The Eternal Doubting Voice


There is a persistent voice inside most of us that continually tells us that we are not good enough. There are a million different variations, but the themes are the same: we’re not smart enough, strong enough, worthy enough. 

Over the course of my life, this voice has followed me. Sometimes I go through periods of feeling so confident that it feels like I’ve licked that voice for good. That feeling is fantastic but utterly illusory, because, like depression, that voice is never really gone. It just waits until you’re feeling fragile and vulnerable and then it starts in again, louder and more insistent than ever. 

That voice has played a pretty big role in my life and my career. When I was a staff writer for The A.V Club and then The Dissolve this voice told me that I would always need a staff job as a pop-culture writer because I would never be able to handle the uncertainty and anxiety and unrelenting rejection that went with freelancing. 

Then at a certain point, the choice between a steady, stable staff job and the exciting but utterly terrifying prospect of being full-time freelance disappeared. The steady staff job I foolishly assumed would always be a possibility seems to have vanished.

As the father of a three year, I gravitated towards the ostensible safety and security of being a columnist. That was always my great strength at The A.V Club and The Dissolve. At one point I had nine columns and with it a certain guaranteed monthly income but those started to crumble. I took comfort in knowing that at least one of my columns, My World of Flops, was too popular to kill. So you can imagine the terror and intense visceral rejection I felt when I discovered that my most popular, influential and long-running column was being killed for not being popular enough.

That persistence voice that tells you that you’re not good enough is shouting pretty loud inside my head right now. When you’re depressed, as I am, you’re unusually sensitive to slights from the outside world and right now the world has a way of feeling like one big red light, one massive rejection that takes myriad different forms. I’m struggling in a way that makes me feel like it is my existential lot in life to struggle.

I’m generally confident about writing. You have to be confident, and have relatively high self-esteem or the constant rejection and failure and self-doubt will crush you. When I’ve felt uncertain or depressed or anxious I’ve at least had the consolation that I can write about that uncertainty, and depression, and anxiety, and by writing about tough emotions I’m able to work my way through them. 


I tend to write my way through, and out of depressions but right now the joy and ease with which I usually approach the wonderful burden of creating Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place from scratch has been replaced by a certain heaviness. I love what I do, but sometimes I get profoundly discouraged. That awful doubting voice tells me that I’ve lost and while I know there’s nothing good that can come from listening to it, I’ve got to confess: it makes a pretty convincing argument. 

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