How to Cope With Self-Doubt

“Our doubts…make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” ― William Shakespeare

Many of us are doubtful at times. A little doubt can be helpful when it comes to making decisions that can have a negative impact on us. However, constantly doubting yourself or not trusting your judgment can rob you from a more fulfilling life.

I know that if I hadn’t pursued certain goals, such as my university degree (as a mature student), I would have probably ended up on a completely different path. That one goal has enriched my life in many ways, more than just the knowledge I acquired. It lead me to other goals and to the life I want.

On the other hand, if I had of allowed myself to remain intimidated by self-doubt, I don’t think I’d be in a place in my life where it’s as meaningful and fulfilling as it is. I’ve been in that place where you’re just existing or settling – not a nice place to be.

It’s very frustrating wanting something but doubting your ability to do it. And it can have a big impact on your life.

Self-doubt can create a negative cycle that can affect your ability to get ahead. It can prevent you from pursuing opportunities – feeling that you can’t – which can impair your confidence further and sabotage your chances of success in various areas – personally or professionally – including work or relationships, inevitably perpetuating greater self-doubt. And like a dog chasing its tail…you find yourself spinning around in a whirlpool of self-defeat without realizing what’s happening.

How do you know if self-doubt is affecting your life?

Self-doubt may be hindering your life if:

  • You second-guess yourself
  • You’re overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and insecurity
  • You feel paralyzed from taking chances at better opportunities

However, managing self-doubt may be easier than you think and can turn your life around.

Studies have identified simple practices to help nurture greater psychological balance – and less self-doubt.

1. Challenge discouraging beliefs. Although being accountable for your actions is important, it doesn’t mean you have to passively submit to self-defeating thoughts. You can dispute them.

For instance, instead of being hard on yourself when something doesn’t work out, remember there are variety of factors that can cause a situation to fail, including time, energy, other people and external circumstances. And there’s always room for improvement next time.

2. Build an optimistic view of yourself. Practice having more faith in yourself and your potential. How you define yourself affects what you will achieve or limit yourself from achieving.

Research indicates a positive focus is empowering and has a positive impact on our emotional state. And a boost of confidence can make a world of difference with our goals. If we think we can…we will.

3. Acknowledge your accomplishments, no matter the size. Acknowledging achievement of even small goals can increase esteem, which inspires success and an easier flow to life… You realize you can achieve things, which increases your confidence and success.

I find a gratitude journal can be a great support in this regard. When I write that I’m thankful for something I’ve accomplished, somehow it seems to validate it and inspire me even more.

4. Identify your strengths. Write a list of things you’re good at, and incorporate them into your daily life and goals in creative new ways

5. Persist in spite of shortcomings. “Think for a moment about what you are most proud of,” positive psychology researcher Martin Seligman asked his audience, in a presentation. And after a pause he said, “I’ll bet that what you just thought of now has something to do with some goal at which you at first encountered failure, but which you persistently kept pursuing until you achieved your goal, whether it was love, work, or play” (“Martin Seligman’s Journey,” University of Pennsylvania, 1999).

6. Surround yourself with people that encourage your confidence. People that support your confidence encourage and value your opinions, appreciate your efforts to try new things and embrace your growth.

Make it your mission to turn your self-doubt into self-confidence. With practice – like many things we learn in life – the more we do it, the better we get at it. And we must never give up.

As a genius painter who struggled with his own angst once said, “If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint… and that voice will be silenced” (Vincent Van Gogh, 1883).

 

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Columnist and Freelance Writer – Your 'go to' for emotional well-being… When we feel better, we do better.