Originally published 3 Sep, 2021, in Entrepreneur Magazine: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/382184
There it is again. That feeling.
You are just about to make a decision and take hold of your opportunities.
Then, like a spider in a horror film, it slowly creeps in and takes over your mind, making you second guess yourself and create excuses.
It’s controlling and debilitating. It’s self-doubt.
Self-doubt is an unpleasant emotion that leaves you spiraling into a web of indecision. Eventually, it can lead to bigger problems like anxiety and depression.
But you won’t let that happen, because you know you’re better than that.
You can control your self-talk and make confident decisions. You can think highly of yourself without comparing your life to others.
If you feel that you are living a life of self-doubt, learn how to name it and conquer it with these five simple techniques.
What Causes Self-Doubt?
The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind. – Rumi
Before we dissect the causes of self-doubt, it’s important to know that there are situations when self-doubt is healthy. We can use self-doubt to challenge ourselves or question if something is right for us. It can also be a way of relating better to others, especially if we tend to be overly self-confident.
Alternatively, chronic self-doubt is the sneaky spider. This is when you stand in your own way with self-defeat. The lack of faith you feel in yourself and in making confident decisions create an unknown and scary future.
According to Alan Watts, the late British philosopher, we experience self-doubt in the process of making a decision. We end up worrying about the variables beyond our control. We may take things too personally or judge ourselves through the eyes of others, forcing us to disregard our own good qualities completely.
As a result, it spirals us into the belief that we don’t have the talent or the right skills, or we are unworthy of a position or person. Minor failures are grouped with what we think are major failures (or what we deem as failures in the eyes of others), and they become further proof that we are unworthy. The spider continues to consume.
You say things like I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I can’t do this. Until you reach the point of saying I will never be able to…
With this mindset, you won’t. But committing yourself to this self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t necessary. Instead, fill yourself with I can, I am, and I will.
5 Ways to Conquer Self-Doubt
If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent van Gogh
First, know this: the opposite of self-doubt is clarity.
With that in mind, these techniques work with you to build transparency between you and self-doubt. The more you practice, the better trained your mind will become.
1. Notice Your Chatter
Notice the negative talk and inner doubts that your mind creates. When they start to chatter, and before they can spin out of control, tell it to stop. Literally. In your mind (or out loud if you’re alone) say, ‘Stop. No. Not today.’ Take note of the thoughts and which phrase is doubting your abilities. Watch it disappear in your mind’s eye. You can also adopt the bracelet technique and switch wrists every time you recognize a negative thought. There is no consequence – only the awareness of negative thinking. By doing this, you are disrupting the pattern, stopping the flow of negative thought, and retraining your mind.
2. Write Down Your Thoughts, Including the Scary Stuff
One of the simpler practices that helped Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Work Week, become more confident involves making a list of all the things that scare him. He found that “When you get specific with your fears, you rob them of their power.” This is especially good for people who don’t often express emotions.
The writing process helps to clear your mind and sort your emotions – seeing which ones are tangible and in your control, and which ones are out of your control. Doing this allows you to see how exaggerated your thinking becomes if you don’t rein in your thoughts. A professional such as a hypnotherapist will help you organize your thoughts for more clarity.
3. Mirror, Mirror Affirmations
You are your own worst enemy, as the saying goes. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and repeat your favorite affirmation. Do this daily. For the rest of your life.
It’s ok to laugh at yourself at first. Loosen up, take some deep, slow breaths, and talk to your reflection. When you’re finished, continue breathing deeply and only allow positive thoughts to walk through your mind for another couple of minutes.
Confident people can look at people directly in the eyes. Showing yourself that you are self-confident is a sign that you believe and trust in yourself.
4. Step Away from Social Media
Since we tend to compare ourselves to others on social media, choose to go social-free on certain days of the week. Look at it as though you’re replenishing your self-confidence battery. If part of your work involves social media, keep your focus on work only instead of trailing off to your personal accounts. Apps are too easy to access, so follow the pro-confidence path and delete them from your phone. It will also help with procrastination issues (How to Deal With Procrastination).
There are plenty of negative stories, and beautiful (albeit, fake) lives on social media. Ask yourself if the exposure to it is worth losing self-esteem over. Is it adding or detracting from your positive thought process? If it’s detracting, ditch it.
5. Keep a Success Journal
Recall a time when you were successful. Think about how it made you feel. Write it down. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; just write freely. Be as descriptive as you want to recall your feelings: what you were wearing, who was in the room, what time of year it was. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the small details.
The important thing is to have a journal of successes. You are keeping a record of the positive and influential things you’ve done, even if it’s as small as getting your kids to school on time every day for a week or as big as finishing a course that pushed you to open a new business. You’ll start to notice how those small successes add up. They deserve notoriety just as much as the big successes.
Removing doubt is like removing a blindfold. – Tim Fargo
Begin to trust yourself and limit your comparisons to others by restricting self-doubt. As you practice these five techniques, your ability to take control of your thoughts will be more natural, and the web of uncertainty will soon dissipate. If you need guidance and clarity for removing self-doubt and other emotions that are inhibiting your full potential, never hesitate to reach out to me.