How to manage self-doubt with one simple exercise

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Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.
— W. Shakespeare
 

During Lisa´s childhood and adolescence, she was told she had her father's genes as if those gave her unchangeable characteristics to her personality. 

Numerous times she was told she was lazy and never truly committed to finishing what she would had started. That she was never motivated enough to become the best version of herself, to finish her career or to create new healthy habits, that her tendency, was always to give up. 

Lisa´s mother would do so as a way to encourage her not to follow her father's path, but unfortunately, she was installing a huge amount of self-doubt in this little girl. There was no real positive motivation or encouragement there.

She was made to believe she must be careful because her genes are pulling her down with every step she took.

Where does self-doubt comes from?

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The way your caregivers interact with you and the type of attachment that is formed with them, will determine the way you interact with the world when you are a grown up. 

You can become a very unconfident individual if all you have heard and felt during your childhood is that you are not good enough. 

If you interiorise that you do not accomplish others expectations and so “you are not worthy”, or love and praise is dependent on your achievements or performance, your self-esteem or confidence is likely to be impacted.  

“Doubts are woven into our psyche during childhood as we learn to integrate into our surroundings. What starts out as the voice of reason, echoed through loved ones, soon becomes the doubtful inner critic after the passage of time.”
— T. Fahkry

Lisa grew up to be a sensitive, unconfident woman that would feel the need to be perfect and would try to overachieve in order to feel she was good enough. 

Self-doubt can also develop from life experiences, such as past failures. Failures that get so ingrained, that it seems difficult to see them as lessons from which to learn and from where to start again. 

At the end of the day, self-doubt comes from the beliefs you hold about yourself

How does self-doubt look?


Your inner Gremlins

Lisa never felt ready and self-assured to take risks. Whether it was related to her career, her personal aspirations or her relationships, she would not take the leap. 

She liked to play it safe and stay in her comfort zone where she knew she could not fail. 

She felt far from happy and fulfilled. 

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Whenever she would dream of a different life her gremlins would pop up. 

  • “You are going to regret this decision”

  • “ You don’t deserve it to work”

  • “ You are not good enough”

  • “ You are SO wrong…”

  • “ Not worth it, you won’t make it happen”

  • “Oh, come on, you have tried it before...really?, all this effort again when you know you cannot commit to anything?”

  • “ You don't even know what you are talking about…”

  • “ Are you thinking about speaking up? OMG!”

  • “ You are such an impostor, you don't know enough!”

  • “ You will always be the same, such a worrier, why try to change? Not worth it!”

  • “ What if you succeed? You won’t be able to keep the rhythm and provide the same quality service for too long…”

Those are just some examples of what can go through the mind of someone who is experiencing self-doubt. 

Do any of those sound familiar?


Most of us experience self-doubt at some point in our lives. However, it is what you do with it, the way you deal with these types of thoughts which makes the difference between it being a problem and you struggling or not. 


Healthy self-doubt

Self-doubt can be good. 

It is normal to question your abilities from time to time when a new challenge arises. No one is great at everything. 

Self-doubt can be helpful. 

It leads to introspection. 

It prompts you to think about what you can and cannot do, just yet. 

It enhances performance as you train and prepare yourself for the new situation or challenge

Furthermore, it helps you realise you may not be absolutely right and that there might be something you need to change or improve. This also helps you relate to others in a better and more harmonious way. 

Normal self-doubt keeps you safe and can motivate you to grow. 

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However, if self-doubt is stopping you from living a fulfilling and enriching life, it must be examined

When self-doubt becomes an issue

When self-doubt starts to weighs you down. 

When you can feel it in your stomach or stuck in your throat. 

When it stops you from taking action. 

When it sparks and follows a downward spiral of negative thinking that seems to last ages. 

When it drains your motivation and it seems to be consuming your life.

When you are not capable of bearing in mind the good things about yourself, your strengths, and your qualities. 

When small failures become evidence of unworthiness. 



It is then, when we are dealing with unhealthy self-doubt. 


When self-doubt becomes painful and so challenging that it is significantly impacting your behaviour and performance in a negative way, it becomes an issue. 


