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Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The benefits of self-doubt

Self-doubt is a (very) bad thing if you believe Google's search results. Typing the "benefits of self doubt" gives a more balanced overview of this topic. Obviously, too much self-doubt is never a good thing. However, everything in life is bad which has the words "too much" in front of it. This concept also provides for the most popular Dutch saying.

Many Google hits suggest that self-doubt equals doubting yourself. I have lots of self-doubt but I do not doubt myself. I know whatwho and why I am. My self-doubt is about my decisions. My self-doubt is rooted in the uncertainties of life, and in mitigating the future consequences of imperfect information (eg, incomplete, incorrect, late).

A few months ago, I finally took a decision about my future relocation after many months of self-deliberation (my 2018 blog). I felt relieved and I firmly believed in my decision. However, a recent local news article changed everything. The information that I had used for my decision, had been incorrect and late. I have lost my belief in that project ever since.

In the words of Robert Sutton from his 2010 book Good Boss Bad Boss: “The best bosses dance on the edge of overconfidence, but a healthy dose of self-doubt and humility saves them from turning arrogant and pigheaded. Bosses who fail to strike this balance are incompetent, dangerous to follow, and downright demeaning.” (source)

Doubt - including self-doubt - has governed my entire life. To a large extent, I even have had a professional career in doubt, as an auditor. Usually auditing is about verifying the truthfulness of a company's financial statements. However, my intuition seldom failed me in auditing (or in life), and my doubts usually turned out to be valid.

Doubt appears to connect several of my concepts: Doubt-Fear-Hope-Love, Needs-Wants-Beliefs-Awakening, and Facts-Beliefs-Intuition-Imagination (the 4 levels of consciousness). The driver of (human) doubt is - probably - Change. Change - including climate change - is the default of Life and Nature.

Humans are reluctant to accept Change and often prefer things to remain the same. This may be the reason why (self-doubt is mostly viewed negatively: why having doubts in the absence of change? In a complex and dynamic world (view), beliefs may come at a price. In a simple and static world (view), beliefs may come easily.

Some relevant and supporting quotes:
  • W.B. Yeats (1920): "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
  • Bertrand Russell (1933): “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."
  • Charles Bukowski (1989): "But the problem is that bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt."

Don't Speak (1996) by No Doubt

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

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