Everybody struggles with self-doubt at some point or another in their lives. It could be for a number of reasons.
Maybe you did not have much support in your life for your ideas and your efforts, making you doubt your capabilities.
Perhaps you did not receive enough encouragement to try new things as a child, or were constantly criticized. Or maybe you have experienced failure and somehow internalized the experience as shame that you do not want to repeat.
Have you ever wondered if you made the right decision, or worried that your latest venture, an interview, job or relationship would not turn out well? Unfortunately, self-doubt can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when we let our fears guide our thinking rather than our desires.
We all need to develop our self-confidence. That is not done by focusing on what you don’t want. Instead, it’s done by taking small, manageable steps in the direction of your intentions rather than steps away from your fears. In other words:
As you succeed with the small steps, you can gradually take larger ones and your self-esteem will naturally expand with your increased skills. You begin a type of success-self-esteem cycle that spirals vertically as it increases.
What does success look like to you? With more confidence, your decision-making is more accurate, the quality of your work improves, and people are attracted to you. In general, life becomes easier because you believe you have the skills to manage it.
So what are some specific steps you can take to silence your inner critic and build your confidence?
1. Reflect. Take time to think about why you're experiencing feelings of doubt. What events have caused you to feel insecure? Are you faced with a challenge that you don't feel you're capable of successfully completing? Is your self- criticism a bad habit that prevents you from moving forward? Thoughts such as "I can't do this" and "I'm not good enough" become reasons to opt out of new experiences that could bring you many benefits.
Question your thoughts. Are they true and why do you believe them? If past failures are fanning the flames of your insecurity, review the lessons you learned from your failures and how you can apply those lessons to your present situation. Stay in the present rather than reliving your past. If you find yourself continually obsessed about the past, it may mean you have not deciphered the lessons that will help you move forward.
Counter every negative thought with a positive and truthful affirmation. It’s not good enough just to rattle off positive affirmations if you don’t believe they are true. Put some thought into what you want to believe and determine what you need to do to make it true. You may find my awareness practice very helpful if you need help with this skill. (You can get a 30-day practice absolutely free by clicking the link in this post.) Questioning your thinking and shifting your perspective are two of the most powerful exercises to build your confidence.
2. Practice self-compassion. Stop beating yourself up about how you feel and what you have done. This is a habit that perpetuates the negative cycle of self-doubt, frustration, and procrastination. Realize that making mistakes doesn't make you a bad or incompetent person - it simply makes you human.
Strive to do your best with the skills you have in the present and know that your skills and abilities will increase the more you keep moving forward. Embrace the idea that every challenge in life is an opportunity for you to learn something new and grow as a person.
3. Make a list. On a blank sheet of paper, make two columns. On the left side, write down all of the doubtful thoughts you're having about yourself. On the right side, list all of the positive facts that dispute your doubts. You will surprise yourself! For example, suppose you've been assigned a new task at work that you've never done before, and you immediately become negative because you feel your skills aren't adequate.
On the left side of the list, write "I can't do this because I don't have the skills." On the right side of the page, write why you were chosen for the task (and I don’t mean, because “nobody else would do it!”). If you are uncertain of why you were selected or if you give yourself a negative reason, write down the positive outcome you would like to deliver. Then, take the first small step in that direction.
Your actions will support your intention and you will be building your self-esteem. “I was given this task because I'm a quick learner who always gets the job done.” If your positive list is short, keep searching through your talents and good qualities (yes - they are there) until your positive list outweighs your negative one.
4. Write a letter. Pretend to be a wise, loving supporter and write a letter to yourself. Imagine writing this letter to someone you care deeply about whom you want to succeed. Remind yourself about your positive traits and how you've overcome obstacles in the past. The act of writing the letter will release all of those pent-up insecurities that are spinning around inside of your mind. By the end of the letter, you should be feeling a lot better. Keep the letter somewhere special so you can refer back to it when needed.
5. Make an appreciation file on your phone or laptop. Keep track of those kind words of appreciation you receive from others. When you're experiencing self-doubt, it's easy to forget about all of those wonderful comments you've received for doing things that made other people's lives better in some way. Save all of the emails, notes, and cards that say kind and loving things about you. When you feel the voice of your inner critic welling up inside of you, simply open up your appreciation file and read those wonderful thoughts.
Self-doubt can rob you of the joy life has in store for you. While it's very common to doubt yourself once in awhile, you want to be able to easily let go of your inner critic when it pops up. Practicing the steps above will enable you to push through your self-doubt, boost your confidence, and clear the way for positive new experiences.
Here’s the link to a 30-day awareness practice that will help you increase your self-esteem. Let me know if you have any questions. I’d be more than happy to help