Self-doubt is unsettling. It can be paralyzing. You are ready to do something amazing and then doubt whispers, “You really think you can do that? Try it and you’ll fail.” Or it might just simply inquire, “Who do you think you are?”. It stops you in your tracks. You want to push it away and positively self-talk yourself into action, but doubt puts on its boxing gloves and its ready to win. It can be unrelenting and, at times, it will even cause you to surrender to its will. Your surrender can take the form of:
- Declining a speaking engagement
- Not speaking up at a meeting
- Letting go of your dream to start you own business
- Deciding not to go out on a date
- Not going back to school to get that degree you really want
In the aftermath of your surrender, you are replete with shame, guilt, frustration and a host of other uncomfortable emotions.
Webster’s dictionary defines self-doubt as a lack of confidence in the reliability of one’s motives, personality and thoughts. It’s associated with debilitating thoughts defined by failure, unworthiness or badness. Even when you experience a track record of accomplishments in your life, self-doubt will tell you that you don’t deserve your accomplishments and that you’re a fraud. Maya Angelou shared her experience with self-doubt:
I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
There are many ways that we can understand this culprit that causes emotional distress and disrupts our joy, but, very simply, I see it as a spiritual battle. When it shows up, it’s a sign that we are attached to our ego, our false sense of self. Our authentic self is our spirit. When we lose touch with our spirit, we begin to judge our worth based on the world around us: what people say about us, comparison to others, etc..
In order to get in touch with our spirit, while reducing self-doubt, here are some tips:
- Live a life in harmony with your values. When there is a gap between what you value and how you live your life, self-doubt will show up. Make a list of things that you value and set realistic goals to move you in the direction of your values.
- Flip negative thoughts into empowering thoughts. Stop buying into thoughts of unworthiness, failure or badness. If the thought is not helpful, change it. For example, you can change the thought, my ideas won’t be valued at this meeting to this topic is really important to me and I will speak up because my voice matters.
- Do something nice for yourself daily. Get into the habit of taking good care of yourself. When we practice good self-care, it improves our mood and minimizes self-doubt.
- Lean into your faith. Faith builds confidence and strengthens our spirit. When people lean into their faith and use it as a source of coping, they typically have better self-esteem.
- Talk to a professional. Sometimes it helps to talk to a professional, especially if you notice that self-doubt is negatively affecting your functioning at home, work or school. A professional can help you to identify and challenge the unhelpful thoughts.
- Be in the present moment. When we are caught up in the past or when we anticipate that something bad will happen in the future, we are not in the present moment. Through prayer, meditation or some other sort of present-moment activity, we can have peace of mind and reduce self-doubt.
Self-doubt can only be removed by action. Once you have the awareness that you are struggling with self-doubt, that’s a sign that something needs to change. Try some of the tips and see how they work for you. Make a conscious effort to minimize self-doubt and live a life worth celebrating!