Self-Doubt - An Illogical Perspective

By Audrey Marlene


What is Self-Doubt?

I am very familiar with self-doubt. I lived with it for many years, buying into the inner critic's opinions and making way for fear to take over. Even though I was told by my parents and mentors how capable I was, the doubt kept me paralyzed, afraid to even make an attempt at something. I often felt not smart enough, or good enough to even take the first step. I even believed that success was not meant for me. I look back on all the opportunities I missed out on and it is for this reason I write this article in hopes that you the reader can realize how damaging doubting yourself can be.

Self-doubt should be synonymous with paralysis. It is immobilizing and disables the sufferers, preventing them from making strides in life. Think back to a time when you felt enthusiastic about a goal and as the day approached for taking that first step, the momentum began to slow down. That little voice inside your head began to say:

  • Are you sure you can do this?
  • What happens if you mess up?
  • Maybe you need to wait – maybe you’re not ready

As the days went by you began to doubt your ability to get the task done and before long things were moving in slow-motion. You felt stumped, pressured, as if all eyes are on you. Then you quit. When feelings of doubt are allowed in our lives, we are unable to achieve our goals or even conceive them.

Doubt is that inner voice that often lets us know how incapable we are of accomplishing something. When we are confident we can drive away the doubts. However, when we are not, the doubts will continue to dominate our thoughts, leaving us to feel inadequate. That's right our thoughts! The thoughts take over and before long we begin to believe that no matter what we attempt it wouldn’t amount to much, so why even bother? Over time this mentality begins to define us and we fade into the shadows.

It all begins with a belief system that creates a thought followed by an action or behavior. Our beliefs is the filter though which doubtful thoughts originate. It controls our thinking process and can miss out on many important opportunities in life. The doubts enable a pessimistic outlook and the ability to focus on the positive things in our lives is lost. Then the capacity for learning and growing is slowed down. Many become cynical, depressed, or anxious and a life of mediocrity emerges with little hope for the future. Now, I’m sure this is not the life your plan for.

Is self-doubt consuming you? Are you unable to stop the doubtful thoughts? Is it interfering with your ability to achieve? Begin to recognize these episodes and how frequent they are. Become more aware of what the doubts say and write them down.

What Causes Self-Doubt?

We are born into societies where there are so many expectations we all have to live up to.

  • There are certain developmental stages and levels each of us are expected to reach from birth. If not we are considered underdeveloped or slow.
  • We enter into the school system and expected to complete elementary, middle, and high school. We receive more popularity and recognition when we excel.
  • Our parents have their own set of expectations for us
  • Our teachers have their expectations for us.
  • After high school we are expected to make a decision for a career and decide where we plan to acquire that skill – what school we will attend, what level of education we want to have, what job title we want to hold.
  • Once we are ready to enter into the business world there are more expectations and successes to attain.
  • Then there are the expectations by society, the status, prestige, material possessions. Our society today measures success and achievement according to one’s net worth.

In order to be considered functional or successful in modern society the above standards are expected to be met. Children are hardly allowed to be children to run around freely with little fear. Instead they feel scared to make mistakes. We live in an age of high motivation and enthusiasm and where everyone seems to have an image of success. Image is what's important, and some even promote that you fake it till you make it. Many of you feel pressured to live up to these expectations and may feel as if you are letting down yourself or your family if you don't. So from that very first grade you receive in elementary school you feel as if you are a specimen under a microscope afraid to mess up and where a pressure to perform constantly looms overhead.

True the expectations set for us enable us to become high achievers and attain soaring levels of accomplishment and satisfaction in life. However, for many this can have the reverse effect. When one lacks self-confidence these standards set by society or families can lead to doubt and fear. When one has self-doubt, their limitations are exaggerated to the point that it takes over the thought process and distorts the belief system.

Doubt can be caused by some of the following:

  • Believing that your emotional security depends on someone or something.
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling a lack of control over your life
  • Believing that you are not good enough or smart enough to even attempt the smallest of tasks.
  • Anticipating failure even before you begin
  • Unresolved psychological trauma
  • Depression
  • An environment that breeds doubt and negativity
  • Rejection

Fear, the Accomplice

Self-doubt is an indication of a greater fear. You know you feel fearful but it's difficult to identify what it is you are afraid of. It could be fear of failure, pressure to perform, or even fear of success. The doubting beliefs begin to take over and the inner critic is eager and ready to help you rationalize your doubts.

Fear is the accomplice of your doubts. The moment the doubts arise, fear moves in and takes over. Fear lets you compare yourself to others and keeps you focused on what you cannot do rather than what you can do.

