train your doubts

whenever I find myself drowning in my woes and the world’s noise, I turn to chapter nine of Rainer Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. this masterpiece of his has been my pick-me-up for the longest time, his writing a comforting embrace to my insecurities, doubts, and distress. in this chapter, Rilke tells Mr. Kappus that his doubt may become a good quality, if he trains it.

our doubt must become knowing, it must be critical. whenever we are in doubt, we must ask it, demand proofs from it, why something is ugly. we must insist on arguments from our doubt. so often i find myself feeling sorry for myself when i am in doubt, and i make the blow even harder by centering on my ugly qualities and mistakes boohoo hoo, woe is me. i realize it is not fair to do this to myself, to be in doubt but not objective and constructive. to treat myself fairly, i must be objective even to the things i like the least about myself. Rilke says that if we are watchful and consistent, the day will arrive when our doubt—the destroyer—will become one of our best workers, perhaps the cleverest, even.

so we must train our doubts. no matter how tempting it is to kick ourselves down, remember that we must also be fair and objective. why is it ugly? why is it bad? why is it disappointing? why is it a failure? amidst all these questions, remind yourself to be kinder and fair to yourself. with all the injustices in this life, it would be absolute criminal that we be unjust to our own beings.

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