You know what is the most frustrating thing when I’m trying to accomplish something? Doubting myself when I know it is completely illogical.
Self-doubt is defined as the lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities. Okay, that’s an obvious one. Why then, is it so difficult to stop doubting myself when I know that I have a lot going for me? If you’re reading this, then maybe this is you too. We know we are smart, kind, ambitious, and by most accounts, on the right path. And, although there is plenty of evidence saying that we are good enough, we just can’t seem to believe it, especially in times that we need to.
Today, I am writing to you as someone who is still in the heart of this problem. I don’t have it all under control, I’ve only just begun figuring out how to combat it. Now comes the real challenge, putting it into action. I have done some research that has begun to help me, so I wanted to share it with all of you. I want to be clear, it might not click with everyone immediately, so stay with me until the end and take in what you can at your own pace. This post is all about personal development, and in order to do that, you have to be able to identify where you falter and be comfortable with learning how to fix it.
Before we get into it, take a second and write this down somewhere, in your phone, your journal, a post-it note on your wall; anywhere you can see it. This has really resonated with me, and maybe it’ll speak to you too.
Okay, now let’s get into it. Here are three simple steps in overcoming self-doubt:
Step 1: Identify that self-doubt comes from your thoughts:
The first step to overcoming self-doubt is this: acknowledge that your self-doubt comes from your thoughts. Remember that your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, and your actions become your results. This famous phrase derived from Ghandi’s words is taught by many life coach classes around the globe. And, it is an important one to remember. Therefore, if you want to change your results, you must change your thoughts. It is easier said than done.
Take for instance, when a circumstance changes, we tend to feel differently. Why is that? Well, when situations change, it isn’t the circumstance that changes the way we feel. In fact, it is the thoughts that we have about those situations that create our feelings. What I’ve come to learn is that if our circumstances dictated our feelings, we would all feel the same about a certain situation. However, that isn’t the case. As we’ve all seen, people don’t react the same to the same event because we all have unique stories that make us think differently.
With that said, the first step in overcoming self-doubts to acknowledge that your feelings about doubt comes from your thoughts. Those thoughts are coming from the story you’ve created in your mind about yourself and the world that surrounds you. If you don’t recognize that the self-doubt comes from your thoughts, even when you reach some sort of success, the doubt will not automatically stop. The only way to be more confident is to change the way you think, and luckily that is in your control.
Step 2: Figure out where that self-doubt comes from:
This leads me to the second step in overcoming self-doubt. In order to change the way we think, we need to find our story.
It is very normal for people to attach meaning to the events that happen around us. These culmination of stories that happen to and around us, associate different meanings in our heads about how we feel about ourselves. Ever person’s story is different, and therefore the root of one’s self doubt comes from different places. This “story” that we create usually comes from a multitude of smaller, similar events or a bigger tragic event that changed the way we think about ourselves.
The moment I attribute my self-doubt is from when I was about 15 years old, during the peak of my competitive skating career. I was an impressionable fifteen-year-old, mislead in nutrition, and obsessed with competitive progress. I dropped from a muscular, lean and healthy 130lbs to a frail 90lbs in a short few months. I lost everything I had worked so hard for.
I have shared my story before. But what I haven’t told you is that this obsession, although carried on by me through the next few years, was sparked by someone who was my mentor. You see, once you get into the mindset of an eating disorder, it is almost as if it is out of your control. Your mind abuses you everyday. When my eating disorder was spiked, I was criticized for what I was doing, when I wasn’t even aware I had a problem. What began as an intention for me to be in my best shape (not for me, but for that person to be able to take a skater to Nationals), later got out of their knowledge and control. This person told an athlete working out six times per week for at least 7 hours per day on and off the ice, to eat less than they were burning. For this amount of exercise, I was told to consume around 1,500. Now, I know that I’m no expert, but any idiot can see that counting calories for this intense of a workout regime, is completely lunatic.
