The Question I Reflect On In Moments of Self-Doubt

It’s not as exciting as you might assume, but it can be handy when hope feels gone.

3 min readMar 27, 2021
Photo by Mason Kimbarovsky on Unsplash

If you don’t know much about the academic and research environment — it can be full of failures, awkward networking events, intense meetings, and endless denials. Or, if you are familiar with this type of world then your experience is most likely similar to mine. My academic journey has been and still is full of stress and self-learned attempts on how to say “no” to new projects.

But award acceptances and idea sharing through research presentations give me hope that someone else might believe my work is relevant and real. These moments give me hope that I am contributing valuable information for this “gap” in knowledge that we’re all somehow still looking to fill.

There is hope that we’re all making a scientific difference for the betterment of mankind, and it can feel exhilarating!

This hope is the hook. It is what motivates me and has kept me in this demanding setting after all these years.

But when that hope is gone,

when the fear of the unknown starts to creep over,

when I start to question my ideas or feel like an imposter,

and when I’m just not sure whether or not I’m burdening someone with my countless questions…

I need to find a hope substitute. Fast.

For me, hope seems to disappear at moments of great challenge, where self-doubt is the voice in my head telling me to procrastinate or give up. Specifically, when I want to email someone “important” to ask a simple question, when I want to put myself out there, join an organization, or even when I want to pick up a new hobby.

There are times when I can’t seem to find this “hope” (or ambition/desire/connection/whatever your associated feeling is). Somehow it’s as if it never existed. As if I had never been exposed to the hope that I am working towards something great.

To get myself out of this hopeless hole and to get moving again, I have to ask myself something so simple that it feels embarrassing that I had spent the last few hours or days feeling melodramatic, unfit, and not good enough to be where I am or to be putting myself out there.

I have to ask myself,

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

This is a hypothetical question, of course. You’ve most likely heard the question. Maybe you’ve even seen the 2001 movie.

And if you read my story subtitle…well, I tried to warn you.

It’s not thought provoking or even an interesting question (hence the lack of large italicized text feature), but this question has been with me for awhile.

It’s my grounding technique when intrusive thoughts and feelings make a task seem daunting and as if the world will collapse when I click “connect” on LinkedIn.

Oftentimes the procrastination and self-doubt can feel more painful than actually starting or doing that “daunting” task.

This question helps me take that first step — whether it is to introduce myself, take a chance on a job application, and most importantly, when I need to ask for help.

If you have given something a considerable amount of thought and have contemplated how this something might affect others (respectfully), then maybe you owe it to yourself to take that thoughtful risk (e.g. calling the family member you’ve been avoiding or setting your exercise goal to “just” start).

Because what’s the worst that can happen? Being rejected? Being told no? Not being liked? Being told to try again later? Even being ghosted says something — move on or try again.

I know this question is only hypothetical and can seem elementary. People could probably make a long list of terrible things to say. That’s beside the point.

Maybe this simple question can help you in the way it has helped me when hope, energy, or whatever-the-feeling have all secretly planned a mini-getaway vacation.

Sit with it. Try it out. Throw it out. Whatever works for you.




Writes here and there | Gets more excited about reading and commenting on your creative stories | Loves cheesy jokes