When the distractions are few and far between. When I’ve moved past the mind-numbing Netflix stage and into the let’s-spend-an-hour-trying-to-fall-asleep phase. When I close my eyes and try to let everything get quiet, only to have my mind get louder. When I think about everything I wanted to get done today and then everything that I failed to get done today. When I think about where my life is and how it’s progressed compared to the progression of my peers. When I spend way too much time thinking about random conversations I had today with random people or even close friends – conversations that they probably thought about for zero time after it was over, but that I am still thinking over now – because I am picking out all the stupid things I said and thinking about how much the other person was probably judging me.
And the logical part of my brain knows that this is all silly. The logical part of my brain knows that I still got a lot done today, that I’m still working hard, that I’m still on the way to making my life something, anything. The logical part of my brain tells me to think about the conversations I have with people and how I never spend any time dissecting what they said or how “stupid” or “weird” I thought they were, so why would I assume they think any differently? The logical part of my brain knows all of this during the day. It’s the only reason I have the energy to keep going after what I want.
But there’s something about lying under the covers at night. And staring up at the ceiling. And being totally alone with your thoughts – even if there’s someone sleeping right beside you. There’s something about this moment that allows the ugly part of your brain to take over for an instant, or a while. Because this ugly part knows that it’s too late for anyone to intercede.
It’s the cruel part of us that is hardest to live with when it’s late at night. When that darkness inside of us senses that the world is asleep and we are alone and now is the time to start inflicting doubt, insecurity, fear, and stress. We’re wired to fight for what we want, to pursue greatness, to go after our biggest dreams, to connect with other human beings and allow them to carry us in the moments when we can’t carry ourselves. But there’s a dark part inside of us too, that each one of us has to fight, a dark part that is wired for self-destruction. And this dark part comes out of me at night, when it knows it has a better chance, when I am too tired and worn out to tell it to shut up and there’s no one there to shut it up for me.
And this is when I doubt myself. When I envy the daylight version of me, who seems so much more capable of dealing with these feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt than the nighttime version of me. The daylight version of me can address the occasional onslaught of insecurity and fears of mediocrity because she refuses to let it stop her from getting what she wants, but the nighttime version of me is paralyzed and weighed down with thoughts of what if? and how will I ever make this work? and what am I even doing?
Some nights are worse than others. Sometimes I can fall asleep in an instant and other times I will lie awake for three hours wondering how I got myself to the place I am now and wondering if it was all just a lucky fluke.
But this self-doubt does not have a finish line or a place I can get to in my life where it will simply stop. I am learning that more and more each day – that this is not a phase I just have to get through, but rather a mindset that I have to learn to work around. And surprisingly enough, I feel it even more intensely each time I experience success.
What I am learning to do is to deal with it. To acknowledge that it is a powerful sentiment but that it does not have to rule my decisions or my mindset or my actions. And what I find most comforting of all is that I am not alone in this cruel, uncomfortable, late-night self-doubt. It is one of the things that has made me feel the most connected to those that I have spoken to about it.
We all have this dark monster instead of us, and for a lot of us, it comes out late at night. When it knows it will have you all to itself and it can set your brain on fire with all the reasons why you are a disappointment or a failure or even just a bummer.
There is no magic cure or simple solution. But remember this: it is a sign, a token, that you are human. That you feel things that millions before you have felt in one way or another. That you are connected to the rest of us, past and present and future, because you must work around this dark part in order to keep going. Remember that while you are lying awake late at night, seemingly alone, you are in fact the exact opposite. The dark part of you is dark, but it’s also a bridge to the souls all around you.