“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~Honore de Balzac
You know what that voice in your head says…
You can’t do it. You’ll never be good enough. You’re going to fail.
This voice taunts you whenever you set a goal. It criticizes you when life gets difficult. It beats you down when you struggle to stand up against its running commentary.
You know you shouldn’t let self-doubt bother you, but it’s a sneaky critter. Sometimes, you just can’t contain it and it slips past your barriers.
And self-doubt is greedy. When it’s loose, it devours your confidence, strips logic and reason from your mind, and steals happiness from your heart. In return, it leaves you with only fear and insecurity.
You try to remove self-doubt by forcing yourself to “think positive,” which usually doesn’t work as well as you think it should.
The more you fight your self-doubt, the more it fights back. However, with self-knowledge and understanding, you can use self-doubt for your benefit.
A Story about Crushing Dreams and “Being Realistic”
When I was a child, I was in love with drawing. For me, drawing was as exciting as going to the playground.
At some point in my childhood, I decided I’d become an artist of some kind. But the critics in my life were quick to cut me down. I’ll bet you’ve heard the same kind of clichés:
“Art is great but not a ‘realistic’ future goal. While it’s a nice hobby to have, you can’t really make a living out of it. You’ll just be another starving artist.”
As children, we internalize these negative messages and parrot them back. If the adults say so, it must be true, right? By adulthood, every time we have a small hope, we’re the first to snuff it out:
“Drawing is nice but not necessary. I’ll never be as good as the real professionals anyway. I don’t even have a degree from an accredited art school.”
For years I stopped myself before I even tried. I did it because I was afraid.
I was afraid of what people would say. I was afraid everyone would hate my art. I was afraid of failing as an artist.
When fear grabs you, your beloved goal forever feels out of reach. But it doesn’t just stop there, does it?
If left unchecked, the infectious bite of fear and self-doubt can spread. You unconsciously start questioning your knowledge and abilities in everything you do. And if you’re like me, you desperately want to find a cure.
One fateful day I realized that trying to beat out my self-doubt wouldn’t rebuild my confidence.
If I wanted to believe in myself, I needed to face my self-doubt and be willing to take care of it.
Before, I imagined self-doubt as a life-sucking monster. Now, I realize it’s actually a fearful, angry, and lost creature secretly crying for help.
Like fear, joy, and sadness, doubt is part of human nature, and it needs understanding. If you want to improve yourself, you need to tame your self-doubt, not fight with it.
That means paying attention to how you react to things, understanding the root of your insecurities, and taking steps to address your fears.
Now I no longer tell myself, “I’ll never be a good enough artist.” Instead, I ask myself, “What can I do to become better?” And I take baby steps.
I went from drawing every few weeks, to every week, and now every two to three days. Re-framing self-doubt has also helped me cope with other challenges, like successfully starting a small business.
Self-doubt doesn’t have to be as monstrous as we make it out to be. It’s all about perspective. The following tips will help you manage your self-doubt.
Identify and ease your doubts.
Learning how to recognize when your self-talk takes a turn for the worse is crucial. When you hear yourself saying, “I can’t,” or, “I don’t know,” or, “What if,” a red flag should go up.
Instead of telling yourself, “I can’t do X,” say, “I can’t do X yet. But I’m working on it.”
Or if you start wondering, “What if I fail?” you can respond by saying, “Then I’ll try again.”
Doing this transforms a negative situation into an opportunity for growth. In the end, it’s about giving yourself a chance.
Stop listening to people who bring you down.
Some people are convinced that everything is impossible, and they are quick to shoot down ideas. They’ll poison your mind into a state of hopelessness.
Don’t let them steal your energy just because they’ve lost theirs.
Instead, surround yourself with supportive and passionate people who can both inspire you and bring out the best in you.
They will lift you up when you feel down and help you see the bright side of your darkest fears and doubts.
Recall your successes.
This one is tough. When you’re down, you’ll more easily remember the bad instead of the good. And oftentimes, the “rah-rah” pep talk just doesn’t cut it.
So, I suggest writing a list. Grab a piece of paper or small notebook, or open a blank document. Now write down your successes, big or small.
If you’re a bit bashful about your achievements, ask someone you trust to tell you the great things they think you’ve done. It’s refreshing and a great confidence boost.
And finally, keep your list with you at all times. It will help you find your way back to yourself whenever you get lost.
Trust and love yourself.
You probably spend more time being your own worst enemy instead of being your own best friend.
But you deserve to treat yourself better. After all, you have the rest of your life to spend with yourself.
Think of it this way: Would you mentally abuse or condemn your loved ones? Would you let them suffer in their time of need? If not, then why would you do it to yourself?
So, be kind to yourself. You are more capable and worthy than you give yourself credit for.
Give yourself permission to try…and try again.
Self-doubt never disappears. Over time, you just get better at dealing with it.
It will greet you every time you fall out of your comfort zone and whenever you strive to do something great.
But know that it’s not something you have to fear or resent. Your doubts are only thoughts, not your future.
Sure, something may go wrong. But if you never try, you’re losing an opportunity to improve your life.