Chronic self-doubt can be a factor that contributes to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. 

Severe self-doubt is related to: 

  • Lack of motivation

  • Difficulty in making decisions

  • Procrastination

  • Low self-confidence

  • Emotional instability

  • Low self-esteem

  • Tendency towards overachievement 

  • Feeling a lack of control over your life

  • Impostor Syndrome (feeling like a fraud despite all your successes). 

There is enough evidence to tell us that our performance depends greatly on how much we think we are capable of doing something and how much we believe we can improve, despite not seeing the results right now. 

So, how to deal with self-doubt in order to improve your performance and not let your inner critic become so big that it crashes your dreams?

Don't water down your gremlins.



How to manage self-doubt with one simple exercise

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
— V. Van Gogh


In order for you not to water down your gremlins you need to first: become aware of your self-doubt and the type of thoughts that constitute it, and then practice being dubious and curious. 

It is a way of not taking your thoughts for granted, as if they were 100% true. 

With this exercise, which you can download for free to print or edit right here, you will be dealing with your doubts in a safe and efficient manner. 

This exercise is used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to deal precisely with negative thoughts, limiting beliefs and unhelpful assumptions. 

It is designed to bring balance and it can be used to recover the peace of mind you need and start taking action. 

Become a scientist for a second and try to find out what is going on. Where is the evidence? 

Step #1 


You must understand the situation. 

For that to happen you have to make yourself several questions that will bring a greater sense of awareness to your circumstances and with it, an opportunity to stop reacting by taking your gremlins for granted. 

Use the 4W, what, when, where and who. 


Step #2

Once you have examined the situation, you must become conscious of how this is making you feel (anger, frustration or sadness) rating this feeling from 0-100% in its intensity (0= no intensity at all and 10=So intense you cannot hold it any longer).

Also, I want you to think about what types of thoughts are related to your self-doubt. What is going through your mind during the given situation? 

Learning what your triggers are and connect with how they make you feel gives you a huge amount of power and control over you actions and ultimately over your life. 

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Step #3

This is the most entertaining part of all. 

You have to find the evidence that tells you that, that thought is possibly true. 

However, you must not end up there. You also must find the evidence that tells you that, that thought that is going through you mind may not be 100% true. 

For this part to work, and this is very important, you need to alternate between the evidence for and the evidence against.
Stay in this step until you are no longer capable of finding any evidence for or against it. 

Don't be quick at giving up. Again, this is the most crucial part of the exercise. 


Step #4 


Finally, have a look at those two columns you have created showing evidence for and against. 

Then, it is time to reframe what you are telling yourself. 

This is, an alternative view of the situation taking into account the evidence that does not support your original automatic thought. 

Probably, there will be evidence that partially supports your original thoughts, but there also will be evidence that does not support it. 

The objective, to create a more balanced story based on both. 

The aim is not to get out of the exercise thinking completely different from the beginning, with a new “positive” thought or perspective. It does not tend to work like that. 

The intention is to create doubt, to get into the habit of challenging the truth related to your thoughts, to train your brain not to believe every automatic thought that it creates. 

Before you end the exercise with an alternative more balanced thought, I want you to re-rate your mood.

This exercise will help you to find out the patterns that get you into a downward spiral of negative thinking and self-doubt. 


It will support you to manage your emotions and mood by becoming a bit more critical and self-reflective. 


After some practice, it will become easier to get to a point where you will be able to create more balanced stories that will support you in achieving what you want, instead of holding you back and demotivating you. 


You gain control and emotional stability. 


Procrastination is overcome as you take action by realising you have the option not to feed those Gremlins but also give yourself time to take proactive action instead of reacting. Even, in those situations where you actually feel you have enough evidence to believe what is going through your mind. 


This is a scientifically proven method to deal with those thoughts, assumptions and beliefs that may be draining your confidence and self-esteem. 


Put it into practice and start rewiring your brain for success, step by step. 


If you are needing more support with self-doubt check out related articles or feel free to contact me. 


You can also download The Ultimate Guide to a Confident life where you will find 6 more ways to deal with low-self-esteem and self-doubt.