Of Dreams, Crumbling Walls And The Irony Of Self-doubt

Behind every successful man is a crumbling wall of self-doubt. Although sometimes, the crumbling is not complete, and some parts of this debilitating wall are left standing—a reminder of man’s imperfections.

This wall is there before every leap at the moon, it is there to snag at ankles, to trip shaky legs and send you rolling down the part of the forlorn underachiever. Sometimes, it’s buried so deep that only events dig it out. In my case, looking for a job dug it out from deep down where I had buried it. I knew it wasn’t finished and done with when I buried it, but when it was thrown into my face like a freezing cold water on a harmattan morning that I had no degree certificate for the thankless job of teaching which I sought, it all came roaring back. I knew I was smart and all, I knew I did the job better than most of those with their certificates, still I couldn’t help but wonder if I could get into the University, get that certificate they couldn’t stop talking about and leave their jaws hanging low after I did it. After the interviews, I never did get the job; I started on the wrong foot, I had no certificate.

The fact that I didn’t get the job opened up old sores where doubt seeped from. Hell, I can’t even get a job, what am I doing with all these dreams of mine? How am I going to achieve dreams bigger than the country, bigger than the state, the town where I couldn’t better other job seekers? I felt bad, and naturally so. I thought maybe I came either before or after my time.

Self-doubt cannot be entirely knocked down. It may be knocked out or buried, but after sometime it stands, triggered by one event of the other. So, how did they do it? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Adichie. I know a guy who’s doing it, Hymar David. Did they take drinks to forget the doubts gnawing at their hearts, threatening to rip it out before they disgrace themselves? Or are they not human like all of us? One phrase that keeps recurring on the timeline of this Hymar David on Facebook is his favorite hashtag ‘#TeamNeverBackDown. Maybe we can begin from there, not backing down, even when we see the self-doubt literally rolling on the ground, imploring on us to cut down the size of our dreams least we disgrace ourselves and be disappointed.

I have a friend who does the opposite of what his friends advise, just to show them he’s under no one’s control. We are to be that type of friend to self-doubt. When it advises that we look down, we should look up; when it dusts a chair for us to sit, we should keep standing, we should walk and run; when it presents the problems like a nagging pessimist, we should present the advantages, the gains, then think of the solutions and take the leap. It’s better to take the leap with the moon as your aim and fall among the stars than not to leap at all.

Since self-doubt is a demon that cannot be killed, let’s make it our motivator; let the nagging discouragement of what we cannot do be a timely reminder of what we have not done.


When You Don’t Feel Up To your Dreams by Iwundu Wisdom

The Burj Khalifa, rising up to about 830m in height, is officially the tallest artificial structure in the world. The mega-tall skyscraper took five years in construction and has gathered its own deserving weight of mainstream recognition on the media.

But you and I both know that all the detail above has little or nothing to do with your dreams.

Or does it?

It’s just actually that when I try to frame my dreams into structure by comparing it to a real-life artificial structure, I find myself looking right at the Burj Khalifa, or something like it. The aspirations I’ve made for myself are probably as lofty as they can get and my guess is yours are just so much as, if not loftier.

Without dreams, life would be no journey and we’ll all saunter through it like one of those zombies from Walking Dead, and there might be no need for hope and disappointment, along with many other of those sad emotional things.

But the Burj Khalifa was once a people’s dream.

So we dream yet, even with stories of crumbling aspirations and short-changed visions swirling around, because without dreams we’ll only exist – like one of those good-looking mannequins who feel nothing about standing for too long.

You know this about your dreams: they inspire you, get you thinking hard, win you naysayers, keep you going, bring you great friends, and put you in big trouble. And you know that sometimes the trouble they put you into strengthens you because there’s always an optimistic assurance that by that, you could only be onto something great.

But you also know that at other times this trouble seems just an out-and-out blow to your progress and you feel impulsively tempted to push many of your hopes back. Or do something much more worse – like giving up altogether.

Still yet, there are times when, maybe by influence from surrounding pressure, you begin to rationalize your dreams and feel that they are perhaps too lofty and you really should cut them down to a “realistic” height, even though hardly anyone knows what “realistic” means anymore.

At this point, looking up ahead and watching your dreams stare back at your teeming insignificance, you feel subdued by the height and become tempted to cut it down to be a bit possible. A bit believable.