Once I was no longer an athlete full of muscle and instead was a mental case that couldn’t jump or perform, I was no longer a student of this person. Instead, I was seen as worthless. I was no longer taught by this person, and instead, this person told their student’s and their student’s parents that I was worthless and now on the opposite team as a competitor. Now, not only everyday was I consumed by the voice inside my head that was constantly telling me, “you’re fat”, but, I was seen as worthless and weak by everyone. This coach told parents and students to tell me that I was a problem, not a person. I was looked down upon, felt bad for, and completely misunderstood. I had people tell me before I entered the ice that I was ugly and wouldn’t amount to anything anymore.
So yes, this is the moment, where my “You’re Not Good Enough” story began, and for good reason I think. But moving past the sob story and onto the point – this is the root of my insecurities, and therefore the root of my self-doubt. Because of this, now when I set a goal and I begin to have a doubt, I know the thought “you’re not going to be able to do it” stems from here. When I get insecure about my relationship, I know the thoughts “you’re not pretty enough” come from this moment. And now that I have identified it, it is time for my brain to know that I have overcome these challenges, and change my thinking.
When did your story begin? Something happened that made you begin to feel you weren’t good enough for something or someone. Something happened and you made it mean that you are different, you are not pretty, you aren’t deserving, or you can’t succeed. Maybe your event was a giant trauma like mine, or maybe it was a culmination of smaller things you didn’t realize were affecting you (which, let me tell you, still does the trick). Whatever and whenever it was, you created that story in your head that is at the heart of your thoughts telling you, you can’t succeed. From that point, you now have this I’m Not Good Enough story, and it has been hurting you ever since.
Now, I challenge you to stop and figure out where those thoughts came from. You might not be able to pinpoint the very first time you had those thoughts and that’s okay. Just come up with at least one example of something that happened that made you feel like there was something wrong with you.
Step 3: Replace that story, with a new mantra:
The final step to overcoming self-doubt is to replace that story, with a new mantra. It’s time for you and I, to write a new story.
Now, there are two avenues that you can go once you’ve pegged your instance when you felt you were different or unworthy.
- Identify the facts of the situation: For this, you can look at the situation and identify the facts, not your interpretation of them. If your story isn’t about someone being vindictive to you, then this interpretation will help you. For example, if your moment of insecurity comes from a time when say, a loved one died from a disease, you may think that if you would have been better, acted differently, not been a certain way, this person wouldn’t have gone. This creates a story in your head, that you need to act a certain way so that no one else deserts you again. Maybe a more common antidote would be if your parents divorced and although their marriage is entirely their own, you blame yourself. These types of situations, can make a person think they are the reason for something. But like I said, look at the facts. If your loved one died, it was from the illness they had, not because you weren’t good enough. If your parents divorced, it was because of their marital issues and inability to work through it, not because they wanted to abandon you.
- Look at your success: The other way is to re-write your story, especially if your interpretation isn’t what makes you insecure but rather the people around you, is to look at how you overcame that hump. For me, I had people around me telling me this and that, but eventually I got back to a normal and healthy weight. With a lot of hard work, I was able to get back on my feet and win the U.S. Northwest Regionals (and get into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, which was a little smack in the face). And beyond my skating success, I was able to realize the way I looked, all boney and frail, wasn’t beautiful. I can eat and enjoy my life. I am strong, smart, and successful as a human being. If I look at this, my self-doubt is non-existent. I had this moment in my life that makes me feel unworthy, but I don’t look at the power and ability I had to overcome it, I always look at how bad it hurt. So if this is something like your story, look at the little things you did to overcome that moment, and replace your thoughts with that memory.
With this last step, you have the opportunity to re-write the point in your life in which you created a story of self-doubt and insecurity. Take this time to find that moment, and look at the facts, and how you’ve overcome that time in your life. You now have the option to create a different story for yourself to look at. It won’t happen immediately. Your self-doubt thoughts are like bad habits that need to be broken. I’ll share how we can help ourselves stop those thoughts and alter to your new story in another post. But for now, that’s it! These are the three steps to overcome self-doubt. Remember again, it will take work to make the self-doubt thoughts become thoughts of success. Don’t worry if you can’t find your moment, keep looking!
I hope this has been helpful and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments!