“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.” –Denis Waitley
Self-doubt, that persistent voice inside your head that repeats “I can’t do this. I’m not good enough,” over and over again.
Everyone experiences self-doubt at some point, even those of us who consider ourselves to be pretty confident most of the time. Unfortunately, self-doubt can get under your skin, sometimes becoming so paralyzing that you abandon your endeavors altogether.
The key to overcoming self-doubt is to find strategies to manage it. Here are some steps to take when you feel those negative feelings creeping in.
1. Identify the feelings.
Before you can overcome self-doubt, you must recognize it.
What does your body feel like when you are experiencing self-doubt? Perhaps your stomach tenses or your back muscles become tight. You may clench your jaw or get a headache.
What thoughts do you have? Do you tell yourself you’re a failure, that you’ll never get it right?
Pay attention to the signals in your body and brain that occur. With practice, you will start to notice these signals early on so you can take action.
2. Talk back.
You may not be able to stop the feelings of self-doubt, but you can put them in their place. When you inner voice starts to whisper that you can’t do it, shout back that you can!
I choose to think thoughts that serve me well.
I am good enough just the way I am.
I know who I am, and I am enough.
Positive self-talk can be an incredible tool. Choose a few affirmations that renew your spirits and get in the habit of repeating them during the day. In fact, surrounding yourself with positive media such as audiobooks, podcasts, and music can do wonders for your mood.
3. Tune out the critics.
It’s often the things other people say about us that cause us to doubt ourselves. While it’s not easy, we can’t afford to believe what others say about us. Chances are, we’ll misinterpret their comments anyway. After all, when people are critical it usually has nothing to do with us and everything to do with them. Besides, we can’t control what other people say and do, just how we respond to it. So forget about what they say and pay attention to your own perceptions. After all, nobody knows your strengths like you do.
4. Stay in the present.
If you find the negative thoughts taking over, perhaps reminding you of other times when people said things that brought you down, it’s important to return to the present moment. How can you do this?
- Take a walk outside. Walking in nature can be very therapeutic. Studies have shown that walking 20-30 minutes a day can reduce stress and improve your mood and self-esteem.
- Practice meditation. Another way to reduce stress is meditation. During meditation, your heart rate decreases and your breathing slows down. As a result, your blood pressure drops and your muscles relax.
- Take a yoga class. Just like meditation, yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and lowers your heart rate. Sign up for a weekly class at a local yoga studio or fitness center so you can make this mind-body practice part of your routine.
- Learn how to breathe. It’s common for people to unconsciously hold their breath when feeling stressed or anxious. As a result, breathing becomes shallow and takes place in the chest. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing, takes practice, but is a terrific way to help you to stay present. Inhale deeply in through your noise from your diaphragm and exhale through your mouth.
5. Write it down.
Recording your feelings in a notebook or journal can provide clarity. There are many ways to use journaling to heal. Start by writing about your emotions without analyzing them. Just get them down on paper. Then think about other times in your life when you’ve felt the same way and write about them. Look for patterns. Or try one of these methods to put things in perspective:
- Write down one of your affirmations and respond to it.
- Write yourself a letter about how you feel and respond to it.
6. Take small steps to build your confidence.
While there’s no magic way to build your confidence, it’s possible to do so by taking small steps. Start by standing up straight with a smile on your face to see how effective it can be. Then try these strategies:
- Set goals that are easy to accomplish, such as filing paperwork or tending your garden
- Exercise several times a week
- Keep your environment uncluttered and organized
- Take a class to learn something new
7. Connect to people with similar goals.
Validate your feelings by surrounding yourself with people that share similar goals as well as those who have already achieved them. In addition to feeling stronger, you will get support and encouragement from people on the same path. Check sites like meetup.com and LinkedIn for groups that interest you.
While it’s natural to doubt yourself at times, you don’t have to be a victim to these feelings. Learning how to recognize self-doubt and practicing strategies to manage it can limit the amount of time you spend questioning your abilities and keep you on the track toward feeling great.
Certified Success Coach
Founder of Success Mind Academy