And that’s dangerous territory, because that’s very likely when that dissuasive little voice opts in to pout its blackened lips and say you’re not up to the dreams you discovered yourself in the first place. That there’s an error and little time to fix it.

It may be true that time flies, but man also officially began to fly in the early nineteenth century, although people began to fly before then because whoever dreams have at once been set afloat, above the ground. So if times truly flies, that has got really nothing on you, so far you know your place – which is above all odds.

If you’ve ever had dreams (and I know you still do), then what follows is essential for you. Keep them in mind.

(1) You’ll Meet “Treacherous” Oppositions But Remember That The Concept Of “Dreams” Is Relative

The people who are most likely to have the first laugh at your dreams are those closest to you. I’ve thought about why this is for quite a while and my introspective inquiry has led me to two probable reasons.

First off, I think it’s because these people you’ve included in your intimate circle are people you trust, and therefore, those you first tell what your goals are.

The second is a feeling I’m quite positive you can identify with. It’s difficult to comprehend that someone who you see and talk to everyday, or who you just talked to last night, is dead by morning. It’s in this same way that it’s difficult to really understand, at first at least, when someone you talk with everyday comes up one day with an idea that neither of you have once touched upon. An idea which, when received with a loud laughter, cannot immediately be justified.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with your aspirations and it may not be that you’re telling it to the wrong people. It’s just that at that moment, they don’t realize that they too have dreams. They might have another native word for their aspirations, but it’s all a dream – a bleak assurance that keeps them hoping, going. And because your own dreams may seem loftier than the limit they have set for their own dreams, it immediately registers to them as “unrealistic.”

I understand that a loud laughter coming from just any other people may be bearable, but a loud laughter coming from a people you trust can feel treacherous. But no one hates you (perhaps) and it’s just that their vision have failed to be heightened by your dreams so they struggle to understand.

And a friend of mine once said understanding can be hard. I agree. Even you too will find it hard to understand why they’d laugh at your honest aspirations. Give them time, but not too much time. If they’re bent on saying no, invest your time elsewhere until deep down you see improvements.

You see, the whole world can believe in you, but if you don’t believe in yourself, their belief will yield nothing. So, the great news is that you believe in your dreams. That’s all that matters.

Never stop believing.

(2) Know What And When To Let Go

You have a dream and have a matching team of people who doesn’t help at all. That makes the very few you might find who believe in your dreams extremely valuable – and they have the right to be, because it takes courage and conviction to believe in what everyone else have given up on.

That said, one of the first things I tell new friends is that whenever they find at least one person who believes in their dream, it’s best they hold on tight that person – and if they find more than one, their luck – but I get quick to add too that they should be wary of elevating anyone to a place where losing them seems like the end of the world (I say this keeping in mind that we can sometimes be helpless in the face of love).

And I say that because most of the factors that causes you to lose a creative part of yourself are related to people: either by uttering a deeply discouraging word to you, or offering you an equally disheartening gesture. Having people is essential, but having the wrong people is an updated description of a personal hell on earth. Even more so, keeping the wrong people when you have your chance to keep them out is a dooming tune we can avoid listening to.

They say nothing can hurt you except you permit it to. When you remember that, my guess is you believe that no matter how austere a word might be, you have within you the choice to let it in or keep it away. I share that idea, too, but only partly. Because when we talk about your resistance (i.e. your defense against hurt), we aren’t talking of something infallible, so I believe the resistance should always be pro-active. That means the resistance should come before the actual uttering of discouraging words of offering of disheartening gestures.

No matter how tolerable you are, you can’t always withstand direct reproach. That’s why your resistance should be about picking out those you need from your circle of friends and keeping those you don’t need out. If you earlier separate those who believe in your dreams from the rest, you may not hear the discouraging words or see any disheartening gesture because whoever may be likely to give that will, by then, probably no longer be in your “friend list”. In other words, your resistance is discernment – the ability to separate the chaff from the wind.

Know what to let go and know when it’s no longer safe to hold on to what you no longer need.

Truth is, it’s never safe to hold on to what you don’t need.

(3) Stop Watching The Height. Look At The Breadth

When you look up at the Burj Khalifa, you immediately get struck by its magnificent height and may get distracted enough to completely ignore its massive width. Height awes and scares and with it, the breadth is a distant memory. Same with how our dream looks like when we think of it. We immediately see how tall it stands against us.

