Whether you’re trying a new hobby, starting a new job, dating, or attempting to make friends, self-doubt is, for most of us, an inevitable part of life. Will I ever get good at this? Will they like me? Am I making the right decision?
Depending on its severity, self-doubt can be a minor annoyance, easily shooed away with some keen visualization and well-formed affirmations, or a debilitating condition that keeps us from fully living our lives. In either scenario, the first step to overcoming self-doubt is to understand where it comes from.
This can be tricky because there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The things that cause you to question your worth or abilities may differ completely from the things that do the same to your sibling, best friend, or partner. That said, here are a few common causes and some tips for dealing with them:
Upbringing and/or Family Life
As with so many things, a proclivity to doubt ourselves is often formed in childhood. Whether your parents had exceptionally high expectations, expressed disappointment regularly, or didn’t allow you to do enough things for yourself (the “helicopter parent”), ideas about ourselves that are planted in us as children can be difficult to uproot in adulthood. If left unchecked, they can overgrow and choke out our ability to believe in our capacity for success.
Tip: There are myriad ways to tackle and unlearn harmful thought patterns and behaviors acquired in childhood. Going to therapy, reading books, or even taking a psychology course may be a good start.
People who are natural nurturers or empaths can have a particularly hard time creating and trusting themselves. Being others-focused is a beautiful thing (and boy, is it needed in the world today!) but it can become dangerous when we forget that our needs and goals are equally important. This is true for two reasons:
1. If you want to get better at something — in this case, being self-assured — you have to dedicate attention to it. Being relentlessly focused on people and things outside ourselves is a distraction and neglectful to our own growth.
2. Concentrating heavily (or exclusively) on the well-being of others can easily lead to attaching our worth to their happiness. Humans and the relationships between them are complicated. You will never make everyone happy, all the time. If we feel our best only when taking care of others, what happens when they’re discontented? We immediately feel failure, and begin to doubt our worth.
Tip: We’re not saying you should throw your good-hearted nature to the wind! The key is balance. It may feel unnatural to turn focus on yourself, but take baby steps; they add up over time! A few things to try:
– Make it a part of your morning routine to write down three things you need in order to be happy that day.
– Try a new thing, just for you. Don’t think about what other people might think. Always wanted to try ballet? Go for it. Never painted before? Now’s the time!
– Think about times when your opinions have been impacted by those of other people. What was the issue at hand? Do some research. Find sources with conflicting opinions on the same subject. Try to put aside any preconceived notions and write down your gut reactions to each point of view. What comes out on top? What do you really think?
Even better, the greater effort you put into creating a substantial personal foundation, the better (and more sustainably) you’ll be able to take care of others.
On any given day, we’re presented with a lot of opinions about what’s “right” — what it looks like to be successful, a good friend, a “perfect” couple — and when we feel like we’re falling short of those imposed demands, we can start to doubt ourselves. We all know that comparisons are one of the quickest ways to undermine personal confidence, but that doesn’t make them any less easy to fixate on.
Tip: This tip is twofold:
1. Know the difference between a goal and an unhealthy comparison. If you’re looking at someone else’s life and doubting your own, examine that. Is what they have something you’d be willing to work for, or do you simply want it because that’s what you’re supposed to want? If you feel like you could be legitimately happy in their position, reverse-engineer it. Given your life and resources, how could you make it happen for yourself?
2. Avoid expectation like your life depends on it. The moment we impose specific expectations, we create ample opportunity for disappointment. If those expectations are tied to who we’re supposed to be or what we’re supposed to have, simple disappointment gives way to the more dangerous self-doubt. Try your best to hold everything with an open hand. Don’t focus on outcomes. Instead, use every moment as an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you need, short- and long-term, in order to be happy.
Do you have any tips on tackling self-doubt? Let us know in the comments below!
xx, The FabFitFun Team