Self doubt during UPSC prep

To doubt is human

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Since all CSE aspirants are humans, they naturally fall prey to doubt at multiple points in their journey.

Further, I’m not aware if UPSC has opened the exam for any other species so it naturally goes without saying that every aspirant falls prey to doubt. Unless of course you’re one of those rare individuals who has it all figured out. But I haven’t met any such individuals so it’s hard to say what those people are like.

To drive the point home, I had met Anu Kumari (Rank 2, CSE2017) during a mock interview. Believe it or not, she was doubted whether she would make it to the final list at that time. And look at that result.

So it’s clear that all of us face doubt.

But how do the successful aspirants deal with doubt, that’s the important question.

Things you can control & things you can’t

Realising the difference between those two categories is the beginning of wisdom.

Focus on the things you can control and let go off all others.

For example: For CSE 2021, Prelims was supposed to happen sometime in early June in 2020 but then the Covid second wave hit.

Now could you have controlled when Prelims would happen? Will it be in August, October or will it be cancelled?

There is no point in dwelling on such queries.

Even in such situations there are things that you can control, your effort is one of them. Focus on working hard and let UPSC decide when to conduct prelims. You can rest assured that you will be given ample warning and time for the rescheduled exam.

Normalise doubts but don’t feed them

It’s normal to doubt.

So if you think that because you are doubting yourself you are not dedicated to the goal then that’s not the best way to think. By negating your own thoughts and emotions you are simply getting in your own way.

Instead, acknowledge the fact that you are doubting, consider why you are doubting.

Then follow this dictum:

Once having doubts is normalised, you also need to realise that you don’t have to dwell on them all the time. This is more of a habit and takes time to master.

I’d recommend meditating to make it easier for yourself.

The obstacle is showing you the way

This comes from Stoic philosophy and deals with your mindset.

Look deeply at what’s causing you grief/doubt/worry and figure out how you can GROW as an individual to move beyond that doubt.

Look at all your problems as opportunities for growing and learning.

This is something that video games also teach us: if you're encountering enemies, you're going the right way.

You might fail, despite all efforts

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Nothing is guaranteed in life. Once you accept that chance plays a role in a lot of events in our life, then all there remains is for you to focus on the task at hand. Keep working, keep grinding and be grateful for the things you have.

If you do this, regardless of chance you will see yourself succeed because of the discipline, grit and determination that you would have built along the way.

Hope this helps.

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