“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.” – Maya Angelou
No one with a realistic self-image is free from self-doubt, which is a good thing.
Self-doubt is normal and can be a valuable tool for personal growth.
It allows us to assess our weakness and can help us have an accurate sense of our limitations.
Self-doubt can be an important catalyst for getting better, but….(and this is a big BUT), not when self-doubt is excessive and severe.
No matter how competent or talented you are, extreme self-doubt and poor confidence will get in the way of you reaching your full potential.
To build confidence we have to be courageous. We don’t want self-doubt to be the primary voice that guides our decisions and goals.
We need to accept that we will feel fear and have doubt, but that we can get better, learn, and grow despite this.
So, it’s important to have a realistic plan to navigate unhealthy and exaggerated self-doubt.
Here are five ways to combat self-doubt before it becomes crippling.
1. Talk About It
When you bottle your thoughts up inside your mind, they can become magnified and eventually fester into deeper psychological wounds.
Sometimes, the only way to be free from these self-defeating thoughts is to express and admit them.
Often, just by speaking our thoughts out loud we get a reality check. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, when I say it out loud it sounds pretty ridiculous.”
Sharing your self-doubt with trusting and reliable relationships can help you gain perspective and view your thoughts with some distance. You can also get helpful feedback about where your self-doubt is unfounded.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking with friends or family, seek help from a professional. A counselor will provide you with strategies to help manage your limiting beliefs and minimize their impact.
2. Use Comparison to Your Advantage
Comparing ourselves to others is a part of human nature, but unfortunately, many people don’t realize how often they do this, and how much of a negative impact it’s having.
Comparison can have payoffs or drawbacks depending on our perception. When we compare ourself with someone far better and more advanced, what psychologist calls “upward comparison,” it can lead to discouragement.
If you have a tendency toward upward comparison, practice becoming inspired instead of discouraged.
Use these people who are actually better and more talented as guides to your own potential and what you want to achieve.
You’re on your own personal journey, and you have to start where you are. The only person you’re competing with is you!
If you are constantly focused on others, you will become sidetracked and eventually stray from your intended path. To give yourself the best opportunity to grow, you must look inward, upward, and forward.
Realize that it takes practice and hard work to get better and achieve our goals. If someone else is where you want to be in life, don’t make excuses, but instead make a commitment to improvement and practice.
3. Keep A Success Journal
With all the self-critical thoughts of self-doubt cycling through your mind, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many people seek solace in the written word – getting thoughts out of their head and onto paper can be extremely freeing.
Writing is a cathartic process. It allows you to take all of those racing and distracting thoughts and externalize them. Thus, helping you to create space and distance from the weight of the emotion.
Similar to talking about how you feel, writing down your thoughts will give you some perspective. As you read through your thoughts you may be able to recognize that they’re not as true or accurate as you believed.
A great exercise to journal about is The Work by Byron Katie. According to Byron Katie, our thoughts are just a story we tell ourselves, and we can learn to have a more uplifting story.
Write down your self-doubts, and then ask yourself the following four questions:
Question 1: Is the thought true?
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?
After answering those questions you can turn the thought around and try on a more empowering and encouraging version.
Write down the things you have achieved or overcome throughout your life to help prove to yourself that you’re growing and that you can get better.
Keep a journal and do this exercise to help you maintain a realistic record of your achievements, and to give you a more realistic sense of confidence.
4. Correct Course As You Go
When you suffer from crippling self-doubt, the thought of making a decision can feel impossible. The endless cycle of deliberation and weighing pros versus cons can make you feel like you’re in an endless loop, with no escape.
This is because self-doubt can lead us to have perfectionist self-criticism.
In other words, if we don’t have a the perfect situation or results things aren’t good enough. The simplest way to combat this agonizing perfectionism is to just commit to a decision. Practice making choices without overthinking.
Consider changing the way you view a decision. Remove the aspect of ‘finality’ from each decision and remember that your course is always ‘changeable’.
See if you can allow yourself make more mistakes and even create a routine where calculated risk taking is a part of your life. This allows decision making to become experimentation and eventually fear of failure won’t hold you back.
5. Develop A Positive Mantra
Finally, it’s important to work on your self-talk.
If you’re someone who is competent and gets feedback from others that you’re talented and skilled, but you still struggle with self-doubt, you need to create more encouraging self-talk.
In times of doubt, a mantra can help guide you towards positivity. Whether it’s a quote you relate to (like the Maya Angelou quote at the beginning of this article) or your own personal phrases, reciting a mantra to yourself will help you slow down mentally and establish a more balanced and helpful mindset.
Using a mantra or affirmation can help you overcome your overbearing thoughts as you will start to have more encouragement in your thinking patterns.
Instead of self-doubt being the primary way of relating to yourself, you can begin to create new thought patterns that affirm the person you want to become.
Put It All Together
When it comes to believing in ourselves, remember that competence and achievement will go a long way.
When you face resistance and start to doubt yourself, use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Competence will lead to realistic confidence.
Take a honest evaluation of strengths and weaknesses. Focus on getting better, improving your limitations, and use your strengths to build momentum.
Get honest feedback from people you trust, and most importantly, avoid being overly self-critical.