When Push Comes to Shove: Beyond a Shadow of Self-Doubt

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IMG_2615  Scott Todnem
“Fear is wisdom in the face of danger.” – Mark Gatiss via Sherlock Holmes

I remember being afraid of the dark as a kid. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the run-of-the-mill mind tricks that most children go through.

The unknown. Always the culprit of fear, isn’t it?

Basements seemed creepy, forests held hauntings, and every day items would be made into bedroom shadows. The five-year-old brain is no match for the unknowns hidden in the dark.

Some childhood nightmares still stand out, all these years later, but there is one in particular that cements itself in the shadows of my memory. And it came to me as an adult.

There was a time when I kept a pen and notebook on my bedside stand. The goal was to record all those midnight thoughts that seem so intensely important… and also to recall dreams and nightmares to relive the brain’s strangest moments.

I had a dream one night that took me into a jolting and enlightening encounter with a ghost. It was so realistic that it jarred me from deep sleep. Upon waking in the dark hours of the middle of that night, I quickly jotted down a couple lines of scratchy, half-complete thoughts. Configured into full sentence form in the morning, they left me with the beginning of what sounded like a future movie script right there in my journal:

You figured out why ghosts exist.
They come to us, not the dead, not strangers from the past, but as ourselves from the future.

Unreal. I had just unveiled a paranormal mystery the likes of which were awe-inspiring, to say the least. I decided not to tell anyone. Well, until now.

I replayed the nightmare in my mind. “That’s right,” I thought, “the staircase…”

Vividly replaying my dream, I sat on my bed, head in my hands.

I was in a spiral staircase and walking up towards a brightly lit and indiscernible scene. It was a stony room, cold and dark and musky and a bit like an old garage. While tentatively heading up the stairs, I was suddenly pushed by an unknown force, somehow pulled backwards as well, my arm a tug-of-war rope, me losing the battle. I swung around to face my monster and saw a faceless ghost in a willowy near-float.

Push came to shove. I punched hard and fast directly into the place where a face should be. In a flash, I was flung forward, chest first into a vision, like warp speed in some sci-fi flick. The vision was a scene from a different time, my mind knew, and I saw myself, there ahead of me, my own body lying curled up on the ground, beaten down by someone or something. Dead? Was I dead? I closed in for a better look.

But that was it. That was when I woke up.

Ghosts are just us, I recounted. We are warning ourselves of something. Something… in our own future.

It is this dream, this idea, that serves as the basis of the full-length novel I’m currently working on. Man, do I hope I do the original concept some justice.

• • •

The world is a scary place. Childhood fears have evolved, however, from unnecessary worries in the dark to an adult life full of potential violence and injury and disease and, well, more unnecessary worries.

Violence? Injury? Disease? Fear is wisdom in the face of true danger. But our self-doubts are no more than shadow puppets within the mind.

Case in point: this website.

With these words, I reach my two-year anniversary of writing for this here blog, prompted by random idiom topics that have garnished monthly interest.

Twenty-four pieces about various topics in life. The goal was always simple: to carry on writing, to gain experience in the craft of storytelling, and to overcome the fear of putting myself out there for the world to see. Writers write. So therefore, I wanted to do just that.

Besides other writing pursuits, namely poetry shorts, motivational memes, fitness articles, and the lofty goal of writing a novel, this blog has been a constant that, for the most part, was easy enough to drop some thoughts into each month. And then force myself to move on.

I never wanted to stress over a post or story. I wanted to get some words down on the page, reflect on the process, and look ahead.

Initially I invited a few other writers to join in the monthly challenge, and then at the one-year mark I included a bunch more. Many joined, but then many stopped. Okay… many = all. Understandable, since, well, 1) we aren’t getting paid to do this, and 2) life gets busy. With other priorities, other interests, and even other outlets for writing, it’s no wonder things like this take a back seat.

Meanwhile, I realized something existed in many other writers, and quite possibly much of the public for that matter, that I didn’t fully know was present in anyone besides myself: self-doubt. Sure, we all go through adolescence and high school cliques and questions of popularity and blah blah blah, but I guess I didn’t realize we are always a bit self-conscious. All of us. Even into adulthood. And even with our talents.

We are all still afraid of the dark.

Am I good enough? Is my writing even on topic? Will people relate to this story?

There are so many great pieces that have been put forth on this site. I’m proud to have hosted such a talented group of wordsmiths. These fellow writers have such amazing chops, and stories to boot, and if you have a chance you should backlog whatever posts you have the time to read. Oh, the writing is good enough, alright. It’s better than that. And the stories are relatable and insightful and downright inspirational. At least for me.

But life gets hectic, and in the meantime that nasty voice of self-doubt echoes in the dark corners of our minds. Oh, I dunno… I’m not really that good. Doubt pushes apprehension. What if people just think I’m stupid?

But that fear is okay, isn’t it? When push comes to shove, a little self-doubt doesn’t make or break the mental fight. It’s not as if we’re prohibited from being self-conscious. However— and this is big— if fear floods our daily thoughts, then we make our false perceptions into realities.

Success is about overcoming any feelings of self-doubt to make the most of our life skills.

Mental health is about facing whatever doubt exists, seeing negativity as self-damaging, and forging ahead towards our goals and successes with a heightened sense of self-worth. Even those who claim they don’t care what others think are just expressing an ability to look past judgement; people will always have fear in life, it’s about pushing past those doubts and seeing the cliché for its true worth: life is short. Definitely too short to wonder “what if?”

Besides, looking at our fears, it is obvious that we are most afraid of failure. And that worry is the most dangerous adversity of all because it exists within ourselves. A projection— nothing more than a shadow on the mental wall.

How will you know what’s possible if you never push your personal threshold?

So I start the new year of this blog back to square one: me, myself, and the empty page. Oh, and that dark figure of self-doubt that lets me know what I’m doing is worthwhile.

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