186: Self-Doubt & Whitewater Rafting

Episode 110: The cause and effect of self-doubt.

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Listen to Episode 110: The Self-Doubt Show

Topic: Storytelling episode all about self-doubt and whitewater rafting.
Episode 110 is about having the confidence to create the life you want and overcoming self-doubt.

Dictionary Definition:

Self-Doubt: lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities.

Mike Murphy Definition:

Self-Doubt: Trying to convince other people that your abilities are good enough.

Two Faces of Self-Doubt

Self-doubt comes in many flavors.

  1. The dictionary definition of self-doubt is for people with low or no self-esteem and this can only be overcome when you are able to give yourself a break and learn to respect and love yourself more. This is real and not easy. I’ve had my low moments and can be self-deprecating and hard on myself and it’s not fun. You will not move forward or be able to help others until you fix and appreciate yourself. Self-awareness and honesty will be the best way to get better. A little self-love goes a long way.
  2. The Mike Murphy definition of self-doubt is for the podcasters, creatives, freelancers, personal brands and dreamers hoping to make a dent in the universe, but let others discourage them and cause them to give up too early. This is fear and impatience disguised as self-doubt.

Caving In

Self-doubt causes you to podfade or stop writing or stop making YouTube videos or stop working on your craft and uploading content every day.

Self-doubt is often not your own. It belongs to others who do not understand your journey and you are seeking their acceptance or approval, so you can do your thing. This gets tiring and many just give in to the external pressures.

The reason it becomes so difficult is that it is often people who love and care for you or are in your inner circle who cast their own doubt on you . It may be your sister, brother, mother, father, wife, husband, friend or social media acquaintances.

The problem is you never lost confidence in yourself or your abilities, you just placed all of your focus on trying to get others on board with your dreams, goals and visions and you started to believe that maybe all of their advice and concerns and doubt were right. You got tired of defending your endeavors, but you still think you are capable of succeeding, don’t you? You started your thing with passion and drive and excitement, yet instead of putting all of your energy and efforts in making it happen, you put all of your attention into other people’s expectations of you.

Creating the life you want is about your life. Don’t let others create it for you.

Lessons from the River

I lived in Durango, CO for many years post-college and whitewater rafting was the activity I enjoyed the most.

Like most ski-bum resort towns, I rolled into town with my liberal art honor’s degree (from UMass-Amherst) and went from restaurant to restaurant willing to start as a busboy. I knew with my cum laude status I could work my way up the ranks eventually (only slightly sarcastic…). I landed a bartending job at a popular local’s joint and the manager, Kurt, was just a few years older than me and he became one of my closest friends and mentor on the river. He taught me how to read and navigate the river, drink beer all day in the sun, and the power of storytelling while sitting around the campfire at night.

Captain Mike

I had been a passenger on several river trips, but my first time behind the oars was on a 6-day trip through Cataract Canyon which is legendary in the whitewater rafting world.

The first 4 days there is nothing but flat water and not so much as a ripple. On Day #5 there are 28 Class 3 & 4 rapids in a row and they increase in difficulty as the river drops.

The night before the big day of rapids, we camped right next to rapid #1 which is the easiest of the 28 and it was the biggest whitewater I had ever seen. Remember, this was my first time ever rowing a raft and I had to wake up and somehow make it down 8 hours of Class 4 rapids and be responsible for the lives of my 2 friends who were passengers on my raft.

My Vessel & Crew

I am 5'8" on a good day and weigh about 135 lbs. (looks like I was a little more back in those days :D). My borrowed raft was from a guy who was 6' plus, 200lbs.+ and the raft and oars looked like they came from the same time period as the early settlers. Old school would be putting it mildly. While all my friends had carbon-fiber this and that, I could barely move the wooden planks that doubled as oars.

About three or four rapids in, one of my passengers (close friend), became so nervous that a newbie was controlling her fate, that we decided she needed to get on Kurt’s boat because he was our guru and she would feel safe with him (yeah, me too…). So it was now just me and my good pal, Jen. A fearless bad-ass-mofo who was a river guide herself and someone I was very happy to have as my passenger because she had been down this river many times as a guide and she was as tough as nails. She jumped around the rubber on my pirate’s ship like a monkey to prevent the raft from high-siding (flipping on one side) and yelling at me whenever I was about to screw up (which was pretty much most of the day).

Scouting the Big One

On the most technical and scariest rapid of the day #28, we pulled over in an eddy to scout it and figure out what the best and safest line was. There were not many options and one false move could make for a very bad day. Big rapids and big holes all over the place, hungry to devour our rafts and spin them around like a washing machine.


The reason I had so much admiration for Kurt (and several other of my river friends) was how much they respected the power of the river and mother nature. Kurt was a master oarsman, yet he never let his guard down and always made sure everyone was okay.

There is always a nervous calm and focus when scouting serious rapids this one was a biggie. The leaders discussed the pros and cons of each possible route and each captain made their decision on what they were going to do.

