I Live With Self-Doubt

Earlier this week, I read what I thought was an incredible post from Katrina Megget, who wrote very open and honestly about her own struggles with self-doubt. Of course, personal realities like this are not often showcased across social media, in favour of the near-perfect images and quotes that will often attract the interactions from an audience.

Feeling inspired from reading Katrina’s own experiences, I’d like to write of my own.

There have been occasions in the past where I’ve mentioned and perhaps even discussed my own struggles with mental health generally. Anxiety and depression are a part of this mix. Being able to head outdoors on a weekend (and summer evening) has been essential for me in my efforts to ‘survive’ general life at times, over the past seven years.

From the images and posts on this blog and with the videos I produce on YouTube, it may be easy for someone to look at this evidence and believe that ‘Olly’s okay’ and that I do these things naturally… In reality, even when I’m looking forward to event, I am wrestling with my own experiences and feelings of self-doubt.

Walk leading and guiding the group over a clearly locked gate. (Photo by Nick S.)

Walk Leading

This is probably one of my biggest current ‘triggers’ towards feelings and thoughts of self-doubt, in an outdoors-related environment. Some of my common thoughts may include:

-I’m not doing enough to look after, entertain or keep in touch with the whole group.
-I should’ve picked a different path/altered the route.
-Am I sure I’m going the right way?
-I am going the right way but the group have carried on… I’ve lost control.
-I’m walking too fast. Some people must hate me.

People may tell me afterwards that they enjoyed the walk, they’ll even say thank you and then, with my head full of self-doubt, I’ll find myself unable to fully process and accept these external opinions as an alternate truth.

Walking With Friends

When walking with someone else of even a small group of friends, I often put myself forward to lead walks and so, it’s rare that I’ll be following in someone else’s lead.

-Are they really enjoying this walk?
-Is this route actually harder or less interesting than I anticipated?
-If something goes wrong, will that affect my friendship with this person/these people?
-I’m not talking enough. I have nothing to say. I’m not good enough to have friends.

Walking By Myself

My experiences of self-doubt while walking alone can be heightened by attempts and efforts to film myself.

-What if someone sees me walking back and forth with the camera?
-I think they saw me. They must think I’m really weird.
-Am I going the right way? That person might be the landowner, ready to tell me I’m wrong.
-Sometimes, I don’t enjoy walking by myself as much as with others.
-It’s not normal to walk alone. Normal people walk with others. I’m not normal.

There’s the truth… And The Truth.

In response to some of these concerns, I have never had a friend complain to me afterwards about any aspect of a walk. Even when someone’s fallen in a river or slipped hard on ice (both of which have occurred this year).

There was a particular group walk towards the end of 2017 where I’m certain that a couple of people didn’t enjoy the intense experience. While this was partly due to the unexpectedly knee-deep snow and 40mph wind, I know that I didn’t have to drag people all the way to a particular trig point and back, before beginning our descent.

For some people, I will never be open and chatty enough. But I would not regard those people as my closest friends and the ones I do tend to walk with privately will often appreciate moments and minutes of quiet time, away from the busy world of an average working week.

July 2014 in Dorset.

It was only in August 2012 that I started walking by myself. Properly walking; taking to the hills and leaving the forty-five minute dog walks to their own. For several months, I’d postponed the idea, based on a believe that ‘I couldn’t do it by myself’. That I needed someone with me to metaphorically hold my hand… History has proven that this is untrue.

Two years later and I had my first ever camping trip planned for the summer. A chance to explore Dorset and a stretch of the Jurassic Coast. This was arranged to happen with a friend – because I believed I couldn’t face it alone – who happened to be struck down with an awful cold as the weekend arrived. I almost didn’t go. Even with everything packed and ready to load in to my car, I could’ve locked the door and excused myself…

From an experience in which I would discover my first true sense of adventure. A proper holiday (sort of), of which I hadn’t known for a decade. It’s possible there are things I did by myself that I wouldn’t have expected a friend to follow along with. From then on, these solo camping trips became a regular theme through the summer months and now, I’m preparing for my second backpacking trip in as many years.

