into a room and everyone looks at you but doesn't say anything.

Just a coy glance, a smile, and back to the conversation with everyone else while you wander around trying to find a group to mix in with.

Doubt takes questioning to the next level. I'm envious of folks who can go into something and not analyze- they just jump right in and get to it. I, on the other hand, have never been like that. I'm observant, I judge, I analyze, and I question. I play scenarios in my head and I try to think of every possible outcome and come up with appropriate reactions and responses ahead of time. That way I've already set myself up simultaneously for success or failure.

Doubt likes to think it has control over you- it will encourage you do what it wants. Doubt feels it has the ability to prevent you from trying new things or challenging yourself to a goal, participating in a race, or applying for a sponsorship/ambassador program.

Doubt says things like-
"You aren't going to be who they are looking for."
"You won't win, so why try?"
"Do you even know what you're doing?"
"Are you sure you can do this?"
"Do you think anyone will care?"
"Are you crazy?"
"Sure ___ can do this, but why do you think you can?"
"Won't you get hurt?"
"Won't you be scared?"
"Won't you look stupid?"
"Won't you feel stupid?"
"You aren't that good."

There are many more phrases that Doubt likes to throw out, and Doubt likes to feel big and make a person feel small. Doubt has a big, booming voice or sometimes a sly, smooth-talking voice that can be quite convincing. Doubt likes to do a lot of talking, and the hard part is figuring out when it is a good time to listen or shut Doubt up.

Quieting the voice of Doubt is not always easy. Sometimes it isn't hard, but other times you feel like you're spending weeks working against it. Second guessing, talking to friends or loved ones, talking to yourself, and simply taking small steps towards proving to yourself that Doubt isn't going to be the one to tell you what you can or can't do.

Doubt will tell you that you can't ride off-road, and it's going to be up to you to decide if you will listen to the voice in your head saying you "can't" or if you'll take the actions to prove to yourself that you "can."

Doubt likes to think it's keeping you safe- yet at the same time Doubt often leads us to avoidance. We shy away from new experiences because it feels scary or unfamiliar- yet if we would step towards those situations with a sense of openness, we could find ourselves having a most enriching experience.

Doubt wants to save you from feeling disappointment- it thinks that if it stops you from trying, that it's better for you. You won't have hurt feelings, you won't feel sad or discouraged- you just won't know what you might be missing out on. You won't apply for something, you won't go to an event, attend a group ride, or you simply won't give something new a shot- all because you would rather stay safe and secure with what you are currently comfortable with.

If you do not apply, you won't have a chance. It's just like the lottery- don't wish for something if you don't even play. Above all, work on not taking rejection personally- which is easier said than done, but look at it as an opportunity continue doing your own thing. Sometimes the freedom of being your own ambassador and creating your own brand is the best route. As an advocate or ambassador of something you love, you have to start somewhere!

If you don't go to an event, you miss out on meeting new folks or seeing new trails. When it comes to events, the fiercest competitor you go up against is yourself.
I have interviewed women who place in the top 5 and I've interviewed women who attend events just for the fun of it. Those who attend for fun have just as much fun as those who win- and both are highly encouraging of seeing more women participate. They want more women to participate because they feel it's good for the sport.

If you do not attend a group ride because of doubt, you have no idea on the fun you'll be missing out on or the ability to connect with other folks who might have felt the same way. Yes, group rides can be tricky in terms of finding a group you'll resonate with- but if you never take a chance, you'll never know. If you're a newer rider some things to look for in a group ride that might suit you are the terms "No Drop" which means folks will stop and wait for you at intersections, etc. "Introductory" or "Beginner" which means those rides are geared to newer riders and will not be possibly as long or technical as "Intermediate" or "Advanced" rides. There are also Co-Ed rides or Women's rides, depending what your area offers- and both are excellent ways to meet like-minded folks who simply want to have fun on bikes. Plus, you'll have more opportunity to learn- sometimes it takes seeing someone else to something to have it "click" or they might be able to explain it in a way that makes sense.

Simply not trying because of Doubt means you are not allowing yourself the opportunity to see what you can do. Doubt didn't just affect mountain biking for me- it affected my entire #bikelife.
From my childhood years until June of 2012- at least 15 years if not slightly more, I avoided riding a bike because of Doubt. Doubt assured me I was safer in my car; that I wasn't cut out for riding a bicycle. It convinced me I would get hurt because I couldn't ride a bike well because I'm accident prone. Doubt told me that I was a fool for thinking I could get around the Trout Run Trail. When it came to mountain biking, Doubt was right there with me saying I was better off not even trying. With blogging, it told me no one would possibly care about what I had to say.

"You're scared."
"You'll get hurt."
"You'll look stupid."
"You think you'll get good at this?"
"Do you even know what you're doing?"

I came to a fork in the road with two doors- Door number 1 had Doubt standing there with all of the comforts of life that make me feel safe and secure. Door number 2 had challenge, fear, uncertainty, and confidence standing around a newly planted tree- all of the things that come together when experiencing growth. What did I want most? 
To grow.
To gain experience.
To be confident.
To tell Doubt to shut it.

The learning process was not without challenge- but the whole point of challenge is to work on overcoming. It's to realize that challenge is what pushes us thru life, it gives us something to work towards. Fear works with Doubt, and they can be boisterous together- being able to find logic behind those feelings and talk them down can grow confidence.

When was the last time you did something you thought you would never be able to do? 
When was the last time you surprised yourself? 
Instead of telling yourself "I can't." "I couldn't." "I'd never.
Start telling yourself "Yes." "I can." "I'll do this." "I won't give up."

Acknowledge your feelings, your fears, and Doubt- but don't let them tell you what you can or can't do. It can be tempting to give in to Doubt and stick with what feels familiar, but with doing so you take away all of the wonderful possibilities of discovering how wonderful growth can be.