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Your Own Biggest Critic: Use These Four Strategies To Overcome Self-Doubt

Learning how to cope with self-doubt makes all the difference when we want our fears to be self-empowering, instead of self-limiting.
by Juan Salazar | Oct 1 2020

In Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare wrote that:

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”

Chances are you’ve found yourself in conversation with a voice in your head that, instead of speaking encouraging words, insists on going in on your self-confidence and awakens your self-doubt.

Am I good enough at my job? Will my proposal be accepted? What will others think of me? These thoughts can be disarming and keep us stagnant. However, they are part of human experience, and they do not have to stand in the way of us realizing our potential.

Many capable people often reach a standstill in their personal and professional development because they fear they don’t have the talent and the tools to succeed. However, self-doubt does not have to triumph.

Turning Self-Doubt into Fuel for Your Inner Fire

Even the most competent, bright, and hard-working people can be riddled with doubts about their own ability. However, chances are that those suffering from self-doubt are probably much better than they think and that their doubts are often signs that they’re breaking out of their comfort zone. This is almost an inevitable consequence of doing meaningful, innovative work.

Use these four strategies based on insights from books in the Blinkist library to learn how to overcome self-doubt and get inspired to pick up the pen, or to make that phone call, and see self-doubt in a completely different, positive light.

Remember Your Purpose

When the path you’re on does not seem to follow a straight line to the finish, it can be easy to forget where it is taking you. Therefore, it is very important that you constantly remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing, and why you are the right person for the task.

With Everything is Figureoutable, Marie Forleo lays out a pragmatic approach to self-empowerment. With the phrase “everything is figureoutable”, Forleo encourages us to trust the fact that there is always a way out of a problem, so long as we are willing to put in the time and work required to find a solution.

When we need an extra dose of self-motivation to go out and pursue what we want, it can be very helpful to remind ourselves of the fact that we are uniquely capable to tackle the issues that we feel passionate about. You are the only human on Earth right now with your exact combination of values, desires, skills, capabilities, knowledge, background, perspective and personal traits. The unique mix of qualities and potential that make up who you are is a gift that you should be giving to the world. If you’re not making the most of them, you’re essentially withholding that gift from other people. It’s not just your dreams at stake; there’s the higher purpose that your realization of them could and should be serving.

Trust Your Instinct

When self-doubt looms over our thoughts and becomes seemingly insurmountable, it is easy to forget that it is actually the base that underlies some of humanity’s most groundbreaking discoveries.

Throughout history, doubt has played a crucial role in the thought processes that led the greatest minds in history to develop the concepts and ideas that have shaped the modern world. This doubt has been the spark for scientific innovation, a challenge to entrenched authorities, and the foundation for new religions. It’s been the source of despair and reassuring thought alike.

The point is that it is only natural, even healthy, to maintain an impulse for doubt. Regardless of who is spreading information, learn not to take things at face value. In order to form your own opinions it’s essential to allow doubt and skepticism a place at the table. Just remember not to fall into despair when nothing seems to add up, because you’re not alone.

In More than Enough, Elaine Welteroth sends a very clear message: knowing she’s enough, just the way she is, is what helped her reach the heights she has personally and professionally. She was always interested in design and beauty, and these interests set the stage for her career as a magazine editor. As the daughter of a white father and a black mother, she had a vested interest in advocating for and promoting black representation in mainstream media – work best showcased by her time at Teen Vogue.

From her experience, we learn that trusting your instinct is a key trait of those who thrive in uncertainty. This is not to say that you should base your decisions on a hunch. Rather, you should take time to investigate where this feeling comes from. Own your instincts and see where they take you.

Mark Your Progress

Self-doubt can be a real confidence killer. And when you are not confident in yourself it is easy to view the outside world through the same lens. When you feel like you can’t trust your instincts, let alone those of other people, you need to find determination, confidence, and especially compassion within yourself, in order to create the resilience you need to get through hard times.

Rick Hanson presents this definition of resilience as the cornerstone of happiness and inner peace. Resilience is the practice that lies at the root of mental well-being. Developing resilience comes down to unlocking the powers of your own mind and, by doing so, changing your brain for the better.

In the aptly-named Resilient, Hanson shares simple practices and easy techniques that can easily incorporate in your life, to better equip you to deal with self-doubt and with anything else that life might throw at you. He makes a point of the importance of looking for signs of progress while pursuing a goal.

Always make notes of your successes and achievements, no matter how small, to help your brain feel rewarded, and to build habits. The more you break complex tasks into smaller sub tasks, the more successes you can count. That way, the whole task won’t feel so overwhelming, and you can stay in the fulfilling state of healthy passion.

Celebrate Your Journey by Connecting With Others

Kate Swoboda makes a similar case for celebrating your journey in The Courage Habit. In her experience as a life coach, Swoboda found that fear is the main hurdle we all need to clear before we can manifest our true dreams and desires.

For her, fighting fear is unrealistic, and pretending that fear does not exist is counterproductive. She makes an appeal for all of us to live courageously by pinpointing and confronting our fears, so we can reframe the stories by which we live. During this difficult process, surround yourself with friends, family, and other people in your life who can support you and celebrate your progress with you.

When in Doubt, Deal With it

While most of us have experienced self-doubt at some point in our lives, what matters is how we deal with it. Learning how to cope with self-doubt makes all the difference when we want our fears to be self-empowering, instead of self-limiting.

Self-doubt is rooted in fear, and this can drive us to stay in our comfort zone, and not to venture out in the world and do the things that we want to do to help ourselves and others. The answer is not trying to rid yourself of doubt, because you will never be able to do so. Instead, learn how to work alongside it, and take back the power it can hold over you.

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