For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with self-doubt. Self-doubt that I’m good enough, that I’m capable enough, that I’m pretty enough, that I should speak up for myself, that I did speak up for myself…on and on. At its core, these negative thought patterns are really fundamentally doubting one’s worth as a human being and are rooted in false beliefs we took on somewhere in our developmental history.
I think the most harmful way self-doubt has manifested for me is an unwillingness to take risks. I would start a creative project only to abandon it when I was ¾ the way through. I would get excited about ideas and then start to doubt myself and the viability of anything, “That could never happen, what am I thinking?”. And so year after year I would find myself being unsatisfied with my accomplishments and where I was at in my life. While other people seemed to be doing amazing projects and having life-transforming experiences, I’d be stuck in the same situations feeling sorry for myself.
That started to change when I realized that the problem was not “out there”. I was not a victim of circumstance and finances. In fact, I have every opportunity to do something amazing with my life, if I can actually believe in my basic ability and worthiness to follow through and live into my capacity. [Most people in the world can not say this, considering they live in horrible political and economic situations, and so having the opportunity to change one’s life for the better could be considered a responsibility].
In other words, the root of the problem is in our thinking, our patterns of beliefs taken on at a very young age that continue to sabotage our behaviors. At some time in our early development, we took on the false belief that there was something fundamentally wrong with us, we began to doubt our very existence as worthy and capable human beings and over time this buried belief began to sabotage our ability to live into our fullest potential and we end up making choices that reconfirm our self-doubt.
The good news is that we have the power to change our belief systems. The hard news is that until we do that, not much else will change. It won’t work to tinker with our behaviors and thoughts or just hope for the best. We have to be proactive and slowly but surely, with every day practice, change our fundamental beliefs about who we are.
We need to take on new beliefs. Beliefs that are aligned with who we truly are. Self-sabotaging beliefs are false beliefs. Our nature is fundamentally and unchangelby worthy and beautiful, therefore when we take on beliefs such as “I am worthy”, “I am capable”, and “I am strong”, we’re not trying to convince ourselves of something, we’re actually coming home to our true nature. As we take on these new beliefs, we will find our negative self-talk and self-sabotaging behaviors begin to change. New beliefs→new feelings→new thoughts→new actions/behaviors. To change beliefs however, we need to begin with our thought patterns and feelings which are readily accessible.
Like anything this stuff takes practice. Especially if you spent your whole life compounding false beliefs. Fortunately, once we make up my our minds to overcome self-doubt, or any other false belief, things begin to shift pretty quickly, considering our true nature is longing to come out. For me, it’s been an on-going practice. However, now I’m able to quickly and gently catch thoughts based on self-doubt and smile at them, they can’t outsmart me anymore 🙂
First Step: Awareness
Observe your thoughts and words throughout the day and try to catch the self-sabotaging thoughts of self-doubt. Clues are criticism and dismissive thoughts such as “who cares” or “it’s not worth it” or even more explicit statements such as “I suck”.
Second Step: Change the thought
Even though real change happens when we change our beliefs, we have to begin at the level of thoughts. Everytime you hear yourself think or say something based on self-doubt immediately recognize it. Take it into the light of your awareness. Bring in a new thought/feeling such as “I am capable” or “I am worthy”, “I believe in myself”. Say this thought out loud or in your mind several times until you feel yourself take it in to your body and feelings.
Third Step: Reflection and Intention
Every day, take 5 minutes to reflect on how self-doubt showed up in your life. Don’t judge or criticize yourself (further compounding the problem). Just notice with tenderness and care. Set an explicit and clear intention to bring your basic worthiness into your everyday life situations. Visualize how that will look.