Doubt can be a lonely and painful state. There are many messages which tell us we “must” be confident, assured, “stop overthinking” and “keep moving forward”.

I’ve noticed though that I’m often uneasy when people are adamant or single-minded about getting through a list of tasks. It seems to me that harm is most often done in those moments.

I distrust the moments of my own red hot certainty that I am right. Which is why I probably distrust the impatience of others who want to rush through, hands on their ears. My body remembers the harm done in that state.

It can be so tempting to have a to do list, tick a box, and shrug off other facts and needs. I grieve the money and resources that are wasted on performing work that doesn’t make the world more wonderful for more people. Saying “I’ve done my bit” is not deeply satisfying for me. One of history’s loudest lessons seems to that blinkered or obedient hard work has a high cost to other people.

I want to honour and celebrate that our bodies know to be wary of other people’s certainty … and even our own. When people around me are rigid with their rightness, and impatient with their “ploughing ahead” energy … I instinctively slow down, want to take in more data, be confident we’re acting with care and aware of the potential consequences of what we’re about to do. 

What I’m celebrating is noticing that I can be more open-hearted about doubt. I don’t have to accept a lifetime of messages about needing to be clear, firm and “moving forward”.

Why? Who says that taking confident action is wisest? In the next 5 seconds around the world, I’d say there are a hundred things that are being done for the sake of someone having peace of mind … but at what price? Safety of children, care for the environment, the health of our bodies,  inefficient use of resources …?

Today, I want to celebrate the wisdom and reality of doubt.

“Yes or No” by John Everett Millais, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery

At the same time, I want to deepen compassion for why it can be so painful to be in doubt.

Doubt often feels lonely. My experience has been that when I share doubts with others, I may feel disconnected and even embarassed or resentful. I may hear: don’t worry … calm down …  back yourself … just put one foot in front of the other … why don’t you do xyz.

I’m remembering why those kinds of responses are so common. When I’m sure about something or feeling time pressured and others aren’t as enthusiastic or supportive as I want, I can feel frustrated and hurt. So I have compassion for why people might respond to doubt by wanting to reassure, fix or brush concerns aside. I want to take responsibility for my own peace of mind, and be clearer about when and how I ask others for support.

Today, I’m inviting myself to make full room for doubt. To notice when it arises. To hear deeply what my inner wisdom and instincts are asking me to consider. If I choose to share it with someone else, I want to be clear about the needs I’m meeting and whether it might also be a contribution to them to hear my concerns.

In her book “Collaborative Intelligence”, Dawna Markova describes the exquisite and connecting wisdom of being in a state of wonder. Instead of telling ourselves we must have answers and look confident, we can reach out to others and invite their perspective … so long as we also know we remain free to make our own choice.

So I’d like to try being in a state of wonder with others.  After fully hearing myself, I might seek out a colleague. I can ask: I’m weighing something up. I think having someone else hear it will help me clarify what’s important. Do you have a deadline at the moment? Or would you be able to listen for a few minutes?

To inspire me, I’m remembering John Everett Millais’s artwork. Yep, doubt is a fact of life … and the answer is rarely a simple “yes” or “no”. There are always other options. I want to welcome doubt as an opportunity to expand into curiousity … to deepen wisdom by listening more fully to the truth of my own body’s sensations and thoughts … to engage my creativity to see what else is possible … and to grow connection with others to hear more of what matters.

Here’s a visual meditation on that artwork. Does it help you find a little more peace with your own times of uncertainty?

With thanks to WordPress for the prompt: doubt.