Self-Doubt – An Internal Enemy
Welcome to your own mind, where your flaws are magnified beyond what they really are, your internal monologue is constantly hammering you with guilt, and your self-doubt is raging.
Sound at all familiar?
Self-doubt is exactly what it sounds like – doubting yourself. But why does it happen? And more importantly, how can we get past it?
It's important to remember that self-doubt is a symptom. It's not WHO you are. It's not a personality trait. It's not a part of you.
Self-doubt is merely a symptom and can be caused by a number of things. It is especially common with those suffering from depression or anxiety. This is because your anxiety can be tagged to anything and is likely to involve anxiety about yourself, if you're good enough, attractive enough, smart enough, talented enough, etc. Depression will also make you feel like you're not good enough, you're not doing enough, and your hijacked emotional center of your brain will be focusing on all the negative things about yourself instead of seeing all the positives.
Some people are better at hiding their self-doubt than others, but it's extremely common. I'm sure everyone has felt it at some point in their lives, and it strikes with little discrimination, hitting people in a position of power just as much as those who are not.
Depression, anxiety, and the self-doubt that comes with them (and others) are leeches attached to you, slowly sucking the life out of you. You're not at full mental, emotional, or physical capacity when you're suffering from these issues because they drain your energy in all three forms. Like a leech, they don't want to kill you, you're their host. They're feeding off of you. You can live with self-doubt your whole life and think it's a part of who you are, but it isn't. With the right techniques, which are different for different people, you can peel those leeches off and become (or get back to) the person you REALLY are underneath it all.
What are a few of those techniques? Try some of these below and see what helps/works for you. Different people respond better to different stimuli, so something on this selective list might help you tremendously, while another technique might only help a little. Try them all and see what difference it can make for you. Then share this with others because I assure you, you are not alone. Especially in the world we're in today where everyone is being thrown outside their comfort zones, we could all use a little more self-confidence.
Power Poses. There are specific poses you can take (standing like Superman with your back straight and hands on your hips is one) that will make you feel more confident and help beat back your self-doubt. This is because they actually change your body chemistry by lowering your cortisol levels (fight or flight hormone) and upping your testosterone levels (confidence). Try it. Every morning stand in the shower or in your bedroom or wherever for at least 2 minutes in a power pose. Do it before a big event, or an interview, or whenever you're feeling nervous. Even if you don't have the space to stand there, you can do a version of it sitting down, just make sure your head is up, your back is straight, and your chest is open (shoulders back).
Positive Statements. While you're just standing there with your hands on your hips, you might as well do one of the other best things for crushing self-doubt: force yourself to say positive things about yourself. You can say them in your head, or voice them out loud, or write them down. Make them "I am" statements and do as many as you can in the two-minute period. Here's a few examples, and just so you know, even reading them can help: I am strong. I am talented. I am important. I am capable. I am attractive. I am powerful. I am loved. I am intelligent. I am caring. I am good at *insert activity here.* I am WORTHY.
Think of yourself like a friend. If a friend came up to you and started tearing themselves apart saying they weren't good enough or attractive enough or talented enough, that they were a failure or shouldn't do something they wanted to do because they weren't worthy or might fail, what would you do? Would you look at your friend and agree with them, contributing to their self-doubt even more? I doubt it. I think you'd probably try to tell them how GOOD they are, how IMPORTANT they are, and how TALENTED they are. I think you'd probably start listing off the good things about them and tell them to stop dwelling on the negatives and that the negatives aren't really as bad as they think they are. If we would never let our friend talk like this about themselves, why do we let ourselves? That voice in our head can be brutal. Sometimes you need to tell it to sit down and shut up. You need to flip the script and start forcing those positive statements in there, even if you don't feel they're true at the moment. Be a friend to yourself. Don't let your self-doubt bully you.
Be more open. First of all, if this was a topic we all talked about more, it would be easier to deal with it because we wouldn't feel so alone. Self-doubt is incredibly common, even for those people who look and seem like they have it all together. They don't. At least not all the time. So if we were all more open about it and talked about it there wouldn't be as much stigma and isolation attached to it and we would all feel better. Secondly, the more I admit to my struggles and talk openly about them to others, whether in writing a blog post, or a book, or giving a speech, or talking one-on-one, the less I tend to feel those negative things (depression, anxiety, self-doubt...). Connection is a hugely necessary part of healing from depression and anxiety and self-doubt, as well as many, many other things. The more you internalize your struggles, the more difficult they become. There's nothing wrong with being open and honest about what you're going through. You don't have to hide away parts of your life and suffer alone. We're all struggling and we should all talk about it more.
Go for a walk. Hardly anything boosts my self-confidence, my clarity of mind, or my mood quite as much as a brisk walk. It gets your blood pumping, it helps clear toxins, it releases endorphins, if you walk upright with your head held high it's also like doing a power pose and helps lower your cortisol levels, and it's good for you. If you can walk in nature, even better, as that is excellent for your mood and energy as well. If you can walk while listening to music you like, awesome, as that is also phenomenal for a mood boost. So go for a walk, or do some type of exercise that you like. Focus on your breathing and your body. Notice how it can help lift your mood. Even just 15 minutes can get the endorphins rolling, and the happier you are, the less likely you'll be feeling your self-doubt.
Breathe. Learn some breathing techniques to help calm and focus your mind. If you have anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder or an addiction or many other types of struggles, you know it can be a challenge and sometimes feel impossible to control your mind. It doesn't take much for one negative thought to spiral into a funnel of self-doubt and panic and anger and frustration and suddenly you're a miserable heap incapable of doing much of anything. Thankfully, you can train yourself to not let that happen. That topic is worth a whole book by itself, but I'll touch on it here. First, you need to breathe. Breathe from your belly and count your breaths if you need to to try and keep your focus on your breathing. The more you learn to focus on your breathing (meditation), the more control you will have over your mind in general. Focusing on your breathing will help calm you down. It also helps train your brain to remain calmer if you do it regularly, preventing panic attacks and manic episodes and other things of that nature. Sometimes breathing is not enough, though, so next you want to stretch, loosen up your body while you're still focusing on your breathing. Not enough? Do a power pose for five minutes, still focusing on your breathing. Still not enough? Go for that walk and make it a good pace. Don't stop for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer. Still focus on your breathing and see how that all builds together to help.
The calmer you can learn to be, the happier you can be, the less you're going to feel that overwhelming sense of self-doubt. It takes practice. It takes intention. Meditating once is certainly good for you, but meditating for a few minutes every day is what's going to be powerful. Going for a walk and thinking about positive "I am" statements will absolutely help you, but doing it every morning or at least a few times a week is what's going to make a huge difference.
Interested in learning more? Check out my book, How To Crush Self-Doubt and Gain Real Confidence.
While you're here, you might also be interested in my related TEDx Talk: Why we should teach gratitude in school.