Dealing With Self-Doubt & Career Anxiety
Hey guys heyyy.
Do you wanna talk about that time that I had a cookbook coming out and all I wanted to do was hide in my apartment indefinitely? Cool, let’s do it.
I think a lot of us go through periods of self-doubt, comparison, and just a general feeling of not-good-enough/who do I think I am to try to do this with my life and career?-type stuff. I think that’s completely normal — especially if you want to do something creative, outside the box, or independently. The problems crop up when you feed into those voices regularly, they can start to takeover, making you feel crappy and holding you back from doing cool shit and dreaming big.
Miraculously, I’m in a way better place than I was a month and a half ago. Right before my book was coming out I was feeling avoidant, uncomfortable, and straight-up weird about the whole process of my words and face being available for my friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers to buy and talk about. After a couple weeks of wallowing, lots of tears and freakouts, and spinning my wheels not getting much of anything done work-wise, I reached a turning point and starting adding more things into my day that made me feel better, which I thought I’d share with you.
Just so you know going into it: this list is weird. There’s some random stuff in here that not everyone will be on board with, and that’s totally cool — I’m just sharing it all in hopes one thing might strike a chord and help you on your way to doing more badass things.
The thing that I really want to convey is that you CAN get yourself out of this, just be open to trying some new stuff, shaking it up, and listening to the quiet voice in yourself (the loud one is likely the one telling you all the stuff that’s wrong, but the quiet one is the real deal).
I actually don’t mean drinking more of it, which always seems to be on every health list as a salve for everything. You know you should be drinking lots of clean water regularly, so definitely do that, but I’m talking about getting IN it. A natural body of water if possible, but any kind will do — even baths.
A very definitive turning point was a day on Fire Island in late August, when the weather was actually much cooler than usual and the water was not at all inviting with its messy waves, heavy rip, and cold temp. I spent the morning walking on the beach with my mom feeling depressed despite the sunshine and being in one of my happy places. After lunch while we were walking around the town waiting for our ferry, I turned to her and said, “I need to get in the water.” So I marched down to the ocean, stripped down to my bathing suit and waded in slowly, splashing my face and arms to wake me up. Then I dove under the waves. I only stayed in for a minute or two but I came out shocked awake and clearer than I’d felt in weeks. From the point on, positive shifts started to take place. No joke. That salt water is powerful stuff.
An easier all-weather solution is a good epsom salt bath. Add some essential oils and spend a solid 30 to 45 minutes in there, I swear you’ll feel better for having soaked a while.
I found that during this rough time, I had very few good ideas, and even less motivation to get things done. I was feeling like a hack, which isn’t usually conducive to creating good work. Instead I decided to spend more time reading outside on our balcony or in the park and learning new things unrelated to my area of work — which I’ll go it into more in the subsequent tips.
Know that if you’re feeling this way (unmotivated, uncreative, etc.), you probably need to take a step back but — and this is important — without any expectations. I really think that’s why I lingered in this state for a while. I took some time out, but the entire time I was expecting a shift of some kind, a new idea, or for something to click. But that thirstiness can keep you locked in the same pattern because you’re thinking so hard about when it (whatever it is for you) will show up. You’ve got to let go to reach real understanding.
Read beloved books
Now is not the time to tackle Ulysses. Unless it happens to be a nostalgic favorite, then by all means. One thing that really got me out of myself and on better ground was reading Harry Potter. I realized I hadn’t read the seventh book since it first came out 10 years ago and when I did I was tearing through it to find out what happens.
This time I savored it and really got back into the world of the book. It was like a freaking cozy sweater or spending time with a good friend. It calmed me down and brought me into something outside myself without taxing me too much. I really can’t recommend this enough.
Learn something new
I love learning — it’s actually one of the qualities I most like about myself. But I think learning something new is great for anyone. Give a few new podcasts a try (something I’m consistently doing — I can’t get enough) or picking up something unusual or random that piques your interest.
For me that was tarot cards. I’ve always be intrigued by the tarot imagery but never really got into it besides picking up a deck after too many glasses of gamay when friends were over. I started pulling a card a day and referring to Biddy Tarot for interpretations. I soon found that a lot of things were ringing true and even had a few spooky experiences with the deck. Needless to say, I’m hooked and I love this new outlet in my life for getting in touch with my intuition and learning more about this mystical ritual.
At other times in my life I would have tried to learn how to knit, or do yoga, or read about a the history of a city or a time period I’m fascinated by. Whatever is pulling you, seek it out.
Get in touch with your spiritual side
Meditate, pray, or use something like astrology or tarot to put you in touch with your intuition and yourself. The more quiet time I’ve spent trying to clear my head or reflecting has really come back to me in kind. I feel more expansive and at peace when I do a combo of meditation, stretching while listening to music, spending time in nature, and connecting to myself with the tarot as a guide. I’ve found that tarot shows us the universality of life experiences, which is comforting and really engaging.
Maybe for you it’s praying, going to yoga class, going to a place of worship, or listening to music. Whatever it is, make an effort to be present for it.
Writing things down is how I process my thoughts so asking myself questions then just writing without too much thinking has been really eye opening in a lot of ways. Once I started using the tarot each day, I also starting using the cards as journal prompts. I would look at the card, interpret its meaning and ask myself what is this telling me I need today or what I need to ask myself? What does this bring up? How does this relate to a feeling or a situation I’m experiencing right now?
Get in your body
Walk outside, breathe, stretch, dance, do yoga, do all of these things. Walking and listening to podcasts or audiobooks has helped me through a ton of stuff. It can just be a circuit breaker when you’ve had a tough day. Find people you love to listen to — sometimes this can create more clarity for me than if I let my own thoughts run wild. Plus, I’m often learning things at the same time.
Often and by any means necessary. Employ silly movies, podcasts (I can do another post on my favorite podcasts if you want, just let me know in the comments!), spending time with your funniest friends, board games, whatever. Laughter shifts all kinds of things in your mind and body, use this to your advantage.
Love this, Leah! I relate to a lot of what you say here and your suggestions are all great ones. Curious, what are some of your favorite podcasts? I also can't get enough.
Awesome Lauren! Some of my favorite pods: Talking in Circles, A Piece of Work, The Lively Show, By the Book, Stuff Mom Never Told You, That's So Retrograde, UnStyled, My Favorite Murder, 2 Dope Queens, One Part Podcast, You Must Remember This, Her Rules Radio, and How Did This Get Made. Also my old OBGYN started his own podcast (Your V Life) which is hilarious/great but I'm only a couple episodes in. What are you listening to lately?
So glad to hear I am not the only one in this boat, Leah. I think finishing such a huge and nerve-wracking project like your first book (!!!) can come with a sense of loss in a way. Kind of like postpartum depression maybe... Feeling like all your best ideas are already behind you and not knowing where to put your energy next, which results in this see-saw anxiety feeling that I also experienced upon finishing my book and some of which still lingers to this day. I love these tips, especially the swimming and taking breaks. I think also having someone by your side you can talk to honestly, is good - to get your true feelings out and diffused, versus bubbling up inside. There's a really hilarious and super NSFW podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno, which has given me many, many great laughs in times of trouble ;) Check it out!
Yesss, totally. Talking it out is so important too, just venting the weird and yucky feelings can make you feel lighter. I've totally heard of that podcast and never listened — but obviously it sounds hilarious. Thanks for the tip!! xo.