Self-awareness is a critical step to overcoming fear and removing doubt. When fear is allowed to dominate, all hope is lost. Then we cannot even recognize our fears and doubts thus they continue to control our lives. This is why having mentors, coaches or people close to us are an essential part of achieving success. The more we know about ourselves, the more in tune we are about what holds us back. The more aware we are the more empowered we are to do something about it. We can begin to identify the source of our fears. Is it coming from a past trauma, the way you were raised, or is it a perception of the present or future? Is it a lack of confidence? With becoming more self-aware, we are quicker to admit our fears and handle life in a more productive way. Self-awareness triggers acceptance, which opens up the door for healing. This allows us to seek the help we need to deal with our fears and let go of self-doubt. Do you know your fears? Are you aware of what holds you back? Take this time to look inside. Be true to yourself. This begins the process of letting go of doubt. If not, allow a mentor or a coach in to give you the insight you need to move forward.

Letting Go Of Self-Doubt

We all have moments throughout our lives where we doubt ourselves. Many can let go of them and not allow them to take over, while others fall victim to the intrusive thoughts that undermine your ability to succeed. And remember they are all thoughts. So who keeps the thought in your mind? You do! Let’s take a look at how to let go of doubts.

The best way to let go of self-doubt is to build your self-confidence. This means feeling better about your own abilities. When you feel incapable and begin to doubt yourself, fear is right around the corner just waiting to move in and reside in your psyche. Once fear enters the subconscious, the negative talk begins, the self-criticism emerges and the vicious cycle continues. Here are some ways to build your confidence.

  • Educate yourself in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Take a course, attend seminars, workshops, meet people in that field and network. The more you know the more empowered you feel and empowerment removes doubts.
  • Associate with positive people who recognize your abilities and encourage your efforts. Get their feedback about your ideas – most likely it will be more objective and beneficial. Avoid the negative folks. Negative people are also full of self-doubt and will work to bring you down to their level of insecurity. They will inject more doubt in you and your efforts can seem futile.
  • Set realistic goals. Someone once said "when in doubt take the next small step." Taking realistic steps ensure that you can be capable of accomplishing the task and build your confidence in the process. If you set unrealistic goals you most likely will fall short and this adds to your level of self-doubt. With the accomplishment of each realistic task, your confidence will improve, your fears will subside, and your self-doubt will diminish.
  • Learn to handle setbacks. In life there will be successes and setbacks. Of course you want to hope for the best outcome but when disappointments arise or things didn't go as planned you have to see this as part of the game of life. Use the setbacks as an opportunity to learn and improve your game plan. This is not the time to sulk and doubt your efforts. Get some feedback from an expert in the field, make the necessary adjustments and keep moving forward.
  • Introduce more positive self-talk. Talk to yourself as if trying to encourage a doubting friend to feel better. Remind yourself "you can do it." Feed positive affirmations to yourself throughout your day until it becomes a habit. These affirmations have a tendency to replace self-doubt.
  • Learn to handle criticism. In life there are always going to be people who will try to put you down or reject your efforts. Rejection is a terrible thing and can be easily filtered through our thoughts in the form of doubts. I have seen clients who receive enormous praise for their efforts but when one person criticizes them it destroys all they good they have done. Think about how illogical this is and don't allow other people to destroy your efforts. Please click here to learn how to deal with criticism.
  • Find a coach or a mentor. At times we cannot recognize our vicious cycle of self-doubt. Others can see it but we can't. A coach or mentor can help you to identify unhealthy beliefs, doubts, and unrealistic expectations that undermine your performance. They can also help you determine the sources of doubt and resolve them. This kind of guidance can move you light years ahead in achieving your goals.
Begin today to lose the self-doubt. Take a look at what scares you the most and begin to address them. Don't continue to allow your doubts to control your destiny. It’s time to look within and free yourself so you can live your full potential.

Quotes on Doubt

  • "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." -Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • "Through self-doubt, we lose our sense of self-worth."- Author unknown

  • "Doubt whom you will, but never yourself." Christine Bovee

  • "A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory." -Arthur Golden

  • "Doubt is the vestibule through which all must pass before they can enter into the temple of wisdom." Colton ( 1780-1832) English Sportsman and Writer

  • "Nobody becomes great without self-doubt. But you can't let it consume you." -John McKay

  • "Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother." - Kahlil Gibran

  • "The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth." Pierre Abelard

  • "Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is her shadow." -Bailey

  • "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt" - William Shakespeare

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