I remember exactly where I was standing when my best friend loudly pointing out that the plates her family uses every day were the same ones my family saved for special occasions.
My only response was in my body, my toes quietly shifted inward trying to touch each other for comfort.
I had always known that my family was not wealthy like hers. Privilege is a very particular type of elephant in the room, one that is often invisible to those who have it. My friend wasn’t trying to be mean, she was just a kid making an observation that she didn’t understand was hurtful.
To be clear, my family wasn’t poor, we just weren’t wealthy. My parents were able to supply me with clothes if I needed them and a used car when I got my license. If I wanted anything extra, I saved up money from my part-time job.
My best friend’s family could afford to buy her designer clothing, a BMW, and a college education in Europe.
Since kids don’t understand class distinctions, I did feel socially poor in comparison to my best friend. And doubt was always there, trying to guide me through those complicated feelings of inferiority.
My doubtful feelings weren’t there to show me that my best friend was bad or cruel. These feelings of discomfort were specifically designed to help me tune into my psyche and my emotional needs. Had I understood how to listen to doubt, I could have spoken up when her actions made me feel embarrassed or resentful.
When we understand doubt, we see that it’s so much more than an emotive system telling us to “steer clear!” and avoid pain. It’s an intuitive response that can also mean: speak up, stand your ground, or make clearer boundaries.
My best friend Theodora loved me fiercely and when our friendship ended it felt like I was going through a platonic divorce.
Perhaps if I had understood the true meaning of doubt, and used doubt for the powerful tool it is, we would still be friends. Instead, I responded in the human way that many of us do.
I rationalized my doubts so that I could ignore them. I tuned out the intuitive feelings doubt created in my body. By the time we were adults, years of pent up anger turned into altercations.
As our relationship approached its expiration date, I felt only anger and bitterness. There was no friendship left to salvage, but in the years that would follow our break-up, I would realize that I had made big contributions to our relationship’s demise.
Doubt Is Your Personal Trainer, Showing You How To Love Yourself
How many times does your body, intuition, or gut talk to you? And for how long were you choosing not to listen?
I beleive our intuition isn’t just our gut instinct, but a collection of feelings and inner truths that come together to guide us towards our highest self. Doubt is one of these intuitive voices.
The nagging feeling of discomfort or anxiety that accompanies doubt is actually a compass with one profound function. It is trying to get us to discover what our needs are so that we can honor them.
When I am honoring my needs and boundaries, I’ve found that doubt rarely rears its uncomfortable head.
Each human’s experience on this earth is one of a kind and our doubts are just as unique as we are. Which is why listening to them can have such a positive impact on our growth.
Cary Valentine, a renowned relationship coach, goes so far as to decree that doubt is our personal trainer, showing us how to love ourselves. Which in turn helps us love the people around us.
Doubt, as your inconvenient coach, shows up when a situation just doesn’t work for you.
Everyone else could be completely at ease, but your spidey-senses are tingling. When we learn to lean into that sensation, rather than ignore it, we are actually tuning in to messages from our higher selves.
Now we have the opportunity to discover what isn’t serving us about a job, situation, relationship, or any other life event that crosses our path.
We can ask important questions that uncover why our emotive response to a situation was doubt as opposed to excitement, tranquillity, or safety. Illuminating what we must explore about ourselves before moving forward with power and purpose.
Doubt is one of the best compasses we humans have to navigate the unpredictability of life.
Even reflecting on doubts of the past is a wonderful personal trainer. Reflection is the water that old doubts need to blossom into breakthroughs.
Chances are the doubts we’ve been ignoring aren’t really that old anyway. Like any good coach, your doubts will grow bigger, louder, or more uncomfortable the longer you ignore them. Doubt wants you to do the work, to dig deep, and discover what you need to thrive.
The trick is to learn how to interpret your doubts so that this feeling can start serving you.
Loud Doubts Reflect A Lack of Boundaries
Have you ever created a Boundary Database?
It was an exercise I began once Theodora had evaporated from my life. The pain of that platonic break up made me realized that I had been emotionally unbalanced.
I didn’t know what my boundaries were, and in turn, I allowed a beautiful friendship to quietly morph into doubt and resentment.
I didn’t want another fulfilling friendship to crumble while I stood idly by. So I did an emotional audit of my life, and realized that the only concrete things I knew about myself where what I didn’t want.
I was harboring doubts about my choices, my relationships, and my values. They were so loud that I had trouble discerning how I wanted to move forward.
So I decided to write them all out, and then categorize each doubtful feeling so that I could start identifying my triggers. This exercise showed me that the majority of my doubts arose because my boundaries were being violated.
Doubts help us understand what isn’t working for us, which helps us create boundaries. Upholding boundaries is an instinctive ways we honor ourselves, our needs, and our potential.
Knowing your boundaries means that you recognize what you do not want, do not like, or will not tolerate.
Maintaining your boundaries is a magical practice that makes room in your life for what you like, what helps you grow, and what promotes our own personal values.
I had no idea what my boundaries were, which was why Theodora kept accidentally trampling over them. If I wanted to ensure that this negative cycle didn’t continue, then it was time I discovered what my boundaries were.
So I created a boundary database.
A Boundary Database Only Needs Four Columns.
- Bodily Response
- Boundary Discovered or Honored
- How It Felt To Uphold Your Boundary
When I was creating my database I was very particular on how I made each column. I didn’t just want a surface-level understanding of my doubts and I didn't just want an endless list of boundaries.
I wanted to be able to track how my body responded to situations I needed to change so that I could listen better.
I wanted to remember how it felt when I was making my needs a priority so that I could form that habit.
Those two columns are actually thought exercises that I used to create a strong foundation for my boundaries.
By digging just an extra inch deeper, I gained the perspective I needed to uphold my boundaries in tough situations. Showing my doubts that I understood and applied their message.
A boundary database is a living document that you can use for the rest of your life. Mine lives on Google Spreadsheets so that I always have access to it.
Tuning Into Your Doubts Is The Difference Between Suppression and Expression
When your first response to doubt is the recognition that you get to tackle a new obstacle and learn about yourself, you are in a powerful place.
It doesn’t mean that we are perfect all the time. Doubts are complicated, wacky feelings. They can be just as obtuse as our minds. The trick is to remember that doubts exist to help you live a healthier life. One of mental dexterity and clarity.
While my friendship with Theodora ended, the lessons I gained from that friendship live on. Helping me develop a powerful tool that positively impacts my life and relationships. And who knows, maybe someday we will be friends again because we’ve learned from past mistakes.
Crazier things have happened.
Nadège is a sexuality scholar and spiritual mentor who uses her knowledge to bring warmth to heavy topics. Stay up to date with all her sexy new discoveries here.