As would be the norm for many years to come, Kurt calmly pulled me aside away from the group and said follow me and take the left line no matter what. It will not be easy to get there from where we are putting the boats in, but that is your safest route and you can do it.

I knew when he was serious and I trusted him as a friend and mentor even though I was not entirely sure I could pull it off.

Go Time

Quietly and nervously we all trekked back to our boats and it was game on. I had to navigate this giant heavy boat from river right all the way across the river with an extremely strong current not wanting me to succeed. I pulled and pulled and my arms hurt and I was adrenaline scared and it felt like I was running in a dream and not moving. I was approaching danger much faster than I was approaching where I needed to be as it felt like the harder I rowed the less I moved. I was running out of time and looked up at my fearless co-pilot Jen and said, “I can’t make it over there…I’m gonna straighten the boat and head down here before it gets too late.”

I’m pretty level-headed and do not freak out, but I was nervous, in-experienced and not confident in my abilities at that moment.

The Punch

Jen was standing behind me with hands on my should this entire time so she could get a higher visual of the river ahead and help me navigate and as soon as I told her I was basically giving up on the plan, she punched me so hard in the arm so hard and said, “Shut the f$#@ up and get us to the left side of the river.” I think I swore, cried and laughed at the same time.

Patience, kid

Like magic, the next couple of pulls on the oars the raft shot through the current and I made it just in time and I flew down the left runway of the river. I made it. It was awesome. It was fun (after the fact). My arm hurt like hell.

Trust Yourself

This trip and 100’s of river trips after taught me how to trust my decisions more than anything and only focus on the task at hand. River rafting is all about choosing a course that you think and know is best and sticking to the plan. Often times in the best move is row into the face of danger and then pull away at the last second and that takes an amazing amount of trust and confidence but over time it develops. Like everything we do, the things that seem impossible at first get easier with time.

Self-Doubt or Fear

The self-doubt I was experiencing on that first trip and that big Class 4 rapid was natural because I lacked practice and time on the river. I did not lack confidence in my self as a person and in fact I knew I was in good shape and was skilled enough to navigate the river.My biggest fear was likely proving it to others that I could do it. I didn’t want to flip the boat and be embarrassed, or I didn’t want to endanger my friends. That’s normal, nobody likes to screw up in front of others, but is that enough of a reason to quit? I don’t think so. And guess what, when you do mess up or flip the raft, nobody cares. Worry about things that really matter: your happiness.

The Moral of The Story

Self-doubt by definition is the lack of confidence in one’s abilities but it is my belief that most podcasters who podfade or most creatives or freelancers or one man bands who give up too early on finishing what they started has less to do with how they think of them selves but more to do with external influences in most cases, friends, family and online peers.

The self-doubt in many cases is not your own, it’s the doubt of those around you who are worried about you or not sure if you are going to be okay or not sure if you really know what you are doing. You are putting too much effort and focus on proving your worth and abilities to others instead of putting all of your efforts to get from one side of the river to the other like you set out to do and know you can do it with a little effort.

Comparing Yourself

I’ve talked about the Impostor Syndrome many times on this podcast, and its a big issue for many online creators and a major cause of self-doubt and self-esteem issues. Impostor Syndrome is comparing yourself to others and seeking validation or permission to move forward. You will not succeed if you base all of your decisions on what other people think of you, especially if it is people you care about the most. The way to move forward and prove your abilities to yourself and others is to put in the hard work over and over. Why have I published content everyday for over 2 years now? Not for others to put their stamp of approval, but because I am creating the life I want and I know what it takes for me to get there.

Good things take Time

Self-doubt does gets in your head with comments that you should have more followers or email subscribers or why are you not making good money yet or why is it taking so long for you to become an overnight success.

While you are building your thing or working on your craft or business, you cannot let this negativity or scrutiny or even genuine concern of others manifest itself into your own self-doubt if you still believe in what you are doing just because it is taking longer than others expected or it does not look like how they envisioned.

The vision and reasons are yours and yours alone. Stick to the plan and do not give up unless that is the right decision made by you.

Rome was not built in a day

Building an online business is hard.
Creating daily content is hard.
Podcasting is hard.
Creating a life that can support me doing what I love is hard.

It takes an enormous amount of time, dedication, hustle and grind day in an day out.

I never thought it would be easy did you?

Keep Going

Self-doubt is real all I ask of you is that you understand the source and do not give up too soon for the wrong reasons is all. There is no universal timeline that guarantees success in podcasting or starting a business, but there is a guarantee that to be good and confident and skilled at anything takes time and patience and without either it’s not going to happen.

Use self-doubt caused by inexperience and lack of time to your advantage to make you hungry and work even harder. Do not misinterpret hard work as a sign that you need to quit or give up and whatever you do.

Distance yourself from negativity that is trying to make their doubt your own.

You got this and if I can help, just say the word.


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My name is Mike Murphy, I’m a one man band and podcaster.
Learn. Create. Move Forward.
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Podcaster, Tutorial Maker & Problem Solver. I Help People Figure Things Out. Email: mike@mikemurphy.co Podcaster Support & Content Creator @Simplecast.