Self doubt, that nagging inner voice that questions our abilities and worth, is a common human experience. Everyone experiences self doubt and overthinking at some point in their lives, but it can quickly become a habit that damages our mental health, promotes low self esteem, and interferes with our professional goals.If you’re anyone like myself, you might have tried to force your way out of this mental headspace through sheer hard work. When you’re used to solving most problems in life through ability and skill, it’s natural to rely on the strategies we’re used to that have served us well in the past. And that’s exactly what I did.What happened, you may ask?I was doubting myself even more! No matter how much I thought I could “think” my way out of self doubt and overthinking, doing so actually fed the flames rather than diminished them.I spent so much time — time wasted really — trying to use an old tool to solve a new problem. It was only then that I realized the key to stop overthinking, stop the negative thoughts, wasn’t to roll up my sleeves and force the issue to go away.The key was to examine the thoughts, feelings, and expectations I had set up for myself and reappraise my strategies. Much of how we get rid of self doubt and overthinking involves looking internally, remembering our self worth, and taking control of the negative thought patterns that keep us trapped.In this blog post, we will embark on a transformative journey to understand and overcome self doubt. By unraveling its origins, recognizing its impact, and embracing effective strategies, we can pave the way for a life infused with self-assurance, resilience, and unwavering confidence.
What is self doubt?
Self doubt is a psychological and emotional state characterized by a lack of confidence or belief in one’s own abilities, decisions, or worth. It involves questioning oneself and one’s actions, often leading to feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and hesitation. In its worst form, it leads to excessive overthinking, where we are unable to focus on anything else other than our perceived faults.People experiencing self doubt may have difficulty making decisions, pursuing goals, or taking actions because they fear failure, judgment, or inadequacy.Self doubt can appear in situations where you’re compelled to move outside of your comfort zone, such as going on a first date, or asking for a promotion. It’s possible toexperience self doubt in a healthy way, where our doubts actually call us to action to develop new skills and strategies. When it becomes extreme, however, it leads to indecisiveness and inaction.That indecisiveness and inaction ends up making us feel even worse, because we miss out on so many of the opportunities life places in front of us. It stops us from moving forward.
What causes self doubt and overthinking?
Self doubt can pop up due to a variety of factors that vary between individuals, and over time it becomes a mindset that fuels even further overthinking.
Self doubt is typically caused by:
Social comparison: comparison is the enemy of happiness. It’s easy to magnify our own shortcomings in our head when we are faced with a person who appears to have every strength we lack.
Past failures: making mistakes and failure are integral parts of the human experience — they force us to learn and grow. However, the lingering scars from past failures may interfere with future success. It stifles our courage to keep trying.
Negative self talk: self doubt often rears its ugly head most loudly in the form of talking negatively about ourselves. These sabotaging thoughts, beyond damaging our mental health in the long run, can make it difficult to maintain a positive self image. Negative thinking habits often turn into a self fulfilling prophecy, where we subconsciously fulfill the expectations of the worst case scenario we’ve been ruminating on.
Perfectionism: setting unrealistically high standards for ourselves is forming the ideal stage for self doubt. Perfectionism demands flawlessness, precision, and absolutely no room for mistakes.
Fear of failure or judgment: the fear of letting others down can freeze us into a state of inaction. The desire to perform at a high standard can interfere with us living authentically and proudly.
Lack of self compassion: different fromself esteem or self confidence, self compassion is the idea that we should treat ourselves with the same kindness and grace we extend to others. Without it, we become our own worst enemy.
Self doubt has many causes, but in order to combat self doubt, we need to remind ourselves of our worth, and engage in a process of reorganizing the negative thought patterns we’ve come accustomed to.
How do we overcome self doubt?
The answer to this question involves engaging with the process of self growth and discovery. There is no hard and fast way to simply stop it, and even the most capable, skilled, hardworking person in the world can’t outthink or outrun self doubt.The way we overcome self doubt and break free of the cycle is by putting a pause button on the pressure, embrace the present moment, and go through a few critical steps.
Acknowledge that you are having doubts: pain demands to be felt, and pretending like we are not hurting ourselves with constant anxiety and doubt is only prolonging the negative emotions. Give yourself permission to say you are struggling. It will shock you how empowering it is to level with yourself, experience feelings that were pushed down, and break out of a toxic mental habit. And let’s face it — trying to hold back our real feelings is simply exhausting.
Identify your unique triggers: understanding the origins of self doubt is critical, because it equips you with a better, more precise perspective. Are you particularly doubtful after a professional setback, conflict in your dating life or romantic relationship, or in trying new things? Meditation, talking with a trusted family member or close friends, and even speaking with a mental health professional can help you bring those root causes up to the surface. We can only face the challenge once we know where it comes from.
Practice self compassion: embracing compassion for ourselves allows us to view our problems and our doubts with forgiveness and empathy. Think of the most supportive people in your life, whether that’s a parent, a best friend, a partner, etc. Now imagine what they would say to you as you talk about your doubts and overthinking. Now imagine yourself saying that the little, anxious voice in your head. Being compassionate to ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our well being.
Write down a list of your positive attributes: writing positive affirmations and reminders of our past achievements can be a wonderfully empowering exercise that affirms our self worth. It’s another way we practice self compassion, and whenever those negative thoughts appear, we have a visual reminder of all the great things we offer to the world.
Overcoming self doubt is a transformative journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and consistent effort. By acknowledging its presence, understanding its origins, and implementing practical strategies, you can gradually replace self doubt with self-assurance.Remember, you have the power to rewrite the narrative of your inner dialogue and unleash your inner confidence.Embrace this journey as an opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth, and watch as your newfound confidence propels you towards a life of limitless potential.
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