“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure… We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”—Kobe Bryant
Everyone, no matter who they are, inevitably experiences self-doubt. Reading through the biographies and autobiographies of some of the most accomplished, celebrated, famous, talented and intelligent people reveals that each one of them has had their moments of personal doubt. Not only did they wonder if they had what it takes, they worried whether they could persevere despite opposition and setbacks, without support and encouragement, even if they were physically capable of continuing.
Self-doubt isn’t an automatic determinant or precursor to declining mental health. Nor is it the killer of goals or success. Giving up is, however, on both accounts. The key point to remember here isn’t that you doubt yourself, because you will, but what you’ll do about it will make all the difference between being proactive with your mental health and allowing it to deteriorate through inattention.
The first step to dealing constructively with self-doubt involves recognition. If you recognize that what you’re feeling is doubt, you can begin to take proactive steps to overcome it. While each person will need to find what works best, here are some general tips to help get past the crippling paralysis that self-doubt can bring about.
It makes no sense to deny what you feel. As with any emotion, when you try to shove the present emotion or feeling aside, it only goes deeper. Instead, acknowledge that you have doubts about yourself and your abilities or capabilities. That’s the first step in getting past it.
ACCEPT SELF-DOUBT AS NORMAL
It probably seems like you’re alone in this experience, especially when you’re right in the thick of it. However, when you accept that self-doubt is normal, that it isn’t unique to you, and everyone has it, this can make the experience less discomforting.
NEVER WALLOW IN THE EMOTION
Never give in to self-doubt. If you do, you’ll never accomplish anything worthwhile. Your goals will slip away, you’ll become bitter and disillusioned, perhaps become depressed, and life will seem less hopeful and productive.
STIFLE THAT HYPERCRITICAL INNER VOICE
When you’re worried you won’t measure up, that you’ll fail at the prospective task or endeavor or not be able to meet the challenge you’ve set for yourself, you’re engaging in the futile act of listening to your harsh inner voice and endlessly worrying about self-criticism. You know, the one that’s always warning you to be cautious, reminds you that your ideas aren’t the best, and laughs at your attempts to succeed. Stop and think, though. Did that hypercritical inner voice ever do you any favors when you listened to it? Can’t think of one, can you? So, tell yourself that you know better than that annoying, and utterly wrong, inner critic. That’s another positive step to deal constructively with self-doubt.
REMIND YOURSELF OF PAST SUCCESS
Now is a good time to recall that you’ve had doubts before and were able to rise above them. You found solutions and techniques that worked then and you will do so again. Reminding yourself of past success in similar situations is a great motivator when you encounter something that makes you question whether you have what it takes this time.
LEARN TO IDENTIFY SELF-DOUBT TRIGGERS
When self-doubt cropped up in the past, what were the triggers that you recall occurring? Raising self-awareness about self-doubt helps you understand what’s at the heart of the emotion, so you can reassure yourself that most of it is fear-based and not grounded in reality.
ENVISION A POSITIVE OUTCOME
While it might be tough to do right now, concentrate on a positive outcome. In fact, be hopeful of one. The dynamic of what happens here is that by capitalizing on your strengths and working to overcome your weaknesses, you’ll position yourself for success. This will occur despite the presence of self-doubt.
SEE THIS AS A GROWTH OPPORTUNITY
Granted, it doesn’t seem like it at first glance. Could it be that something you’re worried about is holding you back? Yet, look past your fears and regard self-doubt as an opportunity to grow. This current situation where you feel such anxiety and doubt didn’t happen without some warning. Were you as prepared as you could be? Does this show you that planning, practice and lining up resources is perhaps a better way to push past self-doubt?
FORGET WHAT OTHERS THINK
It’s understandable that everyone has opinions, yet not all of them are in sync with yours. However, the culture of sameness, where only certain ideas and sometimes only the opinions of certain people are entertained is not helpful to productivity, let alone trying to overcome self-doubt. You don’t want this for yourself or your future, so forget what others think. At the very least, don’t put too much credence into their criticism. You need to own your future. That means thinking for yourself and having the self-confidence to know that you’ll make good decisions.
EMBRACE SELF-DOUBT TO ENRICH LIFE
Perhaps the simplest and most effective advice regarding self-doubt and your mental health is to embrace the emotion. By learning to embrace self-doubt and allowing yourself the experience of overcoming it, you will enrich your life in ways that may today seem unimaginable.
For example, once you’ve realized that you can overcome self-doubt, you’re no longer troubled by fears of failure. You recognize that you may stumble, yet you’ll learn valuable lessons in the process, emerging stronger than before, able to see past obstacles, ignore unwarranted criticism and the enmity of others. A pattern of success makes for greater self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which are integral in good mental health. While you cannot predict when things may go awry, you know that you’re fully capable of weathering the challenges that life presents. That’s another sign that you’ve dealt constructively with self-doubt.
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This article was originally published on Psych Central.
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