Overcoming Self-Doubt -- What I Have Been Learning From Rumi

06/15/2015 04:18 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2016

Everyone is generally familiar with the adage, 'If you believe it, then you can achieve it.'

The great question to ask is whether or not we truly believe in the old adage.

The biggest enemies of success are negativity and self-doubt. Sometimes we set out to accomplish something yet our surroundings scream that we cannot. And we wallow in self-doubt.

On my desk I have a copy of The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne. Rumi wrote,

"Do you know what you are? You are a manuscript of a divine letter. You are a mirror reflecting a noble face. This universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you are already that."

When I am in doubt, I often find myself pouring through Rumi's teachings. Jalāl ad-Dīn Balkhī, also known as Rumi, was a 13th-century Sufi mystic poet who wrote some of the most profound and inspirational words ever written.

Allow me to share what I have been learning from Rumi's work about overcoming self-doubt.

Self-belief is a choice

"I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things."

When we try to be a version of another, it brings out the discontent in ourselves. Being unique encompasses being ourselves; embracing the person we are; and cultivating the one we'll become. As Rumi wrote, "You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don't. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly."

We are stronger than we usually think. When we focus on our weaknesses we end up smothering our potential, preventing it from manifesting. To survive, and ultimately to thrive, it is our duty to rise again and again.

"Drum sound rises on the air, its throb, my heart.

A voice inside the beat says, "I know you're tired, but come. This is the way."

Changing self-doubt into self-belief is a choice. We are answerable for ourselves. Only we can change what and who we are.

Our critics make us better

"If you knew yourself for even one moment, if you could just glimpse your most beautiful face, maybe you wouldn't slumber so deeply in that house of clay. Why not move into your house of joy and shine into every crevice! For you are the secret treasure-bearer, and always have been. Didn't you know?"

Trying to please everyone is like trying to fit the entire ocean into a cup; it's impossible. Whatever good we do, and however good we become, people who dismiss and belittle our achievements will always emerge. If we let their negative perceptions and views infiltrate our minds, we end up being a reflection of their opinions.

Rumi wrote, "Your criticism polishes my mirror."

When we understand who we are and focus on consistently improving our own abilities, it is easier not to see criticism as a problem but as an opportunity to become a better version of ourselves.
We become more secure as we ritualistically practice to get better. And when we are secure, it is easier to use our critics to improve ourselves.

Challenging ourselves

"Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah ... it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you."

Monotony is one of the reasons for many of our failures. Most often than not, we allow ourselves to be comfortable in a particular situation. This state of comfort is a sign of fear of letting go and venturing into unknown. It holds us back. It is important to make tough calls and take on challenging steps. As we do, we build our confidence regardless of the outcome.

And it's okay if we fail. The trick is to not give up on ourselves. As Rumi wrote,

"When you go through a hard period,
When everything seems to oppose you,
... When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,


Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!"

Changing our perception

"Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place."

We all have our dimensions of viewing life; there are those who will see a glass half-empty and those who will see it half-full. When we always see the glass half-empty, we end up killing our confidence and self-belief.

Wrong perceptions are detrimental and poisonous to our growth and happiness.

As we wrote in our book, Survive to Thrive; we get our strength from compassion -- compassion for others and ourselves. Most of us are struggling with some life event every day. The more we are aware of how others struggle, the easier it gets to deal with our own issues. Better yet, if we can evoke a smile on someone else despite our personal situation, it makes us feel good about ourselves. And that gives us self-belief.


Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Shadoka Enables Entrepreneurship, Growth, and Social Impact. He is the author of "Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability" (McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). His newest book is "Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders" (Motivational Press, 2015). Copyright (c) 2015 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved. Follow him on Twitter @faisal_hoque.