“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
– William Shakesphere
If success is the protagonist, self doubt is the antagonist. It is the weight that weakens you, and the force acts against you.
All of us at some point in time will encounter the subtle linger of self doubt and what we do with it will determine how long it sticks around for.
Its influence can be vast and allow it to become comfortable and it will rest in your mind permanently.
What is self doubt?
Imagine for a moment you have a desire to do something, maybe go for a promotion or present in front of a group of people.
You want to do it, but suddenly you get a uunnerving feeling in your stomach and you start to get these thoughts in your head doubting whether you should actually attempt to do it.
That is self doubt.
Its when you get a sense that you do not have the ability to carry out what you intend to do. Its when you’re about to take a step forward and not sure you are ready to face what comes next. It stems from fear; fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment.
Why do we doubt ourselves?
We doubt ourselves because we have the ability to. Our ability to imagine and our ability to have internal dialogue has created space for self doubt. You don’t see a lion deliberating about whether it can kill its prey. It doesn’t because it doesn’t have that ability. We are the only mammal on earth that has the ability to doubt ourselves.
We have a more developed frontal cortex and so our constant internal dialogue allows the environment to doubt ourselves.
With introverts it can happen more frequently because we have an orientation to think on a deeper level than extraverts who tend to speak their thoughts.
When you should listen to self doubt and when you shouldn’t?
You should listen to self-doubt when what you intend to do requires a level of competence you are not skilled in yet. If I am a new driver I would want to doubt myself because it will prevent me from being cocky and arrogant. If I am new to a job, It is natural to doubt what I am doing because I am in the learning stage.
Additionally You shouldn’t listen to self-doubt when you are competent and you are questioning yourself when in a low mood. A low mood is common ground for unwarranted self doubt.
You shouldn’t listen to it, if it regarding a future ability to perform an act or task. Given the right time to learn and the right practice you can pretty much do anything well, don’t let your self-doubt tell you otherwise.
How to deal with self doubt?
Self-doubt doesn’t need to hold you back on getting what you want. Try this 5 step process when thoughts of doubt are consuming your mind.
Verbalise what it is you are doubting – Thoughts are like dominos, one thought can move into another thought until you get to a point where you cant even remember what started the bad feeling. By vocalising in a single statement what you are doubting, you bring a clarity to the bad feeling (e.g. I doubt my ability to speak in public)
Doubt the doubt – Research has shown that if you play devils advocate with your doubt, you diminish the legitimacy of that doubt. So once you have vocalised what you are doubting, start to rationalise why the doubt is unjustified (e.g. Of course i’m nervous, im new to public speaking and besides you’re expected to mess up anyway)
‘What if’ frame – Run through in your mind what would happen if everything went through perfectly. There was no doubt, no hesitation, you just did it perfectly, how would that look and what would you notice.
Feeling of accomplishment & confidence – Run through the sequence where you succeed and everything goes the way you want right until the end where you get the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction and notice where the feeling is strongest.
Go through again with this feeling of confidence – Run through the sequence in your mind again only this time has that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction at the beginning of the sequence and notice how much more confident you are going into the thing that originally was causing you doubt.
As a introvert self-doubt can plauge your thoughts in a way that stops you doing what you want. The secret is getting back into a state where action is inevitable. The process above can help you get into that state. End doubt, start acting, notice your successes!
What do you do when you get doubt yourself?