It’s a natural part of the human condition to question yourself.
- Am I good enough?
- Am I deserving enough?
- Am I making enough money?
- Am I a good parent / spouse / partner / friend / employee / business owner?
- Have I made the right choices?
I know this firsthand because these are questions I still ask myself far too often.
I have spent the better part of my life in a state of self doubt…questioning every choice made, every opportunity turned down, every moment of every day.
I’ve spent much of my life focused on my career and approval from colleagues and friends, because that’s what I thought equalled success. It’s what I thought was supposed to bring you happiness in life.
So I spent years working hard, moving ever so slowly up the ladder, making more and more money but always feeling an overwhelming sense of lack. But I stuck to it because that’s what we’re “supposed” to do, right?
I’ve even taken on jobs I had no interest in because the money was good…and of course that’s the most important thing, right?
And of course, eventually, everything will be okay, in that far off point in the future. Things will work out, right?
Self-Doubt is Annoying
That fear, that uncertainty, that DOUBT has even led me to do things and make choices to ensure OTHER people were happy, but not really considering the impact those things and choices had on myself and my progress in life.
One could argue this is because I didn’t have enough confidence in my own ability to make the best decisions for myself.
There is so much noise out there about what you should do, and by when, and with who, and how, and where, that it can leave us feeling paralyzed and not wanting to make any decision at all. We also get so caught up in optics — what other people will potentially think about our choices.
But here’s the thing: most people don’t really care what we choose unless it directly affects them. And even then, they’re usually more worried about their own decisions.
So why does so much self-doubt still exist?
A few years ago, I started to think a lot about this and what I could do to make myself feel better about my choices and the path I wanted to take.
Self-doubt tends to crop up when we look at our life in comparison to other people. When we lose focus on what we want, and how we would like to get there; when we stop listening to ourselves and our intuition and continually allow others to influence our perceptions of things like success and happiness, no matter how well thought-out our decisions are, we will continue to have self-doubt.
It also tends to come up when we forget we are human, and part of the human experience is to learn (ie: make mistakes).
So here are 4 things that I have found can help when self-doubt starts to creep in.
1. Stop making comparisons
My self-doubt is at its absolute highest and most intense when I look at what my friends, relatives, colleagues, and sometimes even perfect strangers are doing and compare my life and my journey to them. I feel grossly inadequate.
But what I’ve learned is that you truly don’t know what anyone else’s life and journey are about. Other people are not and cannot be the benchmark by which you measure your own life.
When I am doing what I want, in the way that I know works for me, and is comfortable for me, and allows me to be, well, ME…that’s when I’m happiest.
When you do what others are doing in the way they’re doing it, a lot of the time you’re not being true to yourself. And a lot of the time you won’t even have the same results.
As an aside, stop judging your life by what your friends post on social media. It’s a highlight reel, people only post what makes them look a certain way (even when they’re being #authentic). It’s NOT real life. I said what I said.
2. Stop worrying about what others think
I’ve spent the majority of my life worrying about what others will think of me. This is one of the reasons why I’ve always found myself doing things for other people, in the way they want it done. But the only thing I gained from bending over backwards to please others is chronic back pain. If you live your life seeking the approval of others you’ll never be happy.
People will criticize you regardless of what you do or don’t do. Why? Because it is virtually impossible to make everyone happy. Someone will always find fault with what you do… so if you have dreams, goals or aspirations, at some point you will have to let go of everyone else’s opinion.
Even if you lay down flat to allow people to walk all over you, someone will complain you’re too lumpy.
3. Course correct as you go so you don’t succumb to analysis paralysis
I read a wonderful book years ago called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. In it, Olson talks about how many of us don’t make decisions because we either analyze the heck out of it, thereby preventing us from moving forward, or we wait for the right time to move forward.
Olson likens making a decision to driving a shuttle in space. You know where your target is (ie: the moon), but as you fly toward it you veer either slightly left or right, up or down. That’s okay, make a small course correction and bring yourself back on target.
That’s how people reach their goal. Success isn’t a straight line, you have to course correct daily. So if you encounter a setback, re-evaluate tomorrow, refocus, and keep moving.
4. Express gratitude regularly
I’ve always known about the power of gratitude. I try to make sure I express my gratitude to the people in my life regularly.
When you actively search for things in your life to give thanks for, it really stops you from wallowing in self pity and misery. It really does.
When you stop looking at the stuff outside your realm of control and focus on the unbelievable abundance you already have in your life, it reminds you that life is essentially incredibly good. If you are reading this, you probably have a home, food, clothing, eyes that allow you to see… hell, you have Internet! You can read! Gratitude is magical.
At the end of the day, self-doubt comes up when we give up control of what we truly want in life. Even if you and your friend trained for and ultimately climb the same mountain, you’ll have very different experiences, different fitness levels, and a different perspective of the view when you arrive.
The same rings true for living your life. Take some time to define what you really want, and how it feels good to you to achieve it.
Then just get to work. Course correct if you make mistakes. Change direction if the choice you made is no longer serving you. Be kind to yourself. You’ll get there in the way, in the time, and through the means that align with who you are.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. What do you do when you feel pangs of self-doubt? How do you overcome it?