“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” –Karim Seddiki
“What if they don’t approve of my decision?”
“What if they won’t love me for who I am?”
“What if I mess up and fail?”
“What if they get bored and leave me?”
Do any of these questions sound familiar to you?
At some point in our lives, every one of us has asked ourselves some version of the question, “Am I good enough?”
We may have allowed the weight of self-doubt to influence how we judge ourselves and others and the choices that we make in life. This insidious feeling of inadequacy diminishes our confidence in our ability to make headway in our careers, relationships and other endeavors that are close to the heart. It doesn’t help that our minds are masters at fabricating potential worst-case scenarios that stop us before we’ve begun.
No one is immune to spells of uncertainty. It’s just part of the human experience. We’re instinctually driven to overcome potential threats. The same survival mechanism gets triggered today whenever we come across someone smarter, prettier or more virtuous than we are. Unlike our ancestors, we have the luxury of time to contemplate and determine if we have what it takes to deal with our adversaries based on the stories we tell ourselves and the fictitious yardstick we measure ourselves against.
When these primal insecurities aren’t handled with care, it can manifest into crippling self-doubt. The dysfunctional aspect of our inner dialogue has been personified as our inner-critic, saboteur or shadow self – a ruthless entity that invades our minds and undermines our success by reminding us of our weaknesses and downplaying our strengths.
Despite the best of intentions, it can be a challenge to silence the voice in our heads. Self-worth is woven into our psyche based on how we were raised and what we learned as we integrated into our surroundings. For this reason, some of us have to work harder than others in dealing with our feelings of inadequacy.
If you grew up with a belittling parent, were bullied or went through trauma, you would have a steeper learning curve than someone who grew up in a loving home where they felt supported, valued and recognized for their achievements, no matter how insignificant.
Chad Helmstetter, author of What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, says that by the time the average person has reached their eighteenth birthday, they have heard the word “no” or things they can’t do 148,000 times! This figure pertains to the average positive home. The figure would be much larger for those who weren’t raised in nurturing environments.
Our childhood impressions are stored in our subconscious. According to Bruce Lipton, author of Spontaneous Evolution, 95% of our behavior is dictated by our subconscious mind. Most behavior and daily decisions are automatic, without any consideration on our part, including the ones connected to our identity.
Overcoming self-doubt requires us to consciously pick up on the stream of destructive thoughts and shift it towards something more constructive and self-preserving. Being at the mercy of a debilitating thought processes is not conducive to fulfillment. It degrades the quality of your life experiences.
According to motivational speaker Tony Robbins, a success-driven mindset is one that’s grounded in the knowledge of one’s worth. In other words, you have to believe in yourself, no matter what challenges and obstacles you face. An unwavering faith in your abilities is your passport to a lifetime of maintaining positive mental health as you navigate through the trenches of life.
If you’re someone who maintains high standards, constantly raising the bar and trying to achieve more, then maintaining confidence in your abilities in indispensable. This doesn’t mean that successful people don’t experience periods of self-doubt – they’ve simply become adept at managing and channeling it in a way that serves them.
Brené Brown, an expert on the subject of self-esteem and vulnerability says, “If you’re going to show up and be seen, there’s only one thing – you’ll get your ass kicked.” But that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from our critics. Instead, we need to acknowledge them, and be aware of what they’re going to say and how it might affect us. “Say, I see you, I hear you, but I’ll do this anyway,” Brown says. “It feels dangerous to show up. But it’s not as terrifying as thinking, at the end of our lives, ‘What if I had shown up? What would have been different?'”
There will always be someone who we perceive as better than us, but we should not let it effect our sense of worth. We need to appreciate that we are unique beings with our own unique gifts and that there’s no one like us on the planet and there never will be. So why not try to invest all our energy and resources on getting to know ourselves better, honing our strengths and utilizing them to fullest effect?
During my practice as a life coach, I’ve frequently witnessed how self-doubt can wreak havoc in a person’s life and cause them to shut the door on opportunities. But I’ve also seen how just one simple spark of inspiration can be a total game-changer. No matter who you, or how dire your circumstances are, remember that you’re only one decision away from stepping into your magnificence.
