Regardless of who you are and how successful you might be, there will always be times when you start to doubt yourself. Am I making the right decision? Do I really belong here? What if I’m wrong? Am I just wasting my time? Sometimes it is a larger issue where you doubt who you are and are struggling with confidence, while other times it is a smaller issue where you’re doubting a decision you may or may not have made. Either way, the feeling sucks and it’s not productive.
Here are some suggestions on what you can do to eradicate self-doubt:
1. Positive Logical Reasoning
This idea is based on the concept of ‘cognitive reframing’ where you identify negative and irrational thoughts and you adjust your thinking to counteract those thoughts. It’s where you look at things from a different perspective. My method of ‘positive logical reasoning’ takes a similar approach where the goal is to try to logically illustrate why your situation is actually positive rather than negative.
For example, when I was blogging yesterday, I was questioning my ability to get this blog to generate a nice following. I was thinking to myself “I spent hours researching and writing a blog post and yet I got 7 views? 5 likes? I know I’m just starting out here, but how will I get to 500 views? How will I get to 5,000 or 50,000? It will take forever and it might not even happen.” A few hours later, I thought about positive logical reasoning. I said to myself “Look at this, though. 7 views and 5 likes. That’s about 71% of people liking my blog? One of those views was probably mine too so 5/6 would be 83.3% of viewers liked it? That means there must be something good about my content. If my content is liked, even by a small sample size, I just need to produce more of it and keep trying to get my stuff out there. I haven’t even started posting on social media yet or haven’t even really interacted with other bloggers. Plus, I have 30+ followers. That seems like very few, and it is. But if you think about it, that’s a high school classroom full of people who made the conscious decision to click ‘follow’ because they thought I was adding some value to their lives”
So you see what I did there. I changed my perception. The 7 views and 5 likes which were negative became positive. The 30+ followers also became positive. Also, I used logic to make it positive. I acknowledged I haven’t really shared my blog yet to anyone, but the few people that came upon it seemed to like it. So when you’re struggling with self-doubt, you need to ask yourself this – how do I use logical reasoning to prove to myself that my negative thinking is actually unjustified and wrong and that I should feel good about my current situation?
2. Take some time off. Do something active. Objectively analyze what is going on.
The thing about self-doubt, especially when it’s just that you’re doubting a decision you made and not who you are as a person, is that it has an expiration date. It’s often a ‘heat of the moment’ type of emotion that just goes away and you move on. That being said, the one thing that can make it worse is if you keep thinking about it. It’s liking poking a bear. You’re aggravating it and it will retaliate. The worst thing you can do when you are having self-doubt is to go down the rabbit hole of negativity because when you do that, you’ve extended the shelf life of self-doubt. Rather than that, I would recommend taking a break. Get out of your head.
Distract yourself with something active. If you do something passive like watch TV, you risk thinking about it (since your mind can easily get distracted from TV). If you do something active like exercising, both your physical and mental resources are tapped and you really don’t have the ability to focus on that self-doubt. Also, when I say ‘do something active’, I don’t mean you have to exercise. You could draw, garden, or even cook. Just do something that requires you to invest most to all of your psychological resources so that you really don’t have the bandwidth to focus on the doubt.
When you revisit the issue causing your self-doubt, you will have a fresher and more positive mindset. At this point, hopefully you are not at flight risk when it comes to going down the rabbit hole of negativity. Try to detach yourself from the situation and ask yourself what really is the root cause of what is going on. Going back to my blog example, I realized that I was having self-doubt because I currently am dealing with a major change in my life (leaving a job) and that has created a lot of uncertainty with regards to how I should be effectively using my time off. “Should I be looking for jobs even more? Should I be trying to self-educate? Should I revise my resume? Should I blog? Or is blogging wasting valuable time that I can be using to do something else?” Ah okay, there it was. I identified it. First, I was disorganized in terms of how I should spend my free time. Second, because I’m feeling pressured to find another job soon, I was concerned that maybe blogging wasn’t worth the investment because I have not seen the ROI on blogging yet. However, when I thought about it deeper, I reminded myself that I didn’t start blogging to get popular or make money. I started blogging because I liked it, and I was tired of thinking about blogging but not actually doing it. So, technically, if I am enjoying the process of blogging, then THAT is the ROI (not the number of views or likes I get). Everything else is just a bonus.
As you see there, from a more objective mindset, you can figure out what really is triggering this feeling of doubt. When you identify the cause of it and address it mentally, the self-doubt expires, or at least it goes away for a while (which is evidenced by the fact that I’m blogging the very next day).
3. Develop a Growth Mindset.
As I mentioned in a previous post, researcher and author Carol Dweck outlines two types of mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is when you think that things such as intelligence, personality, and talent are mostly fixed and unchangeable. Because you think this way, you feel pressured to prove to yourself and to others that you are intelligent, talented, and have a good personality. The problem is that you’re going to constantly compare yourself to others and are going to be very self-critical which will lead to self-doubt and issues regarding self-esteem and self-confidence.
Alternatively, when you adopt a growth mindset, you acknowledge and believe that things such as intelligence, personality, and talent are things that you can develop. They’re not fixed, and therefore, you have a degree of control. As a result, you’re focused less on proving yourself and more on developing yourself. You just want to be better today than you were yesterday. When you think like that, you’re not really as concerned about what others are saying, and therefore, self-doubt is not as prominent of an issue. It’s not to say that self-doubt won’t occur. It still will from time to time. For example, you might question your effort and commitment, or you might question your progress. However, when you have a growth mindset, it’s generally easier to get out of the self-doubt because all you really have to do is remind yourself of the progress you have made. If you haven’t made much progress, you can get out of self-doubt by being forward-thinking. You can create and then execute a plan to slowly grow and develop which will get rid of the self-doubt.
As with many things, self-doubt is largely a mental game. It’s about reminding yourself that doubt and worry are not really productive and then adjusting your thinking to something that is more positive, constructive, and logical. Once you manage to do that, the next step is to create the conditions and circumstances necessary to keep self-doubt at bay.