The worst enemy to happiness is self-doubt.
Has self-doubt ever stopped you from doing something you longed to do?
That little voice in your head kept whispering…
“Who are you to even try to accomplish that?”
Whether you wanted to run a marathon, start a business, or go for a promotion, that little voice kept nagging at you that you’re not good enough.
In early 2014, this was the soundtrack that played on repeat in my head.
See, I really, really wanted to start a new business.
But even before giving myself the chance, the soundtrack began to loop, and self-doubt kicked in.
“There’s no way you could be successful. Who are you to even try to do this?”
After my self-doubt monster talked me out of starting my business, I smothered my passion for the topic. I went back to my life, until I came across an article by Michael Hyatt called, “Are Your Beliefs Keeping You Stuck?”
It gave me hope. It made me realize that my self-doubt wasn’t just my rational brain talking me out of doing something impractical. It showed me that my self-doubt was actually just fear.
Like my own experience, self-doubt will try to snuff out your dreams. It will try to hold you back from becoming anything. But don’t you let it! You are capable of achieving what you want to achieve, one step at a time.
Use the following tips to fight back the self-doubt monster and reclaim your confidence (this is what worked for me):
1. Recognize that What You’re Feeling Is Self-Doubt
You can’t get rid of something until you recognize that it’s there.
If you won’t admit that the main reason you’re not making your dreams happen is because you doubt yourself, you’ll struggle to break the habit.
What may seem like an obstacle is most likely your self-doubt monster rearing its ugly head to justify why you can’t or shouldn’t do something. We’ve all said it before, “I don’t have time,” or, “I don’t have the energy,” or, “I don’t know how.” But let’s be honest: those are the things we tell ourselves when we don’t think we have it in us.
I get it. Life can be busy.
You must be mindful of how you feel. You must face the truth. By recognizing that self-doubt is holding you back, not your busy schedule, you’re one step closer to rediscovering your self-confidence.
2. Create a Self-Doubt Response System
Self-doubt is a negative emotion.
Like any emotion, certain actions, ideas or frustrations can trigger it. For many, an idea that requires expertise they don’t yet have can trigger feelings of self-doubt and create a roadblock that seems insurmountable.
When you get overwhelmed or stressed, giving up can be easier than pushing through. For example, when we see people achieve similar goals to our own, we naturally compare our own journey with theirs. If we don’t live up to that exact level of success, self-doubt is triggered, and we’re more likely to accept that we’ve failed, without ever having started.
Setting up a system to deal with self-doubt triggers will help you recognize both the cause and solution to your self-doubt.
And just to be clear, I’m not immune to these triggers either. When I get ideas, I frequently compare my ability or progress with someone else’s. When I do this, I begin to feel overwhelmed by trying to live up to their standards, and I feel anxious about the amount of work I’ll have to do to get there.
Basically, I begin to talk myself out of it.
When I begin to think like this, I turn to my system:
- I think of every action I would need to be successful in my goal and write them down.
- I highlight everything I already know how to do or could learn quickly.
- I start to put a daily habit in place to put the plan into motion.
By creating a way to systematically reduce my self-doubt, I’m more likely to see my idea through.
3. Rewire Your Brain
Old habits die hard, so remaining static is easier than working toward something. That’s why you likely find it easier to accept the negative thoughts that your self-doubt creates.
The good news?
Your brain is a highly programmable organ because of something called neuroplasticity. This means that certain aspects of the brain can rewire even into adulthood.
To turn your self-doubt into a positive force, you must first be aware of your negative thoughts and then redirect them over time.
Consistency is key.
Every time you catch yourself thinking that you can’t do something or that you’re not good enough or smart enough, acknowledge those thoughts, and consciously replace them with the opposite as many times as it takes.
Eventually, your brain will default to positive thinking, turning every “can’t” into a “can” and every “won’t” into a “will.”
