A ginger-hair woman wearing a yellow pulloaver, holding her chin in a sign of doubt

Self-doubt: Why you are doubting yourself and 10 tips to overcome it

Many of us are second-guessing every decision we make. It can be something silly like choosing your outfit of the day or for more serious stuff like changing job.

To some extent, self-doubt is normal and healthy. In certain situations we check in if the choice we make is aligned with what we truly want. It’s part of a healthy holistic approach.

However, when we do this way too often and for the wrong reasons, it drains our energy. In the long run we lose focus on what really matters and it affects our overall happiness.

In this article, we will look at the manifestation of self-doubt, its causes, and because I’m always happy to share tips from my experience, what you can do about it!

How self-doubt manifests

We can be sooo harsh on ourselves, that it gets me sad when I think about it (#helloempath). Doubt initially takes place in our mind, in our thoughts, and it can take two forms:

1. Your inner-critic

Do you pay attention to your thoughts? To your inner dialog?

I like to associate the inner self-critic to our parent’s voice. A voice that is criticizing you over and over again for what you said, no said, did, not did, should be doing, shouldn’t be doing, etc.

It’s like an annoying little evil like in those cartoons who keeps bringing you down while you’re trying to ignore it. And if by mistake you start to engage in a conversation with it, chances are that your inner-critic will win and leave you … you guessed it, full of doubts.

This dialog happens in your conscious mind and you can ‘interact’ with it.

2. Your self-sabotaging beliefs

Beliefs are in the background of your mind, what creates negative self-talk.

At the difference of your inner-critic which is happening in your conscious mind, the self-sabotaging beliefs are the running programs in your subconscious mind.

They are responsible for most of your behaviors and habits, without you being aware of it. Your subconscious mind is running when you’re in auto-pilot mode.

For example, when you drive home and don’t realise how you got there, that’s because you were in auto-pilot mode and your subconscious took over.

Most of the beliefs we hold are old and outdated. They are outdated because we acquired them between the age of 0 to 7 years old.

It means that if a naughty little boy once told you you were ugly because all your front teeth were missing, you may have saved that program in your subconscious. If that program has never been replaced, it’s still running, although you now have all your teeth, perfectly aligned, shiny, and pearly white.

How does this manifest in your daily life? Let’s say that everyone says you’re pretty (literally EVERYONE). Well, unfortunately, you still don’t trust yourself in front of a camera and self-doubt your selfies, because the old belief is still running.

BOOM! Are you awed? I still am 😀

Let’s now have a look at some of the common triggering situations.

What causes self-doubt

We saw what is happening in your inner microcosmos. However, since we’re living in society and interact with others, we get to face situations that will trigger our self-doubt. Can you already think of any?

Comparing ourselves with others

Nowadays, living in a competitive society where being average means being a loser and a failure, we feel the need to be on top. Unfortunately this conflicts with the belief that we are never enough:

  • Pretty enough
  • Intelligent enough
  • Fun enough
  • Slim enough
  • Productive enough

We look around and think that everyone else has figured it all out. We are so accustomed to our so-called ‘flaws’ that we overlook our beautiful and underrated qualities to find what we lack in others.

We envy people who have what we don’t have, we are jealous and resentful. Truth is that those same people most probably feel the same about you.

As mentioned earlier, no matter who we are in the present, our old belief systems from the past are running. No matter how someone may appear to you, chances are that this person is also full of insecurities and fears. You’re just not in their heads to know what’s really happening.

Considering quitting as an option

I often refer to Think and grow rich book because it’s been one of the first challenging self-help books I read.

The author suggests to ‘burn the boats’ as a reference to a historical event, in order for us to have no other options than going all-in. There is no plan B, no possible retreat. It’s basically ‘Live or die’.

This idea really challenged me at first. I was brought up with the idea that I should always have a plan B, always have a backup plan, and play it safe. I could feel nervous only by imagining that no return was possible.

Fast forward, I’m now on a new adventure. And because old habits die hard, I do have backup plans, and when things get a bit rough, I do think of my options.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong. I do feel at ease and secure to start my business and this peace of mind is really important to me right now. However, in all honesty, I’m not giving my 100% into this project because I haven’t burnt the bridges and can turn back to my old life whenever I want. On top of that, I’m carrying a backpack full of valid excuses with me.

I won’t beat myself up for that. My mind is slowly shifting, and I’m really happy about that. I know one day I will drop the backpack and run to wholeheartedly meet my new life.

