The Importance Of Self-Doubt: A Conversation With An All-Ireland Winner

On the other side of my window darkness was descending; the vibrant city streets were just beginning to come to life. Saturday night fever. I closed my laptop with a trembling hand; I could feel my heart pounding against my eardrums as a solitary thought reverberated.

Fuckin’ hell, that was powerful.

I had just spent the guts of 2 hours chatting to someone I’d never met before. Strangers existing in different worlds; the beautiful and picturesque countryside of West Kerry versus the hustling, bustling concrete jungle of Shanghai. On the other end sat a man who had enjoyed a long and successful career in Gaelic football; he represented ‘The Kingdom’ at senior level from 2002-2009, winning 4 All Ireland medals, and earning an All Star nomination in 2006. A mutual friend put us in touch, and although almost 10,000 KM separated us, we were talking via Skype as if sitting across the table from one another. In an honest and open interview- conducted for the purposes of the What Makes You Tick series– he shared some of his experiences and gave some insight into his daily life.

Given the beautifully spiritual era in which we exist, and in keeping with the welcome growing trend in our country, which is to shine a light on mental health and wellbeing and bring it to the forefront of conversation, I felt there was a responsibility to dig deeper, explore, and share some of these insights. During the days following our uplifting chat, there was one recurring theme that kept coming to mind; the element of self-doubt and the integral role that it plays.

As much as we may try to do our very best in every aspect of our lives in the pursuit of success and happiness- whatever these things mean to you- there will always be instances where you will ask questions of yourself and have doubts. You get home in the evening, close the door behind you, and the dark, deep inquisition begins.

Is this level of uncertainty in our abilities a sign of weakness, or cause for concern? Not in the slightest. The very act of looking within and asking questions- an excavation of the self in search for answers- is healthy. The problem arises when we allow these thoughts to snowball; they can consume us and hold us back from achieving our greatness if we allow them to. This is where the process of opening up becomes so crucial. The ability to share with those who are closest to us, to express exactly what what we are thinking and feeling, will empower us and help us along our path. We are afforded reassurance, and encouragement as a result, and more often than not, just hearing the words come out of our own mouths can offer perspective.

In these solitary interrogative moments we are presented with a choice; how we react to these questions, and the direction in which we choose to move afterwards, is what matters most. Do we let the uncertainty consume us, and hold us back in the pursuit of improvement and growth, or do we use it as fuel, a source of motivation to keep going. This element of self-doubt just comes with the territory of giving a shit; if you are truly passionate about what it is you are doing, you will doubt yourself from time to time. If you really care about something, you will always look for ways to improve and develop.

Embrace this uncertainty, use it, learn from it.

One thing I am certain of, is that I learned a great deal from that Skype call, and was delighted to have made the connection. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to offer your time to another person, to share your experiences and insights, and leave them feeling energised and inspired to keep treading their path passionately. It’s precisely these types of invigorating conversations and positive connections that can change how we view the world, and improve the quality of the lives we lead. Of that, I have no doubt.

You can read my interview with Seán O’Sullivan in full, here