I’m not sure when it started but I have gotten into the habit of second guessing myself. I don’t remember my younger self being this way. In fact, I took pride in thinking that I knew what I wanted and I went for it. I was decisive.
I think maybe, over time, I’ve gotten into a little bit of a rut. You see, I’ve been doubting my abilities. Part of me knows it’s silly to think like this. Geez, I preach it all the time to my clients.
Second-guessing, self-doubt: what’s it doing for you? “Nothing”. Then how come it’s being allowed to hang out in your head? “I don’t know……..”.
Yeah, that’s me. And maybe it’s you, too.
However, there are different kinds of self-doubt:
There’s the kind that is the I’m Not Sure I Have The Goods self-doubt. The type that has one questioning their ability to succeed; whether it be at work, in a relationship, or at an extra-curricular activity. “I’m not sure if I will be able to get this account….” Or “I don’t know….I don’t know if I’ll able to do this marathon I signed up for…..” Or the “I’m in this promising new relationship. Will I be able to make it last?”
And then there’s the Shoot Yourself In The Foot self-doubt. This is the type of self-doubt that can be wrought with thought distortions that can keep us completely immobilized. You can’t act; you can’t move forward because you are so afraid of failing. “I’m probably not going to get that account because I __________”. You can fill in the blanks. Or “I signed up for that race and I did train for it but I’m so slow I probably won’t finish”. Or, “He/she is so special and I’m not sure why he/she is interested in me….”
The Shoot Yourself In The Foot type of self doubt is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the more deep seated form. If you say, and believe, that you will not finish the race…. Guess what? You probably won’t. That’s because as long as we tell ourselves the negative, the “glass-half-empty-version” of our narrative, then we have allowed it to become a part of our belief system. And we believe our beliefs.
But, if we question our thoughts …..If we challenge our thoughts, it’s most often interesting to see that our beliefs are not based on any facts or evidence. Often, it’s to the contrary. So why do we beat ourselves up and dig our own grave? Maybe it has something to do with our sense of self-worth; or maybe it has something to do with being down and depressed. Or maybe you suffer from an anxiety that has kept you in a negative thinking pattern.
So, what to do about self doubt? Well, if you suffer from the more deep-seated type, I would recommend talking to someone. A counselor who knows Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can work with you to help you disentangle your negative, immobilizing thoughts and get you on the road to moving forward.
There are some decent self-help books out there. I would recommend Dr. David Burns, MD. He does a great job at teaching us how to utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as created by Dr. Aaron Beck, MD. and has written many helpful books on the topic of Self-Doubt and Depression/Anxiety.
Whether you think you have the I’m Not Sure I Have The Goods type or the Shoot Yourself In The Foot type of self doubt, it’s important to remember that we can change both types into a form of thinking that is positive and empowering. A new way of thinking that we can believe and embrace.
Regarding my own self doubt: Well, I sat with it for a couple of months. MONTHS. That’s a long time.
I felt bad about myself. I told myself why I wouldn’t be successful. Why I’m not good enough; not savvy enough. I compared myself to others. And even I know, that’s a Big No-No! See? We therapists? We do it, too.
Then I got to the point where I told myself to stop. I literally told myself to cut out the noise that was in my head. I also reminded myself of all the ventures/challenges I’ve taken on where I have been successful.
And then I knew I had to do the scary part. I had to “dive in”.
I just started the work. I told my judgemental head to “be quiet; go away; you’re not welcome here.” (Yes, I literally said these things to myself.) I already had the ideas in my head. I just needed to start. So, I went about my project.
They say that 90% of our ability to be successful is mental. It’s our attitudes. Our beliefs. I challenge you to question your attitudes, your beliefs, about yourself. Once you take that first, small step to saying no to self doubt…once you get out of your own way…..you might just be pleasantly surprised at the potential on the inside of you.