Taming Self-Doubt

The timeworn refrain loops in my head. If only I knew then what I know now… If only I’d demanded more accountability... If only I’d been braver and exposed my vulnerability...The list could go on and on. Sound familiar?

Everyone has self-doubt and regrets, but when a vulnerable family member is involved, the stakes kick up a notch—or ten. Raising and advocating for a child with disabilities has inherent challenges. That’s a fact, not a complaint. Unconditional love and awareness of vulnerability fuel our resolve. Still, our energy gets low, given relentless competing life demands. Every parent knows that making progress isn’t as simple as it appears from afar. We are human and sometimes fall short. Cold comfort during distressing times.

Conversations with other parents affirm that when we fail to put out best foot forward, harsh self-judgement often ensues. It makes no sense, but still…When I stumble, my heart aches and my head judges me for not doing better. It’s as if a megaphone of self-criticism is blaring at me. Personally, I strive to turn down the negativity volume—ideally to a small whisper in my ear.

My review process isn’t set in stone, nor consistent. It’s always tempting to focus on logical thinking…perhaps too much so. Reflections might include: What other pressing matters was I juggling when I fell short? How was my energy supply? Did I have others to call upon for assistance or did I try to power through solo? What stressors divided my attention? Could I realistically have approached the situation more effectively? All good questions, but sterile and stripped of all emotion. Dissecting rationally is only part of the introspective process.

Forgiveness doesn’t reside in the realm of logic. Rather, forgiveness rests in the heart. And that requires soul searching and exposing vulnerability. I sense that’s crucial to calming self-doubt. While there are no guarantees, it feels like a promising path.

Susan Dunnigan

July 2021