Stop living inside a box of self-imposed limitations and challenge yourself to grow and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t allow self-doubt to scare away your dreams and corner you into a life of convenience and predictability. Embrace your flaws and don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes – learn from them instead.
Never give up on yourself. Get back up, dust yourself off, use your experience to build your character and continue walking forward, secure in the knowledge that you are enough and that you have everything you need to make it through.
Here are a few ideas on how you can deal with your feelings of insecurity and self-doubt:
- Come to terms with your fears: Contrary to popular opinion, you first need to give yourself time and space to feel your feelings of inadequacy. Ignoring your emotions and fears is counterproductive because you’re denying yourself the opportunity to work with any unaddressed issues causing your pain. Delving into the sensitive and vulnerable aspects of yourself can be scary and intimidating, but engaging in introspection will empower you to change your behavior and thought patterns. Sit with your fears and let them pass through you as you ask yourself reflective questions to get deeper insights into your state of mind. Ask self-directed questions such as, “What is the absolute worst that can happen? What am I afraid of? Why do I doubt myself?”
- Replace self-criticism with self-love: The incessant voice of the inner critic in your head will sabotage any chance of achieving inner peace and fulfillment in your life. For this reason it’s crucial that we stay watchful of this aspect of ourselves and monitor it. Pay close attention to the language you use, and the manner in which you talk to yourself – is it uplifting and positive? Or is critical, harsh and demoralizing? The quality and tone of your inner dialogue is completely in your hands. You have the power to replace your inner critic with an inner coach. An inner coach is encouraging and supportive because it originates from a place of self-love and worthiness. You can learn more about how to deal with the inner critic in this previous post.
- Acknowledge your strengths and success: One of the biggest causes of feelings of inadequacy is having a distorted perception of our talents and capabilities. When we selectively choose to focus on our weaknesses we feel incompetent and undeserving. You can overcome this by creating a list all the things that you love about yourself and what you believe that you’re really good at. Sit with this list, take it all in and really own it with pride. While chasing your goals, make it a point to look at this list and to acknowledge every milestone and accomplishment. If your outcome falls below expectations give yourself credit for trying and taking the initiative to grow and expand.
- Let go of your need for validation and approval: You must develop confidence that’s impervious to the criticism and negativity of others. When you crave the validation and approval of others you are setting yourself up for disappointment. When you’re overly concerned about what everyone else is thinking of you, you inhibit yourself, often preferring to play it safe and not do anything for fear of being judged and criticized. If you want your dreams for the future to see the light of day, then at some point you have to release your attachment to others opinion of you. Listen to the wise voice within that knows your worth, while also staying open to constructive advice from those who inspire you and whose opinion you respect.
- Focus on making progress: As you accomplish more, the confidence you have in yourself and your abilities will grow stronger and you’ll begin to believe in yourself. When you follow your own truth with integrity, you let your subconscious mind know that you value yourself and that you’re committed to meeting your needs. Commit to practices such as goal-setting, repeating affirmations and using vision boards to help you stay on track. To maintain a positive and balanced state of mind I also recommend having daily mindfulness rituals such as meditation, listening to and reading positive materials like books and podcasts. Surround yourself with individuals who inspire you – join organizations and clubs where you can meet like-minded people who can help you grow and develop. Nurture those relationships from which you can draw strength and confidence. Whenever I feel insecurity creeping into my consciousness, I like to comfort myself by saying mantras such as “You are loved”, “You are good enough” and “Do your best and let the universe take care of the rest”. Choose the ones that resonate with you the most and say those to yourself during your moments of weakness.
Feelings of self-doubt are like opposing winds that will prevent you from sailing toward your dreams. As the captain of your ship you need to harness these winds so they will push you forward. When you develop an implicit belief in yourself and your proclivities, you’ll have the power and know-how to adjust your sails with grace and dexterity.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you have any tips on how to overcome self-doubt that have worked for you?