By Nicole Dahl
There is a voice that occasionally whispers and sometimes shouts, from the back of our minds, saying,
“You’ll never make it. You’re not good enough. You don’t have what it takes.”
That voice seems to have a sinister yet authoritative tone and appears whenever someone is on the brink of taking a chance, making a change, or about embrace some sort of vulnerability.
We kindly refer to this inner-voice as “self-doubt” and it is a most destructive learned behavior us humans have picked up.
We aren’t born judgmental of ourselves. Think about all of the amazing functions, both cognitive and physical, that little babies pick up in their first year of life.
In 365 days, they go from the womb to little humans who can sit up, crawl, walk, and express emotion.
Without the obstacle of self-doubt, babies thrive.
If we aren’t born to question our self-worth, how are we picking up this self-doubting behavior?
One explanation is that we were taught to do so by authority figures in our lives.
Exasperated parents often unknowingly build a foundation of self-doubt by telling their children they “should be” hitting a specific behavior milestone by a certain age.
“You shouldn’t be using diapers anymore. You’re a big girl now.”
“C’mon you can tie your own shoes, you’re eight-years-old.
Your brother had this figured out when he was six.”
These are a couple of statements that lay an excellent foundation for self-doubt.
Other self-doubt instigators are teachers and coaches who praise young talent but then serve up a dose of well-intended reality, warning kids to have a backup plan because the chances of making it as a singer, NFL player, or actor are slim to none. While there is a time and place for real statistics, it’s not during childhood.
Children should be framing their minds to believe in their thoughts and dreams.
The good news is that learned behaviors aren’t permanent. They can be unlearned.
As an adult, releasing unhealthy practices is challenging but absolutely possible.
If you are sick of talking yourself out of every good idea that comes your way, it’s time to snuff out self-doubt and start believing in your beautiful self.
1. Start by surrounding yourself with positive people you can learn from
Many people believe that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
One thing we can do is take a personal inventory of the people we keep near and dear.
As you begin to slay the inner-doubt dragon, you will need to keep away from the Negative Nellies in your life. If you have a friend who is quick to point out cons without considering pros, take a break from the relationship.
If someone you are very close with tends to be a naysayer, say a spouse or a co-worker, censor yourself, refraining from sharing ideas and thoughts of possibility with them.
Instead, surround yourself with people who seem to be consistently contented and those who you find inspiring.
Find an energy mentor, someone who radiates positivity and personality, and ask them to keep you accountable on your quest to squash your inner-critic.
2. Be present in the present
Next, take a page from the practice of mindfulness and stay in the present. Forget past failures and don’t think about possible roadblocks. Meditate on who you are now and focus on your current strengths, writing them down.
Self-praise is the anti-venom of self-doubt.
3. Change the language you speak to yourself in, and the rest will follow
Thirdly, challenge the way you think simply by becoming more aware of your internal dialogue.
The silent conversations we have with ourselves can have a profound impact on how we view the world. It’s a lot more important than we think.
Replacing negative dialogue with positive verbiage is an awesome Jedi mind trick.
When you find yourself saying, “I can’t do…” immediately change that statement to “I am going to learn how to…”
Turn “I always…” or “I never” into “just this time” or “sometimes.”
If your mind starts going down the “What if” rabbit trail, let it, only allowing yourself to envision successful outcomes.
Studies have shown that self-compassion is significantly correlated with positive mental health outcomes such as less depression and anxiety and greater life satisfaction.
4. Get real about your goals and dreams
Finally, acknowledge that accomplishing your dreams or making a major life change is going to take some hard work and serious dedication.
My all-time favorite quote, from author Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, is
“Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”
You have the capability to make your visions a reality, but you are going to have to grit your teeth, get your hands dirty, and put in the time.
The human mind is an incredible machine and you, yes you, are capable of greatness.
Whether you have been self-doubting for a few weeks or your entire life, let today be the day you shake off your fears, toss aside your wishbone, stand up straight and declare yourself destined for victory.
The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion
D Neff, Kristin & Kinney, Stephen & Kirkpatrick, Kristie & Schmitt, Lisa & Hsieh, Ya-Ping & Chen, Wan-Chen & Pisitsungkagarn, Kullaya & Knill, Mary & Allrich, Ray. (2003).