Your Self-Doubts Are Never Going Away — And That’s Okay

Confronting the tyrannical inner “no” head-on

Amy L. Bernstein
Irrelevant Matters
Published in
6 min readAug 22


Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Decades ago, I enrolled in a course on instructional leadership that was offered at work to anyone interested in joining the agency’s roster of in-house instructors.

I wanted this, badly. My regular professional duties were stifling and I hoped this opportunity to share my expertise would break up my routine and raise my profile.

But powerful forces interfered.

When it was my turn to deliver a practice lecture — videotaped by the instructor in front of a roomful of others taking the training — my senses went into overdrive.

My heart raced and I struggled to catch my breath. As the camera rolled, my voice quavered and rasped. I could barely keep my thoughts in order.

I was on the verge of losing control over my body and my intellect, fighting my way through every second until, finally, the ordeal ended.

As you might guess, I experienced a low-level panic attack compounded by a crisis of confidence.

More episodes like this followed over the years. I struggled to understand my split personality: confident in my raw ability to do “gold star” work on the one hand, and totally incapable of projecting that confidence on the other.

I wasn’t aware at the time of the many ways to prevent or treat a panic attack, ranging from breathing exercises to ongoing therapy.

But years later, I perceive the source of the dichotomy (I’m strong! I’m weak!) as something deeper than an insufficient or inconsistent supply of courage, which often gave rise to panic.

The culprit is doubt.

Two minds, undecided

You may think doubt is just shorthand for a lack of self-confidence. But I believe that doubt is a deeper, more subtle, and more pernicious condition — like the low hum of a fluorescent light — that shapes and pervades so much of who we are and what we choose to do, or not to do.

The word doubt is derived from the Latin dubitāre, linguistically rooted in duo (two), with a sense of “two minds, undecided between two things.”



Amy L. Bernstein
Irrelevant Matters

I write stories that let you feel and make you think. Fiction, essays, poems. Whatever the moment — or zeitgeist — requires. More at