Doubt Matters to Your Success, and Here’s Why
It was the summer of 2012, and I had just pitched the idea for a site that I believed could change women’s narratives forever to a mentor of mine. Excited, terrified, breathless, I laid out the idea to the mentor, and she’d responded after a delay that lasted a moment too long: “Huh.”
It was the first of many doubtful responses I would get to the idea in the coming months, guttural replies that followed with question like,
“Do you think you’re the right one to do it?”
“Are you going to be able to manage it?”
I was freshly 21, eager to change the world, and impatient to do it. Their doubt didn’t phase me — my doubt did. I knew it was possible — but there was a tiny troll inside me, nagging me to keep it small. Start small, it said, what if you really can’t manage it?
I believed the troll, fed its voice as I launched the platform with a modest goal: make it difficult to ignore Muslim women’s voices in the media. Personal frustration lit the fire under my ass to do it, pushed me to pitch the idea over and over to friends, friends of friends, people who might marginally be interested in writing just one story! I promise, it’ll be quick for the site. Time and time again, I found myself facing a blank stare with my request. Doubt, over and over and over again, that there was the capacity for something like this, that women even had the potential to shift the massive media industry, that I was even the right one for the job.
I found myself shrinking sometimes, letting the doubt feed at my corners. But with every moment I shrank, I took two steps forward, feeding off of the hesitation those around me felt.
It happened when I built the team, recruited passionate, dedicated individuals who believed in our potential to change the world. We were idealistic, unsure of where the hell we were going, but hurtling in the direction we had an inkling might be the right one. We let the doubt grease our tracks, let it push us into making experimental decisions and original content — because if you’ve already thrown your deck of cards in the air, what do you have to lose?
We hit walls. Walls after walls after walls of doubt. Amidst the lows that the doubt brought, I grasped the highs that came with collaborating, creating and innovating with my co-founders, each just as crazy as me about what this could be, and our team. They helped keep me grounded and kept us unshackled as we started facing external pressures to shut down and go home.
The doubts stopped holding us back one day, because we’d gotten too many pauses, doubtful looks and re-assessments of our potential. Something snapped overnight. And when it snapped, we grew tenfold — no holds barred.
2014 was the first time we went viral. The first time we weren’t just any site. And 2015 was the moment the team decided to do something crazy: subvert media by amplifying the voices and stories of minority millennial women.
It was easy for the “huh” to come out of people’s mouths, because hesitation was easier, than belief in something bigger. What could these women under the age of 30 do that others haven’t already? What’s the point? Do they even have a chance?
But it didn’t matter anymore. None of it mattered, because we refused to take the doubt into consideration anymore. There was no other way but forward, and anyone who stood in that way with their “huh” was no longer relevant.
I used to stay up late at night, nerves frayed over the doubt others expressed. It fed into doubt that I used on myself, but there was a moment where that all changed. Recognizing where that doubt was coming from — insecurities, jealousy, you name it — meant that it was that much easier to use it to my advantage.
Because it’s easy to doubt. It’s harder to do.
It’s easier to hold yourself back. It’s more difficult to throw yourself into the ever-consuming vortex life can be.
It’s simple to throw your arms up when you feel broken, torn apart and hopeless. But it’s so much more gratifying to keep going forward.
Doubt means nothing in the face of tenacity. It’s when you give it the time of day that you hold yourself — and your initiative, whether that be a new job, degree, or company — back.
These days, I welcome doubt. I feed off of it. It’s exhilarating to barrel through the latest excuse for us, because there’s no other way out but forward.