Wole Soyinka

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.