Q: I always doubt myself and my abilities. How can I pray about this?
A: I understand those feelings. I also know what it’s like to be free from those feelings—how to stop struggling with doubt. Here’s how it happened for me.
Picture this: I was standing in front of a bunch of my peers, well aware that my presentation wasn’t stellar. It wasn’t even good. I had to translate a newspaper article in real time. I read the French silently as I tried to say the English equivalent out loud.
Who was that person who’d stood in front of the room, her own failure evident to everyone, and wasn’t even shaken?
It was a required class in grad school that was excruciatingly hard—and not just for me. Fellow students regularly left the classroom in tears, and I think a lot of people felt incompetent. The pressure was intense. I was one of the few who seemed unfazed, despite my poor performance.
This particular course was taught by someone who very obviously took pleasure in seeing students stumble and fail. After one of my ineffectual presentations, she made a snide remark, then asked me to meet with her in her office.
To my surprise, the first thing the professor said was, “You never crack, do you?”
I laughed and replied, “Not for this.”
She made it clear that she was impressed, and she came up with a course of study that would support success, even though this was a change in curriculum that had never been allowed before.
Who was that person who’d stood in front of the room, her own failure evident to everyone, and wasn’t even shaken? It wasn’t the person I’d been in college. Back then, I did crack. I’d call my mom, upset and needing reassurance, when I had an imminent test or a big paper due, even when I was well on the road to a comfortable A. What had changed? Well, you might say I’d been given the gift of a much more secure, God-based concept of what I am—my spiritual identity.
After college, I got hit with a string of illnesses. Just as one was healed, it seemed another would take me down. It could’ve been discouraging, but I always felt cared for, and even protected. My mom would read to me the weekly Bible Lesson, found in the Christian Science Quarterly, and sing hymns, and sometimes I’d read articles from the Christian Science Sentinel. A Christian Science practitioner was praying for me, and steadily I began to make progress.
I learned a lot of spiritual lessons during that time, but the overarching take-away was that I am so much more than my physical body. I am spiritual. I’m not a collection of good and bad personality traits, or strengths and weaknesses. I am God’s likeness, and that means God is expressing every beautiful and good spiritual quality in me, all the time.
There was nothing to doubt or question, since I knew my abilities weren’t of my own making; they are sourced in the infinite—in God.
I had a better sense than I’d ever had before of what I was as God’s perfect and complete creation. And even though I’d grown up learning that everything I am has its source in God, it wasn’t until this experience that I really got that in a tangible way. Instead of feeling like my good qualities were mine, I understood that my real identity is a mirror image of God—all that goodness coming from Him. There was no circumstance, no illness, nothing anyone could ever say or think about me that could ever change that.
Everything my parents and I learned during that time led to my complete healing—and to my decision to attend grad school, something I’d never considered before. And my new understanding of what I am was the foundation I needed, in grad school and going forward.
For example, even as I stood in front of the class and stumbled, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t incapable or unintelligent. I might need to see more clearly what it means to reflect God as divine Mind, but to express divine Mind is what I’m made to do. There was nothing to doubt or question, since I knew my abilities weren’t of my own making; they are sourced in the infinite—in God. Since then, this has helped me approach areas where I need to grow with trust and expectation, instead of with self-doubt, self-condemnation, and fear.
I’m not special in this; it’s true for each of us. And that’s why, as we glimpse even just a little bit more that we have all the good God is constantly giving to us—and that we’re actually made up of that good—we can face every challenge not as a test to possibly fail, but as an opportunity to learn, and even to shine.