Last week, I went through a short spell of crippling self-doubt. It came out of nowhere and really made me question my ability to run my business and the likelihood of its success. I felt terrible and was overcome with anxiety. But try as I might, I couldn’t put my finger on what had triggered this. I still don’t know but apparently, there was some weird new moon energy at the time so maybe it was related.
Self-doubt is a natural human emotion that we all go through at certain points, but when it becomes crippling and starts to hold us back, we need to have a strategy that will help us to overcome it. Since launching The Tribe, I’ve done a lot of self-development work to equip myself with the tools needed to overcome some of the main saboteurs that have been holding me back. Learning how to overcome crippling self-doubt has been a tough one, but these are a few of the strategies that I turn to.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
Studies show that a lack of self-kindness can predict self-doubt. We tend to be our own worst critic and we would never usually judge others as harshly as we judge ourselves. We tend to hold ourselves to much higher standards, often ones that are impossible to obtain.
When we fail we are consumed by feelings of inadequacy. These perfectionist tendencies and expectations are not only unrealistic but are also damaging to our mental health and wellbeing.
We need to realise that it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s how we learn and grow from our human experience. Being kind to yourself encourages the development of emotional resilience. So if we can just learn to treat ourselves with more compassion we can improve our mental health a lot.
2. Be Aware of Your Thoughts
According to the National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day and 80% of those are negative. That is shocking, right? It is also proven that 95% of our thoughts are repetitive. Cognitive Behavioral Therapists call these Automatic Negative Thoughts.
Negative thought patterns really add fuel to the fire of self-doubt. But we should be asking ourselves if the feelings we are having are actually rooted in truth. Is the doubt you are feeling about yourself and your capabilities accurate? Is there any hard evidence to suggest that what you are doubting is accurate? The answer is usually no.
Once we have recognised our negative thought patterns we can try to harness the power of positive thinking instead.
3. Avoid Comparisons
There is a reason why people say that comparison is the thief of joy. It is extremely easy to look at what everyone else is doing or achieving and to compare your own trajectory with theirs. But this is a recipe for misery. Everyone’s journey and ideas of success are different so comparison is futile.
But social media makes this extremely difficult as we are faced daily with other people’s highlight reels and this isn’t the whole story. If you find yourself overcome with comparisonitis, try to limit your exposure to social media, at least for a while. What is most important is learning to focus on our own path and the things that we have control over.
4. Spend Time With Supportive People
There is a popular saying that states that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Whilst there is no scientific studies that prove this, it makes total sense that the people we spend most of our time with will have a profound effect on us. So we need to assess whether we come away from these people feeling better about ourselves or worse.
Spending time with people who believe in us and everything we are capable of will help us to overcome self-doubt. They will remind us of how talented and resilient we are even when we struggle to remember this. Find your tribe and nurture those relationships as they are gold!
5. Seek Validation Within
Having said that, it is also important not to rely solely on others for your validation. We also need to have faith in ourselves and our own abilities. If we are constantly looking for reassurance for others this can become unhealthy. Instead ask yourself what you would want others to tell you and tell it to yourself.
Again, social media has a lot to answer for here. It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of defining your worth through the number of likes, comments and shares that we get. If you find yourself needing this social media engagement for your own self-worth, take a break!
6. Celebrate Your Wins
It can be helpful when combatting self-doubt to remember all the times that things have gone right for you in the past. Think back to all your achievements, no matter how small, and all the challenges that you have successfully overcome before now. What were the skills and talents that you called upon in those situations to ensure a positive outcome? Focussing on your strengths instead of your perceived weaknesses will help any self-doubt slowly dissolve.
7. Identify Your Values
Sometimes it helps to make a list of your values and what matters to you. Making decisions becomes infinitely easier when you know what you stand for. Deciding what to do based on whether something aligns with our values can help to remove the doubt from the situation. Fear of criticism won’t be nearly as strong if we recognise that we are living our values and mistakes won’t seem nearly as bad as we rarely regret the things that align with our values.
8. Write a Journal
Everything is easier to digest when it’s written down in black and white. When you feel that self-doubt creeping in, write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Not only is this a good release but it also helps you to see the truth in a situation.
9. Use Positive Affirmations
I personally find positive affirmations to be extremely effective. I have a number of favourites that I can pull out of the bag when I need some extra support to overcome self-doubt. I think I also have an extremely suggestable mind so it doesn’t take much for me to believe my positive affirmations. They help me to challenge my negative self-talk.
Affirmations can help us to create a more positive opinion of ourselves and our ability to achieve our goals. They can also help us when we are feeling stressed or panicked about a situation. Try thinking up some positive affirmations to help you deal with crippling self-doubt.
10. Seek Professional Help
If after trying all of these things, you are still struggling to overcome crippling self-doubt, it may be helpful to seek professional help. This could be from someone like a hypnotherapist or a cognitive behavioural therapist or someone trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. You basically need to find someone who can help you to challenge your habitual thought patterns and reprogramme your mindset.
Do you have any techniques that you use to overcome crippling self-doubt? If you do, please share them in the comments.
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Stacey Sheppard is the founder of The Tribe, a small community-driven coworking space in Totnes that caters to creative, growth-oriented female entrepreneurs by providing an inspiring working environment designed to foster collaboration, connection and community.