Contrary to what you might have heard, dreams are rarely ever fully achieved, they are only followed. What we only achieve in relation to aspirations are goals. A goal after the other. One goal and then the next. When you finally get to what you’ve known to be your dream, a new height to beat surfaces – “a new dream” – because, apparently, one is no longer enough or no longer needed. But that new height was always together with your original aspiration, only that these goals go through a “time cycle” and are part of a larger picture whose pattern you may not yet have deciphered so that when you meet this goal, another comes into place. Your dream is way bigger than your goals and a goal achieved is a step in line with your dream. But it still depends on what word you choose to qualify your aspirations with.

Say your ambition is to become a data analyst and you eventually become one, it doesn’t end there. There arises a new ambition that correlates with the profession – or not. But that only proves that it’s all a network of primary goals that leads ultimately to your bigger purpose. So, I hear you ask, does it mean no one has ever fully achieved their dream?

First, I think it’s time we began looking at our dreams as an integral part of our purpose rather than a wishful ambition. In this sense then, there are people who’ve, without doubts, fulfilled their purpose. You get the point.

So shake off the scare of the height. If your dream could be so tall, it’d only be overwhelming if you don’t pause to consider its breadth. The road to following your dreams is filled with extra promises. This road may no doubt be tough, but for all its toughness, there are so many good stops.

Don’t look too hard on how high you have to climb, focus rather on how far abroad your dreams can reach and then take you to. Look at the width, the possibilities. Look at that and keep your gaze there.

So, whenever you don’t feel up to your dream, acknowledge first that your dream is bigger than you and permit yourself a moment to be humbled by its majesty. But don’t be overwhelmed nor subdued.

Again, whenever you don’t feel up to your dream, go through your “friend list”; there’s someone who’d encourage (except you aren’t yet with the right people). Create a circle with people of like interest – people who’d go the whole 9 yards to keep you from falling from your ladder.

And lastly, whenever you don’t feel up to your dream, remember that the Burj Khalifa was once a people’s dream.

How To Manage When Your Friend’s Good News Becomes Your Bad News by Iwundu Wisdom

A friend of yours shares a piece of really good news and you find yourself struggling between feeling happy for him and managing your self-judgement.

If you can identify with that, then you’d love to hang on.

Sometimes, our friends’ progress reminds us of our shortcomings, they paint us the images of what we could possibly have done better with ourselves and what should perhaps have been and these images stay in our head as long as the news lasts, and maybe longer. At that moment, everyone but you seem happy and between feeling sorry for yourself and finding a happy spot in your heart for your friend, there sits a great feeling of self-condemnation and you feel more bad about your apparent selfishness and maybe begin to see yourself as a bad friend.

But you’re not really a bad person.

You’re only being jealous and human. And jealousy can sometimes be a good drive in the aberrant sense that it has the capacity to push us to tackle something we may have been pushing back.

Feeling down about your friends’ good news may have some psychological benefits like bringing to your consciousness little or not-so-little perks you might be overlooking and acting as a strong motivator, but your friends are justified if they may not bother to comprehend your reasons for being so withdrawn, so cutting down on how often this strikes you (and getting to a point when it rarely ever does anymore) seem just the safest way to go.

But how can you effectively ward off the depressive feeling of longing and melancholy that accompanies your friends’ good news? Or could this be an imperative psychological demand the mind places on you to ensure optimum productivity?

Or are you just as insecure as you suspect you might be?

Well, truth is, it could be any of those. Or it couldn’t be. But first, you should know that…

1) Jealousy Is Human

You have to admit it and it’s not self-debasing: the top feeling you get when a friend’s good news saddens you is that claustrophobic moment of wishing you were actually the one who just got admission into the university, the one who just bought that sleek car, the one who just got that dream job, the one who haven’t yet backslidden in his faith.

But this feeling is just as normal as blinking when something comes in contact with your eyes.

How? Imagine if there was a class project and every other person but you seem to be getting it right, how’d you feel? Not good, I know. In fact feeling any other way might be crazy.

The feeling of being left behind can be a very dark cloud, misshapening your reasoning, sense of protocol and every other right thing you should probably do. And it’s jealousy, too. But this is where jealousy can be aggressive in the same sense where it can be pro-active.

