‘What if I’m not enough? What if I mess up? What if I make a fool of myself? What will people say? What if I am not capable and talented?’
Most of us have been haunted by the internal ‘what ifs’ that build uncertainties and self-doubt at some point in our lives. Individuals wrestle with their psyche and the little voice that slowly chips away their confidence. In today’s fast-paced life, when one’s actions are guided continuously by what ‘others think’, our critical voice is presently more robust than ever before. Self-doubt is a part of our human experience, causing a lack of faith in ourselves, our abilities, and our actions. This doubt is present in almost everyone and is healthy to a certain extent. However, there is a fine line between self-doubt and self-sabotage. Reflect on the past opportunities you may have given up. Were these valid or based on your mental barriers?
According to studies in Psychology, chronic self-doubt is linked with anxiety, depression, procrastination, and low self-esteem. One such psychological phenomenon regarding self-doubt refers to the ‘Imposter Syndrome’. This condition is often described as an internal experience of believing that one is not as competent as others perceive them. It also refers to feeling like a ‘fraud’ despite one’s academic or life success and is characterized by extreme criticism and self-doubt. Imposter Syndrome can affect individuals despite their high achievements in professional careers. It also refers to a cynical voice that re-iterates “I am not enough”, ignoring the objective reality. Extreme self-doubt cases may also instil a fear that one might not live up to expectations, berating one’s performance and sabotaging their success.
Self-doubt is often rooted in one’s psyche and builds a temporary home. Extreme cases may consume an individual and are caused by specific experiences in childhood or adulthood. One of the primary common causes of low self-esteem is comparing yourself with others. According to the ‘norm ‘, the lack of confidence in one’s abilities and gauging success and failure is what plants the initial seed of self-doubt—secondly, fixation on a particular result. One of the biggest reasons holding one back is the fear of failure and the visualization of a ‘perfect’ future. Being fixated on a particular outcome makes an individual paralyzed at the thought of any other result, thereby creating rigid boundaries and limiting their possibilities. Thirdly, although comparing oneself and having a fixated view does fuel self-doubt, it may also stem from early childhood experiences. The ‘attachment theory’ refers to positive interactions with caregivers that forms a secure bond in early childhood. On the other hand, if children from an insecure attachment may lead to questions such as ‘Am I worthy?’ contributing to a sense of self-loathing and uncertainty.
Self-doubt exists in each person with a varying capacity, making no one immune to this self-deprecating phenomenon. It holds us back from seizing opportunities. However, it is possible to reclaim this power. Here are 3 ways you can overcome this and breakthrough these self-imposed limitations:
Build your mission rather than your fear. Slowly cut back on your fears and focus on your larger goal or outcome. Manifest your goals and re-centre your attention to your purpose rather than your limitations.
Doubt your doubt. Repeat to yourself: “My doubts are not the truth”. Question and call out your inner critic who holds you back. Remind yourself to change questions about your worthiness such as ‘What if someone is better than me?’ into ‘What if I try?’.
Create your squad of cheerleaders. Crushing self-doubt and gaining self-confidence is not a solo endeavour. Encircle yourself with people who root for you and believe in you, and support your aspirations. This support system will act as your biggest cheerleader, motivating you instead of holding you back.
Artists, writers, inventors and, scientists might not have left an everlasting mark on our lives today if they gave in to this inner critic. Breakthrough technologies that are now available to us at our disposal may not have existed. One of history’s most influential figures – Vincent van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”. Our brain acts as our own enemy. If given a minute, it starts producing a million excuses, false justifications, and reasons why you should not do what you need to. The next time you want to start your own business, question the internal voice which tells you, “who are you to start a business?”. The next time you are sceptical about embarking on a new project, take the leap of faith. Lastly, the next time you agonize your own smallest mistakes or flaws, encourage yourself to be your own biggest cheerleader rather than an enemy.