What is Self-Doubt?
If you look up the word self-doubt you will find a definition like, “the lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities.” This is a very good definition, but it doesn’t fully demonstrate the problems caused by self-doubt and not believing in yourself.
As you are thinking about this definition, think about these questions:
- What are the dangers of self-doubt?
- How does self-doubt affect your life?
- Where does self-doubt come from?
- And most importantly, how the heck do you overcome it?
Keep in mind that everyone has different issues, reasons for their self-doubt, and problems in their life. You’re a unique person and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
How does self-doubt Affect Your Life and the Dangers
There are many dangers inherent in hanging on to self-doubt that you should be aware of. If you suffer from self-doubt, it’s important to understand the type of damage you’re doing to yourself if you continue to hang on to it. It has affected your past, is affecting your present and can devastate your future if you don’t deal with it.
- Self-Doubt Damages Motivation – When you don’t think you can do much, and don’t trust yourself to do something right, fear can get in the way of doing anything. This can turn into a severe lack of motivation to do more than you have to just to get by. It can affect your entire life because you may have fewer satisfying relationships, a job you hate, and not enjoy life much.
- Self-Doubt Causes Procrastination – If you don’t think you know how to do things “right” then you may end up thinking you’re a perfectionist, which is just a way to procrastinate and never finish anything or finish it at the last minute. This is how you set yourself up for failure. No one is perfect and perfection is not necessary to thrive in this life.
- Self-Doubt Leads to Regret – When you miss opportunities, you will experience regret. Regret, when left unresolved, can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. This will then build upon itself to create even more self-doubt, which will create more regret, and so on.
- Self-Doubt Causes Defeatism – If you allow self-doubt to continue, you can start to become almost morbid in your belief that you cannot experience anything good or happy. It’s essentially an acceptance of failure.
- Self-Doubt Stunts Self-Improvement – When you have no faith in yourself, it’s hard to even think about self-improvement. You think you have too much to improve because you can’t do anything, and maybe you even think you’re a victim of your circumstances to a point that you cannot achieve even if you try.
- Self-Doubt Stifles Inspiration – When you don’t believe in yourself, it’s hard to get inspired to do anything new or to create anything new. Ending the self-doubt will bring out the creativity you already really have.
Can see and/or may you have experienced yourself, self-doubt can be dangerous, and these are all good reasons to work toward overcoming self-doubt and learning to believe in yourself.
How to Identify Where Your Self-Doubt Lies
Knowing how you developed self-doubt can sometimes help lead to recovering from that condition. You can build self-esteem by getting to the bottom of how it happened. Some people did have self-esteem at one point, then lost it. Some never had it in the first place.
No matter how you determine what causes your self-doubt, you’ll be able to overcome it. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that developed over time or something you learned in childhood. You can work toward building your belief in yourself so that you can overcome self-doubt.
Limiting Beliefs Learned in Childhood
Unfortunately, many people learn to put off their dreams and limit their ideas due to well-meaning parents (or sometimes they’re not so well-meaning but perhaps abusive parents) who are also stuck in their own self-doubting lives and cannot ever envision anything different. This happens a lot in communities where people are often born very poor and end up lacking experiences and education to see beyond their own lives to the possibilities that are outside their world.
It’s not usually the fact that parents want to keep their kids from dreaming; they’re just trying to be realistic. When their child tells them about their big dream to travel the world and become a writer, they react in fear and make statements that may be statistically true but that limit their child.
For example, they might discourage their child from becoming a writer by telling them no one makes money writing, or they might discourage their child from becoming anything that is above what they’re used to due to the fear of the costs and the fear that their child really can’t do it even if they try. But this is only due to their own lack of success and understanding of life.
This rubs off on the kids. That’s why statistically most people do not break out of the class they were born to. The exciting thing to remember, though, is that some people do, and the reason they do is they were able to see and envision the possibilities and then take the action to see it through.
Past Experiences from Bad Relationships
If you used to have a good self-image and didn’t suffer from much self-doubt but then suddenly or over time started to develop self-doubt, it’s possible that you allowed your past experiences and bad relationships to get into your head and create this self-doubting experience.
It can be a parent relationship, a friendship, a love interest, a spouse, even a child who is dragging you down and creating the self-doubt in your life. These relationships are sometimes defined as toxic relationships. Unfortunately, a toxic relationship can involve any type of relationship, both relatives to non-relatives.
If you’ve been in a relationship where a person criticizes and cuts down your ideas and tells you that it’s impossible, or tells you about all that can go wrong or is even abusive to you about your ideas, you may have learned your self-doubt from past relationships. If you are still in any of these relationships, it may be time to end it if you cannot explain to the person that you are going to do what you’re going to do regardless of their opinion due to fear of abuse.