August 2017 – on Lose Hill in the Peak District.

For what may be the first time in writing on this blog, I have not felt entirely comfortable putting certain words and sentences on to this screen. It’s been harder than I’d expected and I’m sure there is more I could right – for example, I could look at situations like work, away from the outdoors world. There are also some beliefs that I am not comfortable sharing.

But I try to write honestly on this site and to be as open as I am prepared to be. I am not a fan of the ‘living life to the full’ and ‘always smiling’ culture that plagues social media and, if my blog fails to reach the limelight because of that then, so be it.

I know I have achieved a lot. I know I can achieve more.

But the negatives seem to bear a greater weight and mass.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

10 thoughts on “I Live With Self-Doubt”

  1. Hi Olly.
    You would be surprised if you knew how many other people have those same exact thoughts and feelings.
    It does’nt make you a freak or a wierdo but it does demonstrate that you care about the feelings of others rather than satisfying your own needs all the time.
    It also stabilises you and keeps both feet on the ground instead of walking around with your head in the clouds thinking:” How great am I” your true friends are with you because they like you and dont think about judging you.
    Wishing you all the best for your future adventures.


  2. Oh, Olly, what a heartfelt post, and one that will resonate with a lot of people. You’d be amazed how many of us go through life worrying if we are good enough, wondering if we did this or that in the right way, and full of anxiety that others must think badly of us, One reason I started walking alone was because I didn’t feel good enough / fast enough / strong enough etc. to walk with others. If it gives you any consolation, I can tell you it does get easier as you get older, and you will begin to worry less about what others think of you.
    Actually, one of the reasons I follow and read your walking posts is because I really empathise with your uncertainties and worries about picking the right route, getting lost, etc. I like the honesty in your posts, and I’m sure others do too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Ruth. My post has definitely been very well received. A number of people have spoken to me directly in private, in response to this.

      I’m pleased to hear that you’ve found these experiences become easier with time. I was interested to read that you started walking alone because you felt less able to walk with others, by comparison… I actually started walking by myself because I had been waiting too long for someone to hold my hand.

      Thank you. I do try to write honestly and openly. There are some things that I will always prefer to remain private. I think you’d enjoy the book I’m slowly writing on my experience of walking The Ridgeway last year… You’ll be sure to hear about it when it is ready. Probably in a few months. 😉


  3. See this is where you’re going wrong Olly- when someone falls in the river, especially if it is Carrie Pitt, it is always hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I missed a trick with that. Had my camera been rolling, I could’ve created the next viral video to leach across Facebook – like that one last year, where some girl fails to jump across a stream and ends up covered in mud.


  4. Well written Pj, you should be proud of yourself for how far you have come and all you have achieved, not just physically with the walking but mentally pushing through barriers too.
    I can honestly say I have enjoyed all our walks so far whether chatty or quiet and as for the more eventful ones ( where cars get locked in car parks by scary angry men or getting chased by cows ) these create comical memories 😉
    Looking forward to more wanders with you soon x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for linking to my blog and taking strength from it. You may not realise it but this post you have written is the epitome of bravery. You’ve taken your self doubt and given it the two fingers just by pushing the publish button. Take pride in that. That and the fact that you will have touched someone with your authenticity and sincerity. We all doubt ourselves – the trick is in recognising that it’s just a thought about ourselves and is not hinged on truth (even if we think or feel it is). You are an amazing and unique person just be being you. You are enough. Here’s to all your future exciting adventures and squashing those thought demons.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Katrina. A number of people have indeed responded to what I have written. Some directly, across social media. While a few have also contacted me privately, expressing their gratitude. Many of the people I know personally (offline) were surprised to learn that I experience this and it’s also something that they can relate to. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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