4. Show Self-Doubt that It’s Wrong
When we let self-doubt take over, we make excuses for our inability to realize our true potential. We use these excuses to prove our self-doubts right by not even trying to achieve anything worthwhile at all. In other words, we procrastinate and hide from the world until we are forced to take action, and then once we act we struggle to give it our best shot.
So what can be done? The next step to eliminating self-doubt is to prove it wrong.
It’s time to set your plans in motion and work toward small successes.
If you don’t prove to yourself that you can be successful, you are more likely to fall into self-doubting patterns repeatedly in the future.
When you generate small wins for yourself, it helps you gain momentum, which gradually shuts down your self-doubt. Your self-doubt can’t argue with you when you’re proving it wrong with small wins.
All of those tiny achievements will add up. You’ll become more confident in your abilities and begin to believe in yourself.
5. Use Other People’s Doubts as Motivational Fuel
It’s hard enough to change the way you think about yourself, let alone change the opinions of those around you too.
When people don’t understand your journey, can’t relate to how you’re feeling, or don’t like your ideas, they may be quick to doubt you. But don’t take it personally. Most people only doubt you when you reflect a specific characteristic that they doubt in themselves. You’re simply a living, breathing reminder of their own self-doubts.
Be kind, but don’t take what they say at face value.
In everything you do, some people will love it and some will hate it.
Doubt from others doesn’t make you less capable of accomplishing your dreams. If a friend or family member says you can’t or shouldn’t start a business or achieve a big goal, they also likely believe that they couldn’t achieve what you want to achieve.
Understand that those who express doubt aren’t always coming from a negative place. Oftentimes, these people are close family and friends who only want what they think is best for you – they want you to take the safest route possible in life.
But you need to do what’s best for you, on your own terms.
And when you know you’ve been letting other’s opinions guide your actions, take it as a sign that you haven’t conquered your own self-doubt, and begin this process back at #1 again.
6. Create a Positive Mantra (And Put it on Repeat)
Everyone needs a pep talk every now and then, so be your own cheerleader when putting your self-doubt to rest.
I have a (somewhat funny) mantra that I use when I recognize that I’m doubting myself: “People dumber than me have done it.”
This isn’t to look down on others, but sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m a capable, intelligent woman, and many people have accomplished great things with less knowledge, opportunity and experience than I have. For example…
If you want to become a freelance writer, remember that tens of thousands of profitable freelancers’ first language isn’t even English.
If you want to start a blog, remember that people who have less to say than you do have built huge audiences.
Create a mantra for yourself that shuts down the self-doubt.
Once you’ve found your mantra, use it liberally. Put this mantra on repeat so while you’re working all you hear is your own pep talk yelling, “You got this!”
Bottom Line: Don’t Give Self-Doubt Your Power
Your self-doubt is only as strong as you allow it to be.
If you continually justify why you can’t do something, you’re giving self-doubt complete control over your emotions, actions, and ultimately, your future.
Don’t let that little voice inside your head stop you in your tracks. Next time, turn down the volume by recognizing it’s there. And follow the steps above. Soon enough, you’ll have rewired your brain to auto-fill positive responses only.
And finally, remember to beware of naysayers whose own self-doubt is threatening to curtail your efforts. Move past their doubt and your own self-doubt triggers by coming up with a system to prove all this self-doubt wrong.
I’m not suggesting that your self-doubt won’t ever creep back in. It’s normal to second-guess yourself sometimes. But I am promising that if you follow these steps, you’ll be prepared to shut out self-doubt and take actionable steps forward in all walks of life.
And you deserve it.
What would you add to the list? What do you do to motivate yourself, find trust in yourself again, and move forward even when you’re overcome with self-doubt? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Author Bio: Sarah Peterson is the author of Unsettle.org, where she helps people who don’t want to live their lives choosing off of the standard menu of options build an income for themselves through online micro-businesses and solopreneurship.
Photo by: Meredith Farmer