Understanding your self-doubt

How often do you talk yourself out of doing something that you really want to do?

You may talk yourself out of going for a promotion at work, moving home, taking a trip of a life time or even telling yourself that you will fail even though you are on track to achieving success.

Self-doubt is a terrible barrier to achieving the life you deserve. If you struggle with it, you are not alone. Even highly successful people go through periods of self-doubt. What matters though is not your negative self-talk but rather how you respond to it. Do you choose to let it hold you back, or do you choose to ignore it and move forward anyway?

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”


Why you experience self-doubt

Self-doubt is at its worst when you are either experiencing change, or contemplating change. Change can be scary as you move from the known to the unknown. It can make you feel vulnerable and instead of feeling positive and empowered, your internal critic starts to shout very loudly. It doesn’t matter whether the change is good for you or not, your internal critic does not want you to change as it is far safer to stay as you are, where life is predictable and routine.

Unfortunately for many people, their internal critic has a lot of ammunition to use against them because at the heart of their belief systems they do not believe that they are good enough or worthy of achieving success.

Your core beliefs

The problem is that even if you logically know that you have the skills and abilities to make a successful transition, if your deeply embedded belief is that you aren’t good enough then you will struggle with self-doubt. If you don’t want to let self-doubt control your life then you need to look closely at what your core beliefs are and why you have them in the first place.

The beliefs “I’m not good enough” or “I am not worth” are among the most common negative self-beliefs which create self-doubt. These beliefs are created at a very young age and even if you come from a loving, supportive home, you could still have ended up with these harmful beliefs.

Often these beliefs are formed by seemingly innocent experiences, for instance coming second in an athletic event in school, your siblings teasing you, or even a boyfriend/girlfriend breaking up with you at the age of 12. It isn’t the event itself that caused you to have the belief but rather your interpretation of it. So before you start blaming your parents, siblings or whoever else, know that that your beliefs were the result of your own perception of the events.

The good news is that since you created the belief, you can erase it too.

Start by becoming more aware of your negative self-talk. What exactly are you telling yourself, take note of the words that you are using. Then ask yourself why you are telling yourself this, what are the underlying reasons? Once you get to the root cause, you will have identified your core belief. Now you need to change it.

To change a core belief you need to know and truly believe that it isn’t true and you do this by providing evidence to counter the belief. Remember that your beliefs are generalisations that are applied to any or all situations. So you should be able to come up with examples proving the belief to be untrue.

Working through self-doubt

Even once you have identified what your core limiting self-belief is it doesn’t mean that your self-doubt will miraculously disappear for good. What you have done by identifying and examining the underlying negative belief is provided yourself with powerful ammunition to silence your inner critic.

So when your self-doubt and negative self-talk starts up use your ammunition to shut it up. For instance if your inner critic tells you “I will fail”, then change your thought and counter it with an example of why you will succeed. Keep challenging those thoughts until your critic is silenced.

One of my favourite techniques to use when my self-doubt rears its ugly head is positive, empowering affirmations. So for instance if you have the thought “I will fail” then state very clearly and assertively “I am successful” using examples of why to back up your statement.

The choice is yours

Self-doubts are not facts. It is not a given that you will fail, or that the worst will happen. Your doubts come from self-beliefs that are just distorted internal opinions based on negative interpretations of events. They are not predictors of the future. The truth is you can choose whether to give in to the noise of your internal critic, or you can go out and face your fears, and give yourself a chance to achieve success. The choice is yours.

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