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There it is again. That feeling.
You are about to make a decision and take hold of your opportunities.
Then, like a spider in a horror film, it slowly creeps in and takes over your mind, making you second guess yourself and create excuses.
Self-doubt is an unpleasant emotion that leaves you spiraling into a web of indecision. Eventually, it can lead to bigger problems like anxiety and depression.
But you don’t have to let that happen.
You can control your self-talk and make confident decisions. You can think highly of yourself without comparing yourself to others.
What causes self-doubt?
Before we uncover the causes of self-doubt, it’s important to know that there are situations when self-doubt is healthy. We can use self-doubt to challenge ourselves or question if something is right for us. It can also be a way of relating better to others, especially if we tend to be overly self-confident.
On the other hand, chronic self-doubt is a sneaky spider. It creeps in when you’re not paying attention and weaves a web of lies and half-truths that get in the way of your success. It eventually creates a lack of faith in yourself and in making confident decisions, making the future feel unknown and scary.
According to Alan Watts, the late British philosopher, we experience self-doubt in the process of making a decision. We end up worrying about the variables beyond our control. We may take things too personally or judge ourselves through the eyes of others, forcing us to disregard our own good qualities completely.
As a result, we spiral into the belief that we don’t have the talent or the right skills or we are unworthy of a position or person. Minor failures are grouped with what we think are major failures (or what we deem as failures in the eyes of others), and they become further proof that we are unworthy. The spider continues to weave its web.
You say things like I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I can’t do this. Until you reach the point of saying I will never be able to …
With this mindset, you won’t. But committing yourself to this self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t necessary. Instead, fill yourself with I can, I am, and I will.
Vincent van Gogh said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
The opposite of self-doubt is clarity.
And the more you practice, the better trained your mind becomes. Here are five ways to conquer self-doubt.
1. Notice your chatter
Notice the negative talk and inner doubts that your mind creates. When it starts to chatter, and before it spins out of control, tell it to stop.
In your mind (or out loud if you’re alone) say, “Stop. No. Not today” or “Thank you for sharing.”
Take note of the thoughts and phrases that doubt your abilities. Watch them disappear in your mind’s eye.
You can also adopt the bracelet technique and switch wrists every time you recognize a negative thought.
There is no consequence: only the awareness of negative thinking. By doing this, you are disrupting the pattern, stopping the flow of negative thought and retraining your mind.
2. Write down your thoughts, including the scary stuff
One of the simpler practices that can help you become more confident is making a list of all the things that scare you. Fears depend upon the vague idea of what might happen. When you get really specific with exactly what you’re afraid of, it robs them of their power. This is especially good for people who don’t often express emotions.
The writing process helps clear your mind and sort your emotions; you begin to notice which ones are tangible and in your control and which ones are out of your control. Doing this allows you to see how exaggerated your thinking becomes if you don’t rein in your thoughts.
3. Mirror, mirror affirmations
You are your own worst enemy, as the saying goes. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and repeat your favorite affirmation.
Do this daily.
For the rest of your life.
It’s okay to laugh at yourself at first. Loosen up, take some deep, slow breaths and talk to your reflection. When you’re finished, continue breathing deeply and only allow positive thoughts to take up space in your mind for another couple of minutes.
Confident people look at people directly in the eyes. Showing yourself that you are self-confident is a sign that you believe and trust in yourself.
4. Step away from social media
Since we tend to compare ourselves to others on social media, choose to go social-free on certain days of the week. Look at it as though you’re replenishing your self-confidence battery.
If part of your work involves social media, keep your focus on work only instead of trailing off to your personal accounts. Apps are too easy to access, so follow the pro-confidence path and delete them from your phone.
There are plenty of negative stories and beautiful (albeit, fake) lives on social media. Ask yourself if the exposure to it is worth losing self-esteem over. Is it adding or detracting from your positive thought process?
If it’s detracting, ditch it.
5. Keep a success journal
Recall a time when you were successful. Think about how it made you feel. Write it down. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; just write freely. Be as descriptive as you can to recall your feelings: what you were wearing, who was in the room, what time of year it was.
When you revivify the feelings of success, you’ll bring more of those feelings your way. But don’t worry if you can’t remember all the small details.
The important thing is to have a journal of success.
You are creating a record of the positive and influential things you’ve done, even if it’s as small as getting your kids to school on time every day for a week or as big as finishing a course that pushed you to open a new business.
You’ll start to notice how those small successes add up. They deserve notoriety just as much as the big successes.
We all have self-doubt. It’s part of being human. But it doesn’t have to sabotage your life.
As you reduce self-doubt, you’ll learn to trust your decisions and let go of the need to compare yourself to others. By practicing these five techniques, your ability to take control of your thoughts will become natural, and you’ll brush aside the old web of uncertainty.