Dropping the mask – who is the Doubting Twin?

NB: All names have been changed. 

The scene: The Umbrella Rooms near Leicester Square, London. The occasion: a glorious experiment into the psychology of confidence. The cast: six adventurous young women, eager to explore: who is the Doubting Twin?work with their Doubting TwinBasicMaskheader1, aided and a abetted by masks from Trestle Theatre.

“Focus on your inner, critical voice. Listen to the tone, the volume, how you feel as you hear what the voice has to say. Imagine what this person looks like, how she moves, how she reacts, the impact she has on people around her.”

“Now go to the table and choose the mask that best matches your inner voice. Look at the expression. Adopt the expression on your own face, then maintain it as you put on the mask. Feel your way into this persona that lives with you day to day.”

One small mask; one big shift for womankind. Here was the chance to understand the doubting voice; to play her out; to give her full throttle and feel the energy she creates. As an observer of this small, experimental group, the transformation was remarkable. Laid out before me was a pride of Doubting Twins. Now I could see for myself the force and impact they delivered. No wonder these beautiful, talented women were underplaying themselves.

“You’re pathetic – for heavens sake, get a hold of yourself”

“I’m no big fan of yours – you never get it right.”

“You need to focus – no time to relax – you have to be perfect”

We all have a doubting, critical voice in some form. It’s the energy that drives the Imposter Syndrome; that provokes us into questioning our own judgment, while believing others wholeheartedly; that helps us stay small and non-threatening. The fortunate few can override the voice quickly; others have lived with the dial turned up to maximum for years.

The masks proved a fantastic way to explore. The act of ‘putting on’ the Twin made it very real, engaging body as well as mind. Gone is the temptation to let logic explain away the derogatory message. Instead you become the derogatory speaker; you settle into holding the reins and exacting control over every move. And then you realise – this has all been about survival and making life safe.

Every critical comment shows a desire to help.

The voice was born to limit your power and self confidence. For some reason you felt it necessary to stay ‘in check’, so save yourself from blame, mistake or embarrassment, to make sure you were loved and cared for, not ostracized or neglected. The Doubting Twin was perfect for the job and did sterling work, but then she got cocky and just kept on going in the belief that she knows best. Like an elderly aunt, she loves to impart wisdom, but forgets that times have changed, that you’ve grown up and know your own business best.

Getting the message

Even now there is power and value in the Doubting Twin. However overwhelming and limiting she is now, she also holds a kernel of truth. The element she keeps in check is exactly the wisdom, talent or strength you need to access right now. When younger, being talented or strong may have caused problems. Now you’re grown and able, it’s time to come out of the closet and own up to how amazing you are.

Annabel’s Doubting Twin manages her spontaneity very closely. Going outside the comfort zone is just too risky and may take people by surprise. The belief is that people like sweet and predictable, which is a good balance to the constant criticism that drones on inside.

For Karen, the big risk was shining and being amazing. Others might be jealous and feel outshone, so much better to hold back, procrastinate and limit how much she can succeed.

Melanie sees the funny side of life. She’s attractive, appealing and engaging, so may well leave others ‘in the shade’ – and they may not like that. Better to stay quiet and give others all the space.IMG_5224

Why is the DT so limiting?

She believes it’s always better to stay safe. She also believes that her definition of ‘safe’ is the right one. In her efforts to get it right, she becomes overblown and pushes her controlling message on a daily basis.

But that’s not the problem.

The problem is that we choose to believe her – to buy into her rhetoric. On some level it’s easier to play small, to give up that strength, power, talent and allow others to take the limelight.

What to do?

So what happens when the Doubting Twin mask comes off and the complete opposite gets a look in? The change is remarkable and great fun to experiment with. But to go to the complete opposite is never going to work in the long term. So what about the middle ground, taking the best of the DT plus the best of the polar opposite – what does this feel like?

Enter the Constructive Twin

When mask number three comes out:

Annabel is now Balanced Beatrice – a woman who keeps learning and is honest about what she can and can’t do. When the situation allows, she thoroughly enjoys being spontaneous and taking people with her. It feels really good – and guess what, people really like it!

Karen morphs into Ready Rita. Rita can accept that she’s full of potential, as well as being brilliant at what she does right now. Knowing this means she can stop limiting herself by procrastinating and doing just ‘good enough’. Now she can relax, be prepared and shine for all to see.IMG_5302

Melanie is Well Balanced Wilma. She is happy and positive. She tackles problems with confidence when they come along. She accepts the consequences and speaks out when she needs to, but with positive regard for the people around her.

Knowing the Doubting Twin is an essential part of finding confidence. Until we understand why we need to hold ourselves back, we don’t have the choice to go forward. Once we realise that she has our best interests at heart – albeit in the style of an out of date Aunt – we start to see the real message she has to bring us:

“You are a talented, resourceful, strong and capable woman. I’m just not sure the world is ready for you, so I’ve worked hard to keep you safely out of the limelight. I believe this is the best way to survive.”

To bring balance, we then need to see and understand the opposite. The part of us that is just as real, but that rarely sees the light of day:

“I don’t care what anyone else thinks. And I think you are totally perfect so don’t need to change anything.”

Just as limiting at the Doubting Twin voice, the opposite won’t help on it’s own. But put the two together – accepting the best of each and watching out for the irrational – then you will create your own version of the Constructive Twin.

The Constructive Twin

She is the one who will keep you safe, but not by hiding away. She’ll make best use of your strengths, so you can shine, do great work, delight your friends and have the occasional strut. You’ll also put other people first when appropriate, care and support those who need it, tell the truth when necessary – and do it all in a way that is self affirming and confident.


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Dropping the mask – who is the Doubting Twin?