This is the story of a young woman named Emily who lived in a town called Tranquil Brooks. She had a heart full of dreams and aspirations, but was always unsure of herself. At every step, a nagging voice would creep up inside her. Self-doubt had dug deep into her mind. It would whisper in her ear, casting shadows over every step that she would ever take.
One morning, as Emily strolled through the town park, she met an old man named Daniel who was known for his wisdom. He had seen the burden she carried inside her—the weight of self-doubt that spoke through her eyes ever so often. For some reason, that day, he felt compelled to share his story with her.
“Emily,” Daniel began, “I’ve been wanting to tell you something. Every time I see you, I remember myself—I must have been as old as you are now. There used to be a time when I’d wish to try out so many things but I used to feel unsure of myself. Everyone around me was successful and happy too. I wasn’t. I couldn’t be like they were. Self-doubt bothered me all the time…I didn’t know what to do or where to go.
Emily listened intently as Daniel continued.
“One day, I met an elderly woman who could see the weight that I was carrying. She spoke to me and when I shared my story, she went quiet for a while. Then, she sat me down and told me a secret—it was a lesson that shook me out of stupor and made me look at myself in a new light all over again.”
“Would you like to know what she said, Emily?
“Yes”, mumbled Emily.
“She chided me for thinking small about myself. In her words—’To shake off self-doubt, you must do three things first: stop comparing yourself to others, embrace your uniqueness and stop being afraid of failures.'”
Emily looked puzzled, so Daniel explained further.
“You see, self-doubt often arises when we compare ourselves to others, because we think we should be like them That is how we can be successful. But, actually each one of us is different. We are all unique, like stars in the sky or the flowers in the garden or the pebbles that you see on the ground. No two stars shine in the same way. No two flowers bloom at the same time. Just as you can’t compare the brilliance of a star to the brightness of the moon, you can’t compare yourself to anyone else.”
Emily pondered on the words, realising how she had been constantly measuring herself against others. She could see how doing so had made her feel inadequate. And she did this every single time.
Daniel continued, “Emily, learn to recognize your own strengths and talents. Find out what makes you YOU and embrace what makes you different. Embrace everything about yourself—the quirks and the flaws and everything else, for it is these that make you who you are. The last thing is to stop being afraid. The fear of falling short when you try something new is as scary as the fear of disappointing others—they are as real as the fear of being unable to live up to the expectations that we may have of ourselves or what others expect of us, AND the fear that we may be unable to replicate our past successes.”
“It’s FEAR. Fear stops us from trying and failing, Emily. But, unless we fail, how will we ever know the learnings from those times? If we never try at all? Can you see the connection?”
Over the weeks that followed, Emily took Daniel’s advice to heart.
She started a journal, and listed her strengths, talents, and unique qualities. She jumped right in, dipping her fingers into everything that she ever wanted to do. Day by day, the fear of failure slowly started to diminish, while the sheer experience and joy of creating came to the fore. Eventually, at some point, having tried her hand at different things, she discovered her unique passion for painting which led her to pour her heart onto the canvas.
It’s not that everything fell in place miraculously. She had her moments of insecurities and self-doubt every now and then, but now, she was aware of her thoughts. She knew how to sit in silence with all the uncomfortable emotions and self-doubts and still soldier on without the need to compare herself with the others.
Now that her fear was gone, Emily found herself pondering on how best to take her artistic journey forward. The goal post grew insignificant, but the journey she was on, made a difference.
Her journal entry portrayed the tussle between her creative fire and the self-doubts she had. The struggle was real and hard to miss:
In shadows cast by doubts that cloud my mind, I often find myself lost in despair, insecurities wrap me around like vines, entwined, crushing all hopes and dreams, leaving me ensnared. Yet, in the darkest moments of self-doubt, a glimmer of resolve within me, begins to rise, for deep within, the flicker's not snuffed out, I see the fire, small yet fierce, that begins to arise. I shake it off—this heavy shroud of disbelief, and instead, turn to strength that lies within my core, with courage and daring as my shield, I find relief, and now I've dreams, that I never dreamed of before. And so, each time that unsure voice creeps up within, I try my best to never give in to despair, From the deepest core of my heart, I keep praying— May I forever find in me the strength to bear.
Over the course of time, Emily got so immersed in her art, that she created a distinct identity for herself—her paintings, filled with her emotions and experiences, came to resonate with others, while her confidence grew.
And then, the day arrived when Emily hosted her first art exhibition in town. Gradually, her art gained recognition far and wide, and she found success she had never anticipated. But what mattered most to her was that she had shaken off the shackles of self-doubt and embraced her true self, being the same person that she was but now, bolder, creative and more authentic as ever!
Emily’s story became a testament to the power of self-acceptance and inspired others. She learned that the key to confidence lay not in being like others but in being different—and more than anything, being true to herself.
Emily’s journey is not an isolated one. It’s been our journey too—all those of us who lost our exuberance, spontaneity and confidence, somewhere along the way. But, we know it’s never too late to lay claim to all those possibilities that lie dormant within us. And it all starts with conquering the shadows that fall before we take our first step.