Is Your Skepticism Holding You Back?
Photo courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski.

Is Your Skepticism Holding You Back?

Written by Joshua Lundquist

Topics: Confidence

I was talking to a friend who’s been stuck on a very ambitious project.  He’s making progress, but when we talk he drifts into the negative, chastising himself for not doing this or that, then painting the whole situation as hopeless.

It’s as if he is saying that if he can’t do it, it’s because nobody can.  Now, I’m not blaming him for being afraid. But I think he knows what he should be doing: working.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. He needs a reason to believe that his work will pay off.

Sometimes talking to people who just haven’t made the transition into acceptance can be a downer. My friend is a talented guy with a foot planted in two different, but not opposing interests: painting and architecture.

The shame is that he sees this as a bad thing.  I start feeling like a broken record when I tell him about multipotentiality and how you can embrace having more than one thing.  I tell him about how the community I am apart of has changed me in so many great ways.

But I get the feeling he isn’t ready to hear all that.  So I don’t force it.  If only I could give him a community of distraught architects battling the same things as him…

The biggest benefit a community has is the change in mentality it brings about.

And suddenly I feel like an evangelist, trying to convince non-believers of something they would prefer to be skeptical about.

Skepticism as a “Reality Check”

I get it, I have that skeptical side to me, too.

I used to make it hard for people to convince me of anything if it sounded too positive, too “woo woo”, or “too good to be true.” I believed that through my skeptic’s lens I was somehow omniscient –as if my skepticism let me know all that was possible and all that wasn’t in the world.  Skepticism was my “reality check.”

I now know that the skepticism I clung to so faithfully was partly my ego holding me back.

That ego or whatever it was, kept my possibilities for what could be true limited. If something good came along, then I had to keep my radar up.  My bullshit detector would lead me the right way, or so I assumed.

What I didn’t know then was that my skepticism was founded largely on external judgements and expectations, the status quo and habits of thought that I hadn’t questioned.  I hadn’t been skeptical of my own skepticism.

I needed to see cold hard evidence of the existence of a “good” side to dabbling, to being a “dilettante,” to what I thought was my own lack of resolve, in order to be convinced.  I needed to see it working to let my stubborn old brain believe it.

Fortunately, when I found resources like Refuse to Choose and Puttylike, and these new words that put a positive twist on what I had assumed was a terrible penchant for indecision, it just felt good.  That was exactly how it felt: too good to be true. But it was true.

It felt like the part of me that was cast in a shadow of doubt had been allowed to bask in the sun after all this time.

My posture changed immediately, I walked outside on my lunch break and I was elated, the weather looked more beautiful outside, and I wanted to tell everybody what I had discovered.  It was the closest to an epiphany I’ve ever had.  I used to be skeptical of epiphanies.  “What, everything just clicks for you in one moment?  Ok, then what?”

“Then what?” was always my cynical rhetorical question I would pose to the idea of epiphanies.  Now I can answer that.

Then What?

Once you realize that being this way is a gift, you become more productive, you become happier because you have recognized something about yourself that is a strength, instead of something that needs “fixing.”  You’ve exchanged a weakness for a strength.

We All Know that Multipotentialites have Struggles

Time management, having a ton of stuff on your plate (or in our case, having several plates with stuff on them), explaining to people that you don’t have just ONE thing that you’re about, etc.

The list goes on.  But we have a whole community dedicated to dealing with these struggles and challenges.  We reach out to each other and it feels good, accepting someone like yourself is kind of a great shortcut to accepting yourself.

Community Can Help You Do the Work in the Face of Skepticism

There is real benefit to a community, and I shouldn’t have to feel like I need to convince you of how great it’s been to be apart of this community.  You won’t know until you try it.

I’m not getting paid to endorse the Puttytribe, it is simply a good thing that I want to talk about.

There needs to be more of this, of effective, empathetic community.  Imagine what we could get done if we focused on the potential we all have as we are rather than seeing every path other than our career path as a distraction, or every desire to try new things as a weakness, or seeing every hurdle as a result of some flaw!

The next time skepticism is getting you down, try surrounding yourself with people who not only believe that anything is possible, but are actively doing the work to make it so.  If you can’t find them in friends or in your town, reach out on the web and find your community there.

Your Turn

How have you overcome your own skepticism, and where did it lead you?

joshJosh does music, web design and comedy in Tokyo living with his wife and 3 year old daughter. While there is a word for “multipotentiality” in Japanese (?? Tan?), Japan is the land of taking interests and hobbies to extreme levels of specialized knowledge (see “?taku”). Josh hopes to raise awareness about the “Tan? one way or another. You can find Josh online at anincrediblewasteoftime.com and on Twitter @lundquistjoshua.

9 Comments

  1. I felt the same way after I read Refuse to Choose a couple weeks ago. I’ve been elated. I always felt like I had to apologize for who I was and try to fix it. I do see my many plates (love that) as a gift now. It’s wonderful to ignore admonitions to focus on one thing as a blogger. I may not get rich doing it my way, but the experience will be a rich one. Thanks for the post.

    • Joshua Lundquist says:

      Melanie

      I really admire people who are able to not only embrace their multipotentiality, but actually make it an active part of what they do. You’re right, it is a rich experience, regardless of wether it ends up actually making money or not.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Nania Sergi says:

    Great post! Thank you for inspiring me to believe! It’s really lonely sometimes

    • Joshua Lundquist says:

      Thanks Nania

      I know what you mean, I actually have a partner / collaborator in all my recent projects because of the lonely factor! It also helps us to have someone to bounce our many ideas off of and occasionally “narrow down” and figure out a priority list.

  3. Vicki says:

    Awesome article! Sometimes the skepticism isn’t so much about “trusting” another person, or thing, etc…but deep down, we are “skeptics” about our own abilities/possibilities…and this is based on the “messages” we’ve heard and seen around us all our lives growing up. As a Career Coach, this article really resonated with me, as does everything I am just now learning about Puttylike. Thanks for sharing this great post and for everything you are doing with Puttylike…it’s been a great (surprise) discovery to me! Rockin’!

  4. Joshua Lundquist says:

    Thanks Vicki, you’re right, no matter how smart we are, those messages (like Seth Godin mentions in The Icarus Deception) are prevasive and they influence us for sure!

    Please stick around, great to have you here!

  5. Crystal says:

    This is totally me. I’m the skeptic. I’ve felt like I’ve been running all up and down a glass wall looking for the door of “accepting this is possible” but unable to find it so I can step through to what I see clearly on the other side. Love the idea of turning the skepticism back on itself.

  6. Rick Wolff says:

    I tend not to join things like this because my skepticism is so strong I argue in favor of keeping it, and just drag others down. I tend to get banned from communities like this.

    • Joshua Lundquist says:

      Rick

      I hear you about having strong skepticism. And I don’t think joining a community (if you meant the puttylike or the puttytribe community) means necessarily abandoning that.

      For me, it’s been a pretty good antidote for a skepticism that I was a bit too precious about that kept me from exploring things that now have benefitted me and my perspective.

      I’m not about to go join the Insane Clown Posse’s community now and become a “juggalo” or anything, but being apart of puttylike / the puttytribe has been a positive thing for sure.

      It’s not the answer or anything, it’s just “Oh yeah, there’s this group of creative people I can go to and let my guard down and discuss things with” and that’s about it. People don’t really blow smoke up each other’s rear end, either, I’ve found.

      I don’t think anyone should ban anyone from anywhere if they are just questioning and being skeptical.

      Nice design on your site, btw. I like the transparent text with the animated background, is it all CSS?

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