“I seek strength, not to be greater than other, but to fight my greatest enemy, the doubts within myself”
― P.C. Cast
Have you ever met someone, deeply connected with them and within a few minutes, they have already pick up your deepest insecurity?
That one issue that you've been struggling with for the better part of your adult life, this person can see it, clear as day, as though you've held up a sign saying "Hi, I am Sheila Makena and I suffer from debilitating self doubt!"
I encountered someone who did just that to me... read me down to my soul, and it was a terribly vulnerable experience.
She said to me, "Makena, you are brilliant, but you doubt yourself."
Story of my freaking life!!!!
In my head I was screaming "What the actual hell???? Is this stuff written on my forehead??!!!"
I actually felt disappointment in myself. Intense, stinging disappointment.
And the self distrust I was so used to crept back into my body, draining the confidence I started our conversation with.
My inner self talk, always ready to break down every sentence someone tells me started to feed on that statement, dissecting it, psycho and over-analyzing it, mocking me about how much I have been working on this problem, "but look at you, this person has read you in a matter of seconds. You are fooling no one!" I could hear it scoff at me.
Sometimes you can be aware of a flaw you have, and you can also be working pretty hard on it, but deeper symptoms, like the way you talk about yourself, give away the fact that this flaw is still there, like a stain on your favorite shirt that you've been trying to get rid of, but can't.
I can go on and on about how self doubt has killed so many of your desires, dreams, motivation, and everything in between, but there really is no need for me to, because I know I'm not only preaching to the choir, the choir rehearsed that song for so long that they would know the words even if they had collective amnesia!
So I shall skip the lecture.
I think it's really important that you understand that one crucial fact:
The difference between that person who decides to go through with a decision or an action and you who decides not to, is not that they suffer a self-doubt-free life. They simply decided to trust themselves to do it anyway.
Okay let's get into the 4 healthier alternatives to dealing with this issue.
Trust that I'm doing this for you and for me. I need this too!
1. Self doubt's healthiest breeding ground lies in shame and guilt.
Your deepest insecurities know you well. So well in fact, that all you have to do is get triggered by someone who says something offensive, or a very simple situation that challenges you, and you're right back in the throws of second guessing your every move.
Here are some things you may be indulging in daily that are fanning the flames of your self-distrust.
- Staying in your head for too long
- Not following through, starting and stopping
- Not honoring commitments to yourself and others
- Your paralyzing inability to make decisions (no matter how small they are)
- Your refusal to ask for help
- Your inability to accept a compliment, or anything good directed at you
- Indulging too much in other's problems/misfortunes
Notice that these issues have to do with your behavior and habits.
One of the most powerful ways we can start to trust and respect ourselves is we make a conscious and deliberate effort to change these behaviors.
I know I can stay in my head for a very long time. I'm a loner, I don't need much company.
But I also am aware that if I don't get out of my own head and talk to one of my good friends about something I am struggling with, I will drown in my doubt.
So I call a friend, or take a long walk and talk to myself, no matter how crazy it seems.
What system have you created or do you want to create to manage a behavior that heightens your self-doubt?
2. Noticing your self doubt is not a negative experience. It is a positive one.
Even during those times when you feel totally and completely overwhelmed, when your self talk has gotten the best of you and you feel completely worthless, making the decision to be aware of this feeling is still a powerful exercise.
Writing about it, taking mental notes to understand what this emotion does to you, and doing it consistently can slowly weaken its and hold on you.
As you conduct this experiment of observing yourself, you will gradually gain the skill of not simply reacting to this emotionally consuming emotion.
You will start to talk back to it... you will start to question it and ask questions like "why do I allow this feeling to control so much of me?"
Every single time you start to ask question, doubt the doubt, you are forming new mental patterns that will influence the way you always think about this particular struggle.
It will stop running like an unattended program in the back of your mind. You now have the power to take a new direction.
When you make the decision to do this consistently, that behavior will be replaced with one that strengthens the resolve you have in yourself.
3. Use it to outline the real worries and anxieties you are going through wisely
As long as you make the decision to be rational about it, you can use your self-doubt to your advantage.
Being very real with yourself, taking some time out of your day to take stock of what is really bothering you can clear up the mental fog you are experiencing.
You might realise that the company you keep does absolutely nothing for your self esteem and it's time to get rid of some folks in your life...
Or that for the past decade or so you've been living the same day over and over again, and you know it's time to switch it up, but you have been to terrified to walk into that terrifying territory of the unknown!
All I'm saying is there are inherent reasons for your negative emotions. They are an indicator of something that you must look closer into and cannot ignore anymore.
4. Use it as an opportunity to confide in someone you trust and respect.
It took me years, and I do mean years, to really start placing my trust in people.
I wrote it somewhere up there... having real issues when it comes to asking for help.
I grew up with it ingrained in me that you are not supposed to be a burden to people.
Then I got older and made it my gospel truth.
Here's the inherent danger in allowing this belief to be your permission slip for how to interact with others: you will make decisions, very irrational, not well thought out decisions, that will cause irreparable damage in your life.
Your doubt will convince you that you are not worthy, but since when did you decide that you were perfect and 100% self sufficient, never needing the help of another human being?
Self doubt, when unattended, is incredibly unreasonable. You have to counter it with compassion for yourself!
If your closest friend was struggling with something, wouldn't you want to know about it? You might even be offended/hurt that they did not tell you about their problem.
So what makes you think you are not worthy of the same compassion and love?
The quickest relief you can give to yourself is to offload that pressure, that doubt, that worry and anxiety you are holding on for dear life to.
There is nothing noble or heroic about holding it in. It is only hurting you more and causing you to remain in limbo, which can wreak havoc on your emotional and mental state.
I hope these 4 reasons help you trust yourself more.
Always remember that this is an issue every single one of us face, and it is really about you being kind, forgiving and compassionate enough with yourself to be aware of it and use this insight to help you manage it better!
I want to end this article with some of my favorite quotes on self doubt. They just might help you look at it differently!