The Danger of Self Doubt

Earlier this week, I got an unexpected email.

Lately I’ve been looking for ways to earn a few extra bucks. It can be difficult to build a freelance client list if you don’t already have connections in place, so I reached out to an old colleague, though not really expecting much. My friend Alex promptly responded with the best words you could hear during a job search, “Send me your resume.”

So Alex has some freelance work. He and I go back and forth about my skills, work experience since our last stint in the office, and what type of work I’m looking for. He then rounds it out with a “That’s great to hear!” and proceeds with general questions for the on-boarding process. So I’m in! Right? As we go down the list, Alex asks me for my tax ID number, of which I do not have. And upon sharing this, the process abruptly stops and I’m left in limbo with an, “I’ll see what I can do.”

In my mind, I’m out. It’s a lost cause. I’ll continue searching for opportunities that aren’t so strict on requirements and I’ll leave Alex to fill his openings with people that are clearly more qualified than I because a tax ID is something that only people who run their own businesses could have. The process is long, hard and tedious, and it’s something I could never attain.

Fast forward 6 weeks and I get an email from Alex’s coworker Brad. “Hey there! Give me a call so we can chat about getting you set up in our freelance system!” That, of course, is great to hear, so I call Brad and we immediately begin the process. Towards the end of our call I realize Brad hasn’t brought up the tax ID issue I’d run across previously, and being the overly thorough person I am, I bring it up. Brad says, “Well, we do still need an EID to get you set up in our system, but…”

“… if you don’t have one, it’s really easy to get.” Oh really? So I ask him how and from our conversation, find out that not only is the process free, but it can be done online in under 10 minutes. Mind blown.

I say that to say, how often we presented with opportunities only to get tripped up by small details that we feel we’re unqualified for? The perfect something-or-other may come along, but because we don’t match it exactly, or it’s slightly different from our expectations we write it off as a loss and settle for less.

I almost missed out on a great opportunity because of self doubt. That one minor aspect of unfamiliarity almost prevented me from growing in my career.

Even worse, I realized that the first time around, not only did I “not know” but I became complacent and comfortable in my “not knowing.” So much so that I didn’t even bother to research how to obtain an tax ID, which would have been quickly rectified with a google search.

So, my nugget of wisdom today is this. Don’t shy away from adversity. Self doubt is crippling and will drag you down at every instance if you let it. If there’s no direct path to a goal, don’t end the journey — find an alternate way to get there. Finding that courage to move forward despite your circumstances is key for progression, and progress, no matter how small, will always leave you in a better position than the alternative.