One of the biggest things that prevent us from achieving what we want are our self-doubts. Self-doubt can be tricky to spot. It comes disguised in many forms-procrastination, frustration, stories, not showing up, not setting goals. And finally the obvious one, stopping and not taking action.
What’s really going on?
Ultimately, what’s happening is we are telling ourselves something about our belief in our ability. It’s too easy to look at highly successful people and think they’ve reached success, so they don’t doubt themselves. This isn’t true.
The reality is, whenever we decide to do something new, or step out of our comfort zone we step into the unknown. All of us at this stage are going to be hit with self-doubt. We all doubt ourselves, even those that we view as highly successful. They are just better at managing their doubts than those that let them stop them.
I find it comforting to think we all suffer from self-doubt, regardless of who we are or how successful we are because this means we can take action to manage and overcome it.
Why do we doubt ourselves?
So why does it happen? Self doubt happens because when we try to achieve something more than what we have now. We step into the unknown. We are asking things of ourselves that we haven’t before. This causes us discomfort – we may have to work rather than relax and watch TV. We may have to go out and meet new people. We may have to forgo chocolate or get up early to go to the gym. Our brain tries to protect us from this discomfort and that comes in the form of doubts stopping us in our tracks. Making excuses and telling us things such as ‘it won’t work’. ‘Who do you think you are’? ‘You can’t do that!’. ‘I’ve tried it before’, etc. etc.
We tend to forget that while we are protected from this short-term discomfort, we are not protected from the longer-term discomfort of feeling stuck. Of feeling like a failure and getting frustrated with ourselves for not growing. And this discomfort can be much much worse than the short-term one.
Self-doubt is just a thought
Most people set goals for themselves (or don’t even set goals) hit an obstacle, succumb to self-doubt and let it defeat them.
If you want to grow to the next version of yourself, whatever that is – be it money, thinner body, better job, better relationships – you need to be willing to face discomfort. This means you need to doubt your self-doubt in order to overcome it.
If there is another person in the world that can do or that has what you want than anything you find stopping you from achieving the same thing is a direct result of your own self-doubt.
Self-doubt is just a thought you are having about yourself. Sometimes it’s not easy to spot. It can disguise itself in many ways – frustration, procrastination and self-talk. ‘It won’t work’, ‘it’s too hard’, ‘I don’t really want that’, ‘I don’t deserve that’. Sound familiar?
Given self-doubt is just a thought, the way to manage and deal with it, so it doesn’t derail us, is to recognise your self-doubt thinking.
How to recognise self-doubt thinking
Think about something you really want – a body you want, a skill you want to learn, money you want to earn, a relationship you want to have.
Now as soon as you are thinking about it, notice what thoughts come up-that’s your self-doubt. Remember they are just thoughts, they are not real.
What you need to do to manage them is write them down-every single one of them. Once they are written down, read each one and note it makes you feel-disheartened, flat, discouraged. Recognise it’s your thoughts of self-doubt that are causing you to feel this way, nothing else.
How to manage self-doubt thinking
Now remind yourself you have the power here. You can choose to react and give into your thoughts or you can decide you want to change them. Do you want to continue to keep thinking these thoughts? Do you want to believe these thoughts? It’s a choice, you must decide you don’t want to believe them.
Now what do you want to think about when you think about your goals? What do you want to believe about yourself? Write it down!!.
You need this list as each obstacle you hit will automatically bring up your self-doubt thoughts. After-all, this is your default/automatic brain pattern. You need to train your brain to think what you want it to think, to believe what you want it to believe, not to believe your self-doubt.
Finally, what if you give yourself permission to have self-doubt because it means you are growing. If you aren’t doubting yourself then nothing is changing. But, the condition is, if you give yourself permission to have self-doubt, you must also commit to managing it and not letting it stop you.
Does a baby trying to walk give into their self-doubt? No!! They see others doing it better than them, they fall over, but they get back up and try again. They are focused on what they want and keep trying until they can do it. This shows us that at one stage in our life, we had the thought “I can do it”. We kept this through our childhood, teenage years and some way into adulthood. Then, at some stage, our default went from ‘I can’ to ‘I can’t’. We need to retrain our brain back to ‘I can’ and that comes with recognition of our self-doubt, the understanding that it is just a thought, and the commitment to believe we have the power to change that thought.
So what thoughts have stopped you from going after what you want? And what do you want to believe about yourself instead? What thought, if you believed it would mean you are unstoppable and can achieve that goal you’ve been striving for.