Note: When you have no other option to consider, you don’t have time to waste because the only direction you can consider is moving forward.

Uncertainty

Every time we make a decision, we can’t 100% predict what the outcome will be, and it’s scary.

It’s scary because we don’t have much control of the events, and the more we try to have that control, the more it makes us miserable.

Many people accept the status quo to remain in the known area. It’s safe, it’s warm, it’s cozy. I can hear the crackling of the flames in the fireplace. Can’t you?

If we stay in that place because of fears and insecurities, frustration appears. We may not know what is happening, we may even not realise that it’s happening. But it’s there, and it will find a way to let you know it’s there one way or the other.

It may seem easier to shut down the communication channel and not listening to our inner voice. Self-doubt is so uncomfortable, why would you even bother to acknowledge it?

When we don’t feel capable, when we don’t trust our ability to succeed, we doubt, we question our choices, and become uncertain. Unable to move on because of our lack of self-confidence.

We tend to imagine the worst-case scenario, when things would all go wrong, forgetting that great things could happen too.

I recently read this quote and it always makes me smile for the new perspective it brings:

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.

Peter F. Drucker

How to overcome it

Alright friends (feeling like the narrator of Jane the Virgin :D), I promised you some tips on how to slowly stop doubting yourself.

1. Accept your doubt and question it

I know, easier said than done, but it really isn’t complicated. Doubt is initially an emotion. Don’t overreact. Acknowledge its message. What’s hiding behind your self-doubt? Is it a lack of self-confidence? Most probably. Tackle this instead.

2. Have a strong why, stronger than your fears and doubts

Your ‘Why’ is like your compass when the weather gets cloudy and you can’t see the stars in the sky anymore. Hold on firmly to your Why. Remember Why you first started. Your Why must be stronger than your fears to get you going.

3. Surround yourself with believers

Your environment plays such an important role in the success of your projects. Make sure you’re surrounded by like-minded people, people who can boost your self-belief and take your self-doubt down.

4. Stop comparing, stop self-doubting

As we discussed earlier, comparison tends to create negative emotions. You often don’t know the story of the people you compare yourself with. You only see the tip of the iceberg and make a lot of assumptions based on what you see, and your filters in place.

Keep in mind that you’re far from the reality and you’re not in those person’s brains, so why should you waste your time comparing what’s not comparable?

The only person you should compare yourself with is your past self. Period.

5. Take a firm decision

Echoing what I wrote earlier about burning the boats and the bridges, taking the firm decision that you will stick to it. Your future self will be grateful for it. Refer to point 2. to back it up with your Why.

6. Surround yourself with positivity

Whether you have the chance to be surrounding by a positive physical environment like friends and family, the content you consume should also support your spirit: podcasts, IG accounts, blogs, news. Be careful and mindful of what is said around you.

7. Practice gratitude

Together with meditation, this is one of my joker items that could be found in any of my recommendations for any topics. Remember what you already have and be grateful for it. You probably have now what you wish you had a few months or years back. Practising gratitude reinforces your faith and roots you in the present moment. There is no place for doubt or fear when we are in the present.

8. Find your mantra that leaves no room for self-doubt

Similar to having your Why in mind all the time, in case this option failed, you should have a strong mantra that resonates with you and cuts out the self-doubt talk right away.

Repetition is key here if you want to rewire your self-talk and running programs.

9. Stop overthinking and connect to your heart

I had to list at least one spiritual item. Call it as you want: heart, inner-compass, inner wisdom, intuition, the Universe … but I firmly believe that the more we connect to our intuition, the more we find peace and know what we truly want. Practice silence or meditation to make space for it.

10. Keep track of your wins

This is a very practical piece of advice and it works wonders!

Record all the little wins you’ve experienced in your life in a notebook, the ones that highlight your strengths and qualities, and refer to it regularly. I would suggest not to wait until the self-doubt emerges. Be proactive and read this list once a week to build and strengthen your self-confidence

Self-doubt is normal, but don’t get stuck too long

Although self-doubt is normal to experience at times, and can even be healthy, you shouldn’t get engulfed and overthink your situation.

We’re all different, some of us like to act fast, others – like me – need some time to ponder the options available. Don’t rush and trust yourself. Use the tools and tips listed above to move on and get unstuck.

Don’t hesitate to comment if you have any tips you’d like to add to the list.

Take care :*

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