But how do you know which side of the scale your jealousy is bordering more on?

2) Watch Your Reaction Closely

You hear the news and there’s this slow wash of cold emotions running wildly down your entire self and it’s so overwhelming that you crumble inwardly and are subdued by its gentle force. But you still have enough to feel bad about your reaction and part of you really wants to try and say congratulations, and even though you may never say it, you’re somewhat comforted that you at least conceived it.

A friend of mine was recently called to the Nigerian bar (yes, she’s now a lawyer!) and I’m really happy for her. But don’t be fooled. I wasn’t near as enthusiastic as I’m now when I first heard the news, and in fact, a few minutes after she let out the good news, I left the occasion without as much as a nod of acknowledgement or a thumb of commendation and that was because apart from the jealousy I felt, I was angry. Angry at myself because I thought that could be me and the anger spread and was evident outwardly. I went home and fell into a disturbed sleep and it was only when I’d awoken and part of the haze had lifted that I sent a text of apology, congratulation and commendation.

And now, I feel good with the news but I still have not lost that desire to double my effort that the news gave me fore-mostly.

Apparently, that news did something positively to me. But I hope you noticed how aggressive and uncivil that almost made me become, how unpleasant everything could have turned out.

We can’t say for everyone because there are those who may be tempted to completely indulge their jealousy. So what if your emotions give no signs of coming under control (even after walking home and catching some sleep)? What if your jealousy overshoots and becomes supplanted by raw, untamed anger?

3) Go Traditional. Face Your Problem

So many resources out there tells you to face your problem and that advice hasn’t outlived its usefulness.

When you notice you’re beginning to feel angry by your friend’s sharing of his success and know you might be helpless against your anger, you have to acknowledge first that at that moment there are two problems.

First, you.

Second, your friend.

You probably can’t deal with yourself as you may have acknowledged your helplessness against your anger, so let’s call this one intractable.

Now, all the emotional chaos began from hearing the news in the first place, but that news had a source: your friend. So your friend now is a problem. Your problem.

How do you deal with your friend here? Approach him (you know I mean him/her, right?).

But slow down with the approach because there’s no cause for physical contact here, and it may be pretty hard, but just walk up to him and say your congrats. Even if it’s the last thing you want to do.

(Wait, you thought facing your problems would be easy?)

It may seem pointless at that point but you know one major perk about facing your problem is working under the odds that your problem may have something beneficial up for you.

For instance, you may walk up to your friend and say your congrats and your friend might say something particularly exciting or kind that might, in turn, flush away your anger in one clean sweep. Or your friend’s cheeriness might just make you question why you’re being angry at all.

In essence, there’s no better time to approach your friend than when you’re losing yourself.

4) Finally, Get Up To Work

You may have summed up enough gut to walk up to your friend and face your problem and you may now feel better and convinced that feeling bad at first about your friend’s success doesn’t make you a bad egg but you’d miss out a whole big part of the impression if you don’t realize that the whole episode had done something to you. In fact, it was meant to do something to you.

Because no matter how cool you might feel afterwards, what your friend’s success really shows is that you’re not doing enough. You may be trying hard, but hard may not be enough. What’s really scary about trying it the smart way?

I see this a lot in movies, when someone’s plan fails and he then goes up and say, “I tried my best, but my best wasn’t enough,” and I wonder who sets the limit for us, who decides how far we can go or what our best should look like.

Who decides your best? You or the society?

Get up to work. Give a new dimension to your efforts. Honour your impulsive nature but don’t make a decision that you’d have to pay up for later. And remember, if you really want something, you’ll find a way.

And if you don’t, an excuse.

I might not be able to tell you exactly how to rewire your efforts for visibilty and productivity, but I think you know within you that you’re enough, and indeed, more than enough.

Your friend’s success is just your wake-up or say-so call. There might be this big idea in your head that scares you like hell and maybe all you need to implement it is a little ruffling of your creative feathers.

A friend of mine once said, “The greatest illusion of time is that we have enough for our dreams.”

Which means every moment counts. And as you decide to chart each of your efforts towards your dreams, towards feeling okay about a friend’s good news because you’re already fulfilled yourself, I think I should leave you with Karen Lamb’s words.

“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”