Bad Work Environments and Experiences
At some point in your life, if you had a job of any kind that turned into a bad experience (especially if it started with your first job), this can stunt you for a lifetime if you let it. Sadly, many people, especially those who take service-oriented jobs or lower paying jobs, end up with bad experiences.
Even some people who have higher paying jobs can allow criticism to affect them so badly that they develop a fear of failure which causes them to not take risks. This in turn ends up causing them to get bad job reviews. Then after a bad job review, the person may react badly to that and end up more stuck.
As you can see, this path can end up affecting a person badly at the time and in their future if they are unable to understand that sometimes things happen to good people. They can’t accept that they’re a good person and a bad thing happened to them. Or they can’t learn from their mistakes and realize that they can do better next time. This is a dangerous pattern that can grow and become more than it should.
Lack of Life Experiences
Sometimes a person can suffer from self-doubt simply due to a lack of experience. If you were overly sheltered in childhood, were sick, or had issues that caused you to not have a lot of experiences in life, that can turn into fear, anxiety, and even other problems such as agoraphobia that prevent you from stepping out of your comfort zone. If you have no successful experiences to look back on, it can be hard to imagine success. If you have only experienced failure, it can be doubly hard to envision success later.
Whatever the reason for these experiences: overprotective parents, an illness, undiagnosed mental illness, being super-shy… whatever is causing it needs to be addressed so that you can start experiencing small successes and know what if feels like. If you don’t know what that feels like, it’s going to be hard to move forward.
What about that Zip Code?
This can be hard to accept for some people, but where you are born makes a huge difference in how you view the world and your own place and potential in it. If you’re born on third base, you can still experience self-doubt if you have controlling parents who see only one way that you can have success, such as following in the family business when you don’t want to. But most of the time it’s because you were born either in a place without a lot of opportunities or you were born to parents who, while loving, are poor.
The sad fact is that most people do not escape the situation they were born into today. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t. It just means that due to lack of vision, most people only know what’s inside their own small portion of the world, and don’t have their eyes open to the possibilities out there for them.
Just by reading this, no matter what your situation is, you are getting your eyes opened to the possibilities in the world to escape your circumstances and make the most of your life in a way that makes you thrive. That’s a great thing and can make so much difference.
Anxiety not Diagnosed
Anxiety can be a symptom of self-doubt, but it goes in a circle. Self-doubt can cause anxiety and if you can find a way to address the anxiety, you may be able to lessen the effects of your self-doubt. Many people who have anxiety describe it as a bad feeling of a million butterflies in their stomachs whenever they think of doing something that makes them uncomfortable.
Often, this feeling is so bad that the person suffers from panic attacks, which can be debilitating. Some people don’t get the panic attacks, but they don’t push themselves beyond that feeling of butterflies that they experience as unpleasant. There is a theory that adrenaline junkies see this same feeling as positive and they seek it out, whereas a person with anxiety uses that same feeling to stop doing anything that causes that feeling. Interesting, isn’t it?
If you suspect that you have anxiety, it can be hard to even get the help you need by going to your doctor and telling them about it because that also makes you anxious. You fear they’ll think you’re silly. But you can get help with your anxiety by seeking help from your doctor.
Some anxiety is caused by vitamin deficiencies, so your doctor will likely perform some blood tests and they may recommend you see a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications to help you (at least on a temporary basis) so that you can start experiencing success instead of being blocked from it.
It’s important not to allow this to cause you to stay stuck in your current patterns. The healthiest people seek help and even if you don’t want to take medications, there is help for you to overcome anxiety disorders naturally too.
Established Patterns or Habits
Often people experience self-doubt simply due to patterns they’ve established since childhood, or in some place in adulthood that sent them down a bad path of experiencing failure or even something traumatic.
For example, everything could have been going fine, then something traumatic happened like a car accident, a death in the family, and so forth. This may start leading you down a path of repeating bad patterns or accepting that your life is just going to be full of failure and you won’t go anywhere. However, this is something you can overcome by changing your patterns.
The process requires that you are introspective enough to be able to see the truth about yourself, your choices, your relationships, and more about your life. Then you’ll need to be able to take decisive action that will help you start to experience success in your life that you can build on as you overcome your self-doubt and start believing in yourself. Even now, there are so many reasons that you should believe in yourself. Once you start realizing that, this part should be simple.
I go deeper into Overcoming Self-doubt in my free eBook “Powerful Tips for Overcoming Self-Doubt” – How to Overcome Self-Doubt and Finally Move Forward in Life. Download your free copy here.
We did a mini-series podcast on this topic and recorded 5 episodes to cover self-doubt. You are welcome to listen to below or subscribe to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Castbox or Anchor.