Doubting is a natural human response to any unfamiliar situation. But self-doubt is about ourselves. Self-doubt is a fear of being judged, or making a mistake. Feeling insecure or not as good as others can negatively effect your relationships, your work, and your ability to enjoy your life to the fullest.
Self-doubt has its roots in our past experiences and what we have learned from them. Infants don’t come with thoughts like: “I am not good enough to do this.”
As we grew up, making decisions, we receive information from the environment and those around us. We go through many experiences and have contact with friends, family, fellow students or co-workers, etc. Everyone we interact with leaves us with some type of imprint. Some of that imprint is supportive and encouraging. Some of it isn’t.
In addition, some people seem to be more able to shrug negative experiences and interactions off. They are affected by them, but they remain intact and grounded in who they are and their sense of self-worth. Others find themselves deeply affected by difficult people and situations, and they may find their sense of self and confidence suffers as a result.
This can be the place where self-doubt and fear of making mistakes begins, from other people’s expectations of us and sometimes even their criticism of us when we’ve made mistakes.
The information that was not encouraging and supportive in our learning is the root of our self-doubt. Many of us, in part because of the external responses we have received throughout our lives, may feel self doubt or insecurity. This type of negative self-perception tends to feed upon itself. We begin to see the world in terms of experiences that solidify that perception that we are not good enough. You may feel it becomes more and more difficult to assert yourself, feel confident, or roll with the punches of everyday life without allowing them to tear down your sense of self.
A negative self-image can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, a self-doubting mindset can set us up to fail. Most of the time the core emotion underneath self-doubt is fear.
However, there are some steps we can take to minimize, or even eliminate, this negative cycle.
1. The first decision we make is to acknowledge our self-doubt and fear. In doing this we must call it what it is.
For example, when you feel afraid about an experience or decision, don’t label the feeling as nervousness or anxiety. It’s fear. Once you have acknowledged it, you can set about to find practical methods to deal with it.
2. Secondly, once we have labeled the fear and self-doubt we will want to examine it more closely.
“How much self-doubt and fear am I actually experiencing? On a scale from one to ten, with ten being the highest possible fear, how would I rate this feeling?”
How does feeling this fear benefit you? I know that probably sounds like an odd question, but when we have a personality tendency or a belief that limits you, typically those start as a coping mechanism of some sort. How do insecurity or self doubt serve you? Do they keep you from taking risk and possibly being hurt or embarrassed? Acknowledging both the pros and cons of any behavior that you want to change will help you succeed in making healthy changes.
3. The other side of examining thoughts that feed self-doubt is challenging those thoughts. As I have mentioned in several videos – thoughts are just thoughts. Feelings are just feelings. They are not necessarily facts. Giving thoughts and feelings the power of fact can rob you of any sense of self control or efficacy. You become a victim of your thoughts and feelings, which may have no basis in fact. Examining thoughts and feelings for truth can help you dismantle ways of reacting which have not been helpful for you.
4. Next, ask yourself how your life would change if you no longer felt held back by insecurity or self doubt? What would you feel? What would you be able to do? Now – give one of those things a try. Let’s say you’d like to go back to school, but you have convinced yourself that you are not smart enough or that you can’t see it through. Realizing that this is a fear is the first step. Next, challenging the assumption that you are going to fail shows you that while you can probably imagine that scenario, there may be little if any truth in it. Now that you have dismantled this assumption a bit, decide on a step you can take toward change. Sign up for a class, for example. Give yourself a chance to succeed, and practice positive thoughts that you can and will make it.
These are some ideas to help you confront negative perceptions and fear and take some healthy steps to deal with the possible outcomes. I welcome your comments below.