November 29, 2011: D is for DOUBT

“Doubt was a bit overprotective, she questioned my every need. She told me things I shouldn’t do or try for fear of where they may lead.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

In my mid-twenties I once accepted a friend’s dare to perform standup comedy on amateur night at a famous comedy club in Syracuse, New York. Given everyone I knew was constantly telling me I was the funniest woman they knew, I figured, how hard could this be? I tell jokes, funny stories and make people laugh all the time. Plus I always wanted to experience the roaring laughter of an admiring crowd. “This could be my big break to stardom, fame and fortune!” I gleefully imagined.

With great excitement, anticipation and diligence I went about the task of developing my six minute sketch. I had confidently planned, rehearsed and pumped myself up for the big moment. Friends had confirmed my act was funny, that I would do great. My big chance had arrived and less than an hour before I was scheduled to go on stage a barrage of questions filled my head: “Why is the room spinning? Why am I shaking so hard? Where can I throw up? Does anyone have a Depends handy? Where is my mommy? What’s my name? What’s the number for 911?” I was in complete panic! I promise you I had never been so nervous in my entire life. Why had I lost all of my confidence and gumption?

It was the dreadfully loud voice of Doubt! (Insert haunted music and wicked laughter here.) “Oh, the audience is going to laugh alright! They are going to laugh you right off the stage you sorry, corny joke-telling, pathetic excuse for a wannabe standup comedian!” Doubt wasn’t whispering, but rather screaming at unbearable decibels! I felt physically ill and paralyzed. Never before had I experienced such performance fear and panic. Nor have I ever again since.

Just as I was prepared to exit the back door of the comedy club en route to the bus station for a ticket to any place I could buy a backbone, another voice deep inside whispered, “Pray.” I was due on stage in two minutes. So in desperation I prayed – hard! It was the only thing I had left to do. When I opened my eyes I  was miraculously on stage. Hundreds of eyeballs were peering through me, dying to get their $10 and two drink minimum worth of laughter for the night. I mumbled something ridiculous and I heard a sudden burst of loud laughter. I thanked God for the inebriated patrons sitting up front! It didn’t matter whether they were laughing with me or at me. They were laughing and that was the goal, right? That little burst of laughter was enough to get me to stop taking myself so seriously and believe in myself again. I then continued on to deliver one of the funniest performances I could have ever hoped for.

I’ve come to learn a lot about Doubt, that nagging voice of fear, who will use every tactic imaginable to convince you your goals are too risky, too absurd, and too unattainable. Doubt will not only remind you of your previous failure in this area, but everyone else’s too. If it’s something you have never previously attempted Doubt will be relentless in trying to convince you failure is certain. Doubt pretends to protect all the while prohibiting your physical, emotional and spiritual growth. Doubt wastes no time in echoing the dreaded sentiment of “I told you so” every time the slightest task does not work out quite the way you had hoped or planned. Doubt gives me gas.

So why on earth do we spend so much time hanging out with doubt? Too much pride and too little faith is my answer. My amateur night comedy moment taught me that there is nothing that can conquer doubt quite like a little faith, and a whole lot of laughter. In hindsight I’ve learned that Doubt is the true wannabe comedian. When I begin to hear that voice, I’ve learned to laugh at my doubts and trust my faith. You must learn to move your pride aside and accept that you may very well be an amateur, you are not perfect, people may indeed laugh at you or your dreams, and you may even flop a time or two. However, the fact that you took center stage on cue to attempt to bring your dreams into reality means you really haven’t failed at all. You’ve moved one step closer to success by having tried than having not. Faith will always be there applauding and encouraging you to be the star of your own show. Do you really want to be upstaged by Doubt? Trust me, in the end, it will be hard to find any humor in that.



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