Gold foil illustration of stars


A Cascading Crisis of Self-Doubt

A warning to Icarus, as he stretched out his wings for the first time: “Don’t fly too near the sun, nor the sea. One will melt the wax, and the other weigh down the feathers. Keep to the middle course.”

Most of the time your confidence carries on something like that, in a kind of self-correcting balance. Some days you wake up with your head in the clouds and you have to remind yourself to stay grounded. Other days you’re just barely slogging through, hoping something can lift your spirits. But it’s not always that simple. Sometimes you have no idea what to think about yourself, feeling somehow better than everybody but not good enough for anybody. Which is actually when you’re at your most precarious, feeling overdue for a correction. Something throws you off- balance, and you slip into a spiraling self-doubt—picking apart your wings, trying to figure out if your feathers are still attached.

You think over your life and realize how much of it is mythology, stories you tell yourself. How many half-hearted compliments have you taken to heart, how many of your friendships are kept together by little more than circumstance? You may love your partner but start to doubt how well that comes across. You may love your job but begin to question if it’s worth all the time it has cost you, knowing how easily your role could be refilled, your legacy tossed in a box. You wonder if you’re really any good at it, or have been ignoring warning signs that it’s time to try something else.

But what else could you try? How much do you really know about your interests? Do you actually like the things you like? What makes you happy? Surely it should be enough to sit by a pond in the park, watching the ducks, living in the moment. But what does that do for anybody? Where is the line between self-actualization and self-indulgence? How much of your time could be better spent trying to make a difference? Then again, what difference could you realistically hope to make? Perhaps you tell yourself it doesn’t matter as long as you do something—but wouldn’t that only prove you were doing it just for yourself, not for some greater cause? So where does that leave you?

You begin to wonder if you’ve spent your entire life buoyed by airy delusions, coasting along on unearned confidence. But if it’s possible to carry on that way indefinitely and not even notice, does it even matter whether any of it is real?

Maybe your self-mythology is no different than any other mythology. It’s a story that changes in the telling, evolving over time. Whatever resonates will stay, and what doesn’t will fall away. To pick away at the literal truth is to miss the point of it, miss the joy of it. So go ahead and build your myth. Try to tell a good story about yourself that captures something true, whether or not the facts agree.

Keep to the middle course. Steal bits of wax and feathers discarded by other, better fliers. Let the sun rise and fall. Let the waves pound themselves to mist, again and again. Your task is not to be flawless. Your task is to fly.

Ancient Greek κῦδος (kûdos), glory, praise + κλάω, (kláō), to break down. Pronounced “koo-doh- klaz-uhm.”








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