I’m curled up in a ball on my bed. My eyes are open, but I don’t look at anything in particular. My brain feels like it’s being pulled from both sides in opposite directions. I can’t form a single coherent thought. Focusing is out of the question. I close my eyes and let them roll back into my head. Gray.
Twenty minutes later I wake up exhausted, no closer to a solution. I get out of bed and continue doing whatever I was doing before all of this started.
These onslaughts of self-doubt hit me more often than I’d like. They grow from a small, seemingly meaningless question – “should I write something?” or “what should I do with my next two hours?” – to a full-blown panic attack.
I’ve experienced many bouts of self-doubt since I moved to New York. When I moved here I knew only a few people, ended a two and a half year relationship within the first three months, and have since been rubbing pennies together so vigorously the copper is melting. “Why am I putting myself through this?” I often ask myself. “Is being here worth it?”
I could be living back at home in Central Pennsylvania. Or I could be living in Pittsburgh, where I went to college. If I were in either area, I would spend less, know more people, and be somewhere I feel entirely in my comfort zone.
But I’ve done that. I’ve lived in my comfort zone and I fought like hell to get out of it.
So now that I’m six months into living in the Big Apple, why has this wave of self-doubt taken over me? I’m constantly reevaluating my decision to live here. I find myself more and more often feeling like my goals are lofty and unattainable, and that moving here was a mistake. Am I wasting my time?
The frustration I feel when I realize I’m doubting myself, however, is as bad, if not worse, than the self-doubt alone. I get frustrated that I discount my abilities. I get frustrated because I know it’s a waste of time to doubt myself, yet I keep doing it. I get frustrated because I let my emotions overpower logic.
Most of all, though, I get frustrated that, in that moment, I have lost all confidence in myself.
An hour later I pop in my headphones and walk out of my apartment. I feel glum. My self-doubt panic attack has exhausted me. I need to get out of the house and find a place to relax.
I head down the familiar subway entrance and find myself cracking a little smile. Something about taking the train makes me feel good. Like driving down the roads of your hometown years after you’ve moved away.
I power my way onto the train with the crowd, grabbing a pole before we start moving again. I transfer at Union Square and ride up to Rockefeller Center. It started snowing when I was underground. I leave the station and head towards the skating rink.
The tree is lit. I haven’t seen it yet this year. The lights reflecting off the rink and statue makes me feel like I’m in a movie. I grab a seat on a bench and watch the tourists take pictures and get in each other’s way. The smile I cracked earlier gets a little bigger.
I think back to the day I was told I got the job. “I’m moving to New York!!” I yelled into the phone. My eyes teared up with happiness. My head was swimming with excitement. It was my dream city. It was even more than that. It was opportunity. It was hope. It was new experiences and new people and a new life. It was a huge leap that I couldn’t have been more excited to take.
Reflecting on the feelings I had in that moment strengthened a part of me that was absent earlier. The part that knows this is the right choice for me. That this is where I belong.
Confidence. It’s the antidote to self-doubt’s poison. While self-doubt deters me from my goals, confidence allows me to achieve them. Beating myself up is worthless.
I looked up at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and a wave of emotion swept over me.
I walked home with my head held high.
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