For many years, I lived with chronic self-doubt.
I didn’t think overcoming self-doubt was even possible, because it was ingrained into my being.
Sometimes it was completely debilitating, other times less so, but always there, just beneath the surface, preventing me from living a free-flowing, creative, joyful life.
For me, consistently doubting myself meant:
- I was unable to be present in work and social situations (feeling insecure and afraid)
- I would avoid speaking up from fear that what I had to say was dumb
- I excessively worried what others thought of me
- I was paranoid I had done something wrong (in almost all situations)
- I over-analysed how I had showed up in meetings, social events, etc long after they happened
- I struggled to be accountable because I didn’t feel safe with myself. Any failures or mistakes were evidence of my fears (I’m not good enough, I’m a fraud and a failure, something is wrong with me), rather than opportunities for learning, improvement and growth
- I was a HUGE over-thinker and the ultimate procrastinator, often to the point of breakdown
- I would get so stuck in my mind that I couldn’t see “the wood from the trees”. Tasks and projects would quickly turn into a dark smog in my mind with no clear way through, taking days and often weeks rather than hours to complete
- I would consistently worry about the outcome not being “good enough”, preventing me from enjoying the process
- I was unable to make decisions confidently, and own them, repeatedly questioning them afterwards
To some who know me, this may come as a surprise.
On the surface I’m a go-getter, and always have been to an extent.
I would be motivated by moments of inspiration, follow my curiosity and do the things that gave me “that” feeling, but almost immediately after embarking on something new – be it a new job, passion project, or hobby – the self-doubt, and the negative, self-critical internal dialogue that goes with it would re-surface and take over.
Making my journey so much more painful that it needed to be.
Because when we’re disconnected from our authentic self, when we don’t know who we truly are, how can we live confidently.
How can we move forward in life with compassion, clarity, purpose and intention, when ultimately we don’t trust ourselves at all?
Instead, the internal critic that puts us back in our place in an attempt to protect us leads our life.
We don’t even question that “voice”. We take it as truth, thinking it’s just how we are.
We follow that all too familiar feeling of dread at the prospect of failing, rather than being able to see it for what it is, sending it love, and moving forward anyway.
We fall deeper and deeper into confusion rather than seeing a clear, actionable way to progress.
Disconnection = distrust = distress = disconnection… and the cycle goes on.
So, what can you do to begin to trust yourself, to overcome self-doubt and turn it into self-belief, clarity, confidence and empowered action?
You dedicate yourself to your healing, and to connecting with your authentic self.
To learning to live from your heart, not your mind.
Which begins by opening yourself up to the idea that the internal noise, the doubt, the confusion, the fog, the inner critic you’ve been living through for so long – none of this is the real you.
You weren’t born thinking: “oh crap, what if this all goes wrong, what if I screw life up, what if I’m not good enough to be here?”
You learnt to think this way. Your life experiences (and the fact you were never taught about how the mind and thoughts really work), meant you learnt to be scared of yourself, pushing you to become disconnected from you true self, often in order to survive and get by.
So, no matter how real it feels, and no matter how hard your mind tries to tell you to give up because you aren’t cut out for whatever it is, you aren’t good enough, know that this isn’t the truth.
This isn’t who you are.
This way of thinking has been programmed into you. But it is not the be all and end all. It doesn’t have to be this way.
And so, to heal and connect with your authentic self, you must bring your self-doubt into the light. You must learn to observe how it arises in you. Mindfulness can help with this – read more here.
But, absolutely critically, please don’t hate on your self-doubt.
As you begin to observe what’s happening, please don’t hate on the thoughts and feelings that stem from your self-doubt, even if they have been holding you back.
Don’t see them as your enemy, as a war you now need to fight.
What we resist and fight within us only gains strength.
To overcome self-doubt, we mustn’t fight these thoughts and feelings, avoid them, or run from them.
The solution is, and always will be, to choose love.
To learn to observe them, to accept them wholeheartedly, to send them love, and then take small actionable steps forward. (This is a great article by Deepak Chopra on 5 ways to build your self-esteem).
Because your self-doubt is the result of unhealed parts of yourself, which believe it’s safer for you to hold back, keep quiet, give into doubt.
So, thank your self-doubt for caring, for trying to protect you, send it love, and let it go.
Watch, accept, send love, let go.
Again, and again, and again.
Next time self-doubt comes up, the voices tell you to stop before you get hurt or disappoint yourself, pause.
Say to yourself, “this is not who I really am. Somehow, I’ve learnt to think this way, in an attempt to protect myself. Over time, I’ve closed myself off to my truth, to the essence of my being, to the abundant creativity, joy, freedom that is at my very core. Thank you for caring for me, but we will be okay. It’s time to move forward.”
When self-doubt arises, ask yourself: “what am I really scared of here? If I attach onto these thoughts and feelings and allow them to lead me, where will that get me?”
“Instead, if I choose to acknowledge, thank and take a small step forward with courageous compassion for myself, what then? What possibilities do I open myself up to?”
And watch the miracles begin to unfold.