Self-doubt is the ONE thing that is preventing you from being as productive as you would like to be.
Let me guess, you are currently feeling pants. You are berating yourself, being cruel to yourself, unfairly listing all the things you do not like about yourself. You are listing all the things you haven’t finished yet or things you never even started. Congratulations! You are a brilliant self-critic and you deserve a medal. Seriously though, do you really think bullying yourself like this is a useful motivator?
In this blog I explore what self-doubt is and help you to overcome it.
Feeling So Frustrated
Every one of the hundreds of women who’ve talked to me about their self-doubt over the years, say she’s felt frustrated because she has a strong desire to be, do, have or create something, and yet she has no idea how to move beyond her self-critical thoughts or worry about potential failure.
Perhaps you recognise feeling out of your depth. You are questioning your ability, feeling like a fraud or not qualified enough, or as though you don’t deserve happiness, healthy relationships, wealth or success. You are worrying about making the wrong decision… and the list goes on. Do you recognise one or more of these? Perhaps you can add some of your own.
Seeing your Future Self
In your mind’s eye, you can imagine yourself in the future – you have achieved the things you desire and you are celebrating your success. However, right now, in this moment, you cannot muster the energy or maintain the focus to actually take action towards achieving your goal. It’s as though there’s an invisible barrier between the person you are now, in this moment, and your future self.
Invisible Barrier of Self-Doubt
Let’s explore this invisible barrier of self-doubt for a moment. Based on my 15 year’s professional experience as a Chartered Psychologist and coach, and drawing on my personal relationship with my own self-doubt (which, thankfully, I do know how to manage), this invisible barrier is made up of four key elements:
1/ The critical judgements that other people have made about you throughout your life in a variety of situations
2/ The critical judgements you assume other people have made about you, but you have no evidence for any of this
3/ Your limiting self-beliefs (1 + 2: your brain has repeated these self-critical judgements, and now you believe them to be true)
4/ Your natural propensity to feel anxious whenever you want to try something new or step outside your comfort zone. You feel anxious because you don’t want to fail, you fear humiliation and rejection.
The real issue is not that we have this invisible barrier of self-doubt. The real issue is that we don’t know how to break through it.
Identify your Self-Doubt Saboteur
There are several effective methods I use with clients to help break down their self-doubt barrier, build resilience and empower themselves to take action. While I can’t possibly cover all of them in one blog (a book or two, maybe!), I would love to encourage you to begin your own journey, in a gentle way, by taking these few steps:
1/ How do you speak to yourself when you are delaying taking action?
It’s probably not in a supportive or encouraging tone. You might not find it easy to become consciously aware of your self-critical thoughts (the Inner Critic) at first, but it the essential first step to understanding them.
2/ Write notes on all of the negative things you are saying to yourself.
Read those phrases back to yourself. What do you notice? How ridiculous they are, how cruel they are, how there is no evidence to support that they are true!
3/ How do you feel when you are not taking action to be, do, have or create that one thing you really desire?
I like to use this very simple equation: Unhelpful Thoughts = Unhelpful Behaviours. Our emotions are both a driver and a consequence of our thoughts and our action (and inaction). At this stage, try to notice how you feel – frustrated, sad, overwhelmed, unfocused, stupid, lazy – and simply allow yourself to feel this way. Try not to fight any negative emotions, but just notice them at this stage.
4/ Now imagine how will you feel when you have successfully achieved that one thing on your list?
Picture a scenario, zoom in on the details of how the setting, how you feel, how you look, what you are saying, who you are with, your energy level, the energy of the people around you etc. Hold this image in your mind’s eye. She’s your future self. And she needs you.
Fear is a Powerful Saboteur
Above, I explained that self-doubt stems from your natural propensity to be scared of failure. You want to succeed, improve, and become your best version of yourself. However, you know that attempting to achieve your goals comes with the risk of making mistakes, and the potential for failure.
At a conscious level, you know that making mistakes is an inevitable part of the learning cycle. In reality, when you make a mistake you can apologise, correct the error, learn from it, and move on.
However, at an unconscious level, the fear of failure is like a huge monster feeding on all of your insecurities. Your unconscious mind conjures up stories about the extreme negative consequences of your effort, such as losing your job, your lover, or your home (yes, it’s pretty extreme!). Suddenly you believe it seems way too risky to take action: so you don’t. Remember my equation above (unhelpful thoughts = unhelpful behaviours)? This is a classic example of how we begin to sabotage our own goals. However, there is hope…
Self-Compassion as a Motivator
One of the worst features of self-doubt is its ability to prevent us from feeling good about ourselves.
The only way to counter the irrational fear causing you to doubt yourself is by tapping into your capacity for compassion and love, and then by turning these emotions on to yourself. Become your own cheerleader. Be your best friend. Get on your own side. Smother yourself with unconditional love, support and encouragement. You need it. You deserve it.
You might not find it easy to be nice to yourself – it’s not something we are taught or encouraged to do – but it is essential to your wellbeing.
Instead of bullying yourself into inaction, you can now give yourself the permission to simply have a go, to try something new, take a leap of faith, and consciously consider all the amazing things that can happen as a consequence.
Would you like to Stop Self-Sabotaging?
Stupid question, I know, but it’s worth asking because you’ll be surprised that most people think it’s just normal behaviour and that they can’t do anything about it (which is a form of self-sabotage in itself).
So for the few people out thee who do actually want to make a change and choose to take control of their life back, I run very special one-day events for women called a ‘Hideaway’ – it’s a cross between a workshop and retreat and I always choose the most delightful venues.
For more information of my next HIDEAWAYS in London, Manchester and Shropshire, click here (for earlybird tickets and no eventbrite fee!): Hideaway with Jess Baker.