It is a normal part of the human condition to experience moments of self-doubt. Most of us have felt uncertainty, indecision, and unease relating to our abilities, confidence, or purpose.
Stuck in Self-Doubt
There can actually be some usefulness in experiencing self-doubt. Its function is to signify to us that perhaps we have made a mistake, or were incorrect about something. In these certain situations, it can be healthy to have feelings of uncertainty to help us challenge our behavior. Self-doubt can be adaptive as long as we are able to separate the mistake from our identity (i.e. “I made a mistake” vs. “I am a mistake”).
However, experiencing chronic self-doubt or high levels of apprehension can lead to struggles that impact happiness and quality of life. Constantly being unsure of who we are or the decisions we make can affect important pillars of our identity and a healthy self-concept. We may experience difficulties with mood regulation, self-worth, autonomy, motivation, and confidence.
Your Inner Critic
Here are some common maladaptive techniques that perpetuate critical self-talk and exacerbate self-doubt:
How we speak to ourselves matters. If we frequently tell ourselves that we are incompetent, we will eventually believe it and move through life with the perspective that we are not “good enough”.
This limiting belief convinces ourselves that there is something wrong with us, which can lead to decreased effort on our part. What’s the point of trying if we have already accepted our failure? This contributes to a vicious cycle that creates self-blame and reinforces the negative beliefs driving self-doubt.
Self-sabotaging is a technique that is rooted in a fear of failure. If someone is experiencing high levels of self-doubt and is worried about being unsuccessful, they may purposefully not prepare or place any effort into the task to shift the blame onto an external factor. For example, if you are concerned about an upcoming exam, you may intentionally not study for it. Then if you fail the exam, you are able to rationalize that it wasn’t your ability or intelligence that failed, but rather it was because you didn’t study.
However, self-sabotaging is a trap that ends up reinforcing the belief that you are not capable of success. It fuels procrastination and doesn’t allow for the opportunity for you to prove to yourself that you are able to tolerate difficulties and achieve your goals.
Impostor syndrome is a common experience that many people feel internally yet don’t vocalize because of their belief that these insecurities are unique to them. It contributes to a belief that your success and achievement come from factors outside of yourself, instead of the possibility that it was due to your personal ability or hard work.
This leads to a constant fear that you will be “exposed” for being a fraud, and that you are simply living life disguised as someone that you are not. For more information on impostor syndrome and how to combat it, check out this Ted Talk.
Break the Self-Doubt Cycle
Self-compassion is key when combating the cycle of chronic self-doubt. When you deny your sense of achievement and rid yourself of the ability to recognize your accomplishments and hard work, you end up putting even more pressure on yourself to attain the unattainable.
A lack of self-kindness perpetuates self-doubt and harsh self-judgment. The antidote is to practice more self-compassion and self-love. We have found that those who are kinder to themselves are more accepting of their opportunities and are better able to nurture and support themselves in times of need. Self-compassion allows us to rely less on others for approval, which helps increase confidence and diminish self-doubt.
Connect with Others
Self-doubt has a tendency to increase our focus on worrying about failure and insecurity. This can lead to isolation, which fuels our inner critic and may worsen the self-doubt spiral.
Connecting with others can remind us of our true potential. Our loved ones can help us challenge the critical narrative in our mind, which is usually rooted in false limiting beliefs. Spending time with supportive people can also show us that we are not alone in our struggles, which provides validation and encouragement as we minimize self-doubt.
Connect with Ourselves
Approaching ourselves with kind curiosity is an effective way to develop our identity and increase self-assuredness. Prioritize time for you to sit with your emotions and notice your likes, talents, and dreams. Activities such as journaling and mindfulness can encourage self-love and self-connection.
Another way to assist you untangle limiting beliefs and combat self-doubt is by working with a mental health professional. The guidance of a counselor can provide a fresh perspective and helpful tools as you journey to find a healthy self-concept. We, at Pure Health Center, would be honored to provide a helping hand – we offer a variety of services to improve insight and encourage empowerment!