If There's Doubt, There's No Doubt

A woman sitting on a rock in the middle of a small clearing in the woods. She is facing away from the camera.
Photo by Quentin Dr.

"If there's doubt, there's no doubt."

I heard this saying for this first time from the mouth of Christina Anthony on the podcast Yo, Is This Racist? According to Google, it was also in a Robert Deniro movie called Ronin.

It says that the very presence of doubt tells you the answer to whatever it is you are questioning: if you have doubts over whether a course of action is right, then the existence of doubt tells you it is wrong.

I have very mixed feelings towards this saying. It contains a deep truth about listening to our hearts, and also, I think it could be a great excuse to not do things you really want to do.

It all depends on where the doubt is coming from.

When I was on the edge of committing to actually publish my book, for example, I had a lot of doubts: that it wasn't good enough, that the self-help market is already saturated, that my ideas were not original, that I was pathetic to do it without a traditional publisher, that I didn't have time or expertise, that I was a fraud, that I was somehow destroying my future ability to be a "real" writer.

Those doubts were real, in the sense that they really ate away at me, but they were actually just fear doing everything it could to stop me from taking a risky action.

If I had listened to this saying, I would have thought, "well, I have doubts, so that means I shouldn't do it," and moved on, living all the while with this book gnawing at my gut.

Which is why that wasn't the kind of doubt we should listen to.

The doubts we should listen to are the ones that come from our conscience.

Conscience-based doubts tell us that something is really, truly wrong; that we may be committing ourselves to a course of action we don't believe in, violating one of our core values, or hurting ourselves in some way.

Listening to our conscience-based doubts often forces us to confront fear, whereas fear-based doubts try to keep us safe from scary things, even if they are scary things that might be good for us.

For example, if we have doubts about whether or not we should stay in a relationship, it's likely that somewhere deep down, our conscience knows that our heart isn't in it. Listening to that doubt, however, means moving towards some painful and scary things.

Instead, our fear-based doubts crop up, telling us that if we end this relationship we will be cruel jerks, that we will be alone forever, that we are too old to start over, that it's too hard and we should just stay safe in a relationship that isn't working.

The thing is, listening to our fear-based doubts doesn't alleviate the conscience-based doubts. They still hang around in our gut, like my book did until I finally set it free. But when we listen to our conscience-based doubts and move through the fear, both are liberated. It's like magic! (Very difficult, painful, challenging magic that really tests your inner resolve.)

The less-catchy add-on to this saying might be:

"Where there's doubt, there's no doubt, but what your doubt is telling you changes depending on whether it is based on fear or your conscience. If it's conscience-based, then you must follow it. If it's coming from fear, you probably need to ignore it."


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