“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
Have you ever been tormented by self-defeating thoughts that go something like this?
I can’t do this, what was I thinking?
I’m not smart enough or talented enough to do this.
I don’t know if I can handle another failure, so I better not try.
Feelings like these aren’t uncommon. One particular study done by psychologists showed that 70 percent of people experience feelings of self-doubt and that it runs rampant among high achievers.
Self-doubt is that destructive voice that holds you back from getting started, finishing something or seizing those opportunities that are placed before you. How can you push out this persuasive voice and overcome your inner doubting so that you can move forward?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be quick to stop
Don’t let your self-doubts spin out of control by letting the conversation even begin. Instead, as soon as they start, talk back to them in your mind by saying no, I am not going down this road. This will disrupt your thought pattern. Then, immediately do something to engage your mind positively.
2. Know your triggers
Start noticing different scenarios or people that trigger your doubts and try to avoid them. If you can’t avoid them, then see number one above. One common trigger is to compare yourself to others who appear to have it all together. Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “comparison is the thief of joy”.
3. Get a positive boost
Many people start off their morning with positive affirmations. You may need to think of these affirmations to push out your negative doubts more than once throughout the day. Set aside time each day to read, listen to an audiobook or podcast by a motivational and positive person who will boost your optimism and confidence.
4. Think of prior successes
In the past, think of a time when you have done something that you doubted you could do and succeeded. Try to remember the feeling of succeeding and visualize it. You may need to give yourself some pep talks like saying – I’ve done hard things before, therefore, I know that I can do them again.
5. Surround yourself with encouragers
It’s one thing to surround yourself with encouragers and another to share your doubts and challenges with them. When you keep your thoughts bottled up on the inside they can become distorted, exaggerated and out of line with reality or reasonable expectations. So let your doubts out into the light and talk to someone close to you about them. Chances are very strong that they have to deal with their own doubts and so they will have some valuable advice.
6. See challenges as part of the journey
Realize that you will not be a failure just because you fail. You need to learn to separate your identity from the outcome. Challenges, setbacks and failures happen to everyone who take risks. If you do run into challenges or fail, ask yourself: what is one thing I can learn from this? Be sure to use this to your advantage to move forward in a smarter way.
7. Educate yourself
If something you are doing requires you to learn or sharpen a skill, then look for opportunities that will teach you – books, online classes, college courses, conferences etc. Consequently, you will feel more competent, which will increase your confidence and likelihood to succeed.
8. Take action
Trying to plan every step you take towards a goal or dream can be exhausting and lead to self-doubt. Be sure to set some realistic and short term goals to gain confidence as you strive for your long term goals. My personal advice is to go for it and course correct along the way – just start and keep moving. Take even just one small step forward to start building momentum.
I know that I have had doubts that I have had to manage along my journey in this life. It is so important that you don’t give up. Keep pushing forward – I’m confident that you will succeed!
(Note: Self-doubt can sometimes be crippling and/or cause depression. In these cases, I advise that you seek professional help.)