Before we jump into how to overcome self-doubt, I want to talk a little bit about why we have it.
The main purpose of our brain is to keep us alive and in order to do this, it focuses on 3 main motivations:
1. Avoid Pain
2. Seek Pleasure
3. Conserve Energy
This is called the motivational triad and it is how we survived in prehistoric times. Based on this motivational triad, the “primitive” brain views things we haven’t done before as potential death. Why?
Because new things require energy – energy that we need to conserve for protecting ourselves from predators and hunting for food. There is also the possibility of rejection and failure which also equals death because back in the day, if we were rejected from the group, we were likely to die.
Therefore, self-doubt is necessary (according to our primitive brain) to keep us safe… BUT that is not true anymore. We are generally, very safe in the modern world and going after a goal or dream is NOT going to kill you.
It just feels like it will…
Now that you understand a bit about how the brain works, let’s jump into the 4 steps to overcoming self-doubt.
Step 1: Normalize Self-doubt
The first step to overcoming self-doubt is to understand that it is not a quality that is unique to you.
Even the most successful people have self-doubt. It is a normal experience had by ALL humans and is one of the ways our brain tries to keep us safe.
What is different about successful people, is their ability to overcome it.
When you normalize self-doubt and accept that it is a part of being human, you remove the stigma that there is “something wrong” with you that cannot be “fixed” and open yourself up to the possibility of overcoming it.
There is nothing wrong with you – no one is free from self-doubt.
But you can practice overcoming it.
ACTION: Each time you have thoughts of self-doubt say to yourself “I am not the only who experiences self-doubt. This is a normal experience had by ALL humans to keep me safe”.
Step 2: Find Evidence for the Contrary
Even once you have “normalized” the self-doubt, the next thing your brain is going to try to do is to talk you into believing it.
It will say something like – “Sure, self-doubt is normal, but for you it is also the TRUTH”. And it will feel so easy to believe because thinking something different will take effort…and we know how the brain feels about that!
So, when you find yourself believing all your own shit-talk, ask yourself – Is this true? Am I incapable of learning new things? Or trying something new? Am I stupid or lazy?
The answer to these questions might be, “maybe, sometimes”, but I bet you can find a lot more evidence against them, than for them.
ACTION: Write down as many pieces evidence as you can think of that disproves the self-doubt – I aim for 50 things. For example, if you are thinking you can’t achieve a goal, write down all the goals you have achieved – big and small. This will help to quiet the self-doubt and move you towards self-trust and belief…
Step 3: Start a New Dialogue
Something I have found extremely helpful in overcoming my self-doubt is to change how I talk to myself when these thoughts arise.
For most people, when they have thoughts of self-doubt, they say things that confirm those thoughts or strengthen their belief in them.
It might sound something like this: “Why did you think this was possible? What a waste of time – just go back to what you know, even if it is awful. You’re not an expert so just give up”.
UGH. How do you feel now? Horrible? I’d say so…
In moments like these it is helpful to switch the script, as they say, and ask yourself – Would I talk to my best friend like this? If the answer is no, why are you talking to yourself this way?
ACTION: Write out the self-doubt thought or “script” your brain is offering and then write out the way you would respond to a best friend or sibling. Practice this script with yourself anytime self-doubt comes up.
Step 4: Decide What you Want to Believe
Most people believe that what they can accomplish is based on things like how smart they are, how much money they have, what they are good at or the skills they have, where they live, and so on.
But what I want to offer you is that what you are capable of accomplishing, or the results you produce in your life, is a direct reflection of your thoughts about you and your ability to accomplish something.
If you believe you are not capable achieving the goal you would like to, you will probably feel hopeless or discouraged and then quit…resulting in you not achieving the goal (the original thought you had).
BUT if you believe that you can figure out how to achieve that goal one step at a time, you will feel determined or motivated and you will get to work figuring it out one step at a time, until you (VOILA!) achieve that goal.
ACTION: Seems top good to be true? Try it out for yourself. Every time self-doubt comes up, choose to think what you want believe instead – do this for 1 full week and see what happens…
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