self doubt

Eliminate Self-doubt

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare

Let us be honest. We have all been there. You know there is an opportunity in front of you and you know deep down inside that you should grab it with all your might. But a voice inside your head tells you otherwise. It asks you-‘But what if you fail?’ ‘What if by doing this, you are inviting some kind of disaster into your life?’ ‘Wouldn’t it be better to do nothing at all?’?

The voice is persistent. It doesn’t falter. Ironically enough, the voice itself is confident that you will fail. It has no doubt about it. It is you who is full of doubt. So while trying to undermine your confidence, this voice is enhancing its own. It is a part of you that was born out of all the failures you’ve experienced in your life.  You cannot let this treachery go unpunished. You must be ruthless with your self-doubt. Reign it in. Make it obey you and only you.

What Causes Self-Doubt?

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun. Little children do not suffer from crippling self-doubt. They are passionately curious about everything surrounding them and they wish to know more. If you ask any children whether something could be done, they will immediately reply that yes it is possible. While being naively confident in your own abilities is not advisable, I believe there is something we can learn from the young children-the ability to believe in yourself.

As we grow up, the seeds of uncertainty are planted in us. This happens when you start comparing yourself to others. You wonder, will you be able to do it the same way they did it? Is it going to be enough? Is it enough to be the best version of what you are? The answer is yes. Success is not a standard set by others. You define your own success.

Another factor that fuels self-doubt is being preoccupied with a certain outcome. 78% of girls with low self-esteem have admitted that it is hard to feel good in school when you do not feel good about your looks. When you are possessed with the idea that only a certain outcome can bring you happiness, you cannot derive any joy from the things you do. You need to embrace the possibility that you might fail. Rest assured, you won’t be the first person to do it.

You must have heard of the Imposter Syndrome, where you feel like your achievements are a result of sheer good fortune and that you don’t really deserve all the accolades being thrown at you. You feel like somebody much more deserving should be in your place. I believe these factors are responsible for the lingering self-doubt in your mind.

How Self-Doubt Affects Your Life

“Or have I passed my time in pouring words like water into empty sieves, rolling a stone up a hill and then down again, trying to prove an argument in the teeth of facts, and looking for causes in the dark, and not finding them?”― William Hazlitt

Each one of us, at some point in our lives, has wondered about the futility of it all. We have all wondered whether we have a greater purpose, or whether there is something missing in us. This ‘something’ gradually takes the shape of a wall within you. It’s a wall only you can see. Only you can pile up the bricks to make it higher and only you can tear it down. 

Imagine your self-doubt is like a speed-breaker on the road. It needs to be high enough to slow you down, but low enough so that you can overcome it. That being said, self-doubt serves the important purpose of keeping you from growing overconfident. So it needs to be there. It’s a demon you must face and defeat every time you wish to cross the gates. I say respect the demon, but at the same time, do not be intimidated by it.

If you let it win, it will hold you back. You will start wondering if you are good enough. You will seek encouragement and an excuse for why you are failing constantly. You mold yourself in certain ways so that other people will start liking you.  Infact 85% of the world’s population are affected by low self-esteem.

One of the children of self-doubt is procrastination. When you are unsure of your abilities and not hopeful about your chances of success, you will constantly delay tasks. You become hesitant, and postpone things till the last minute, because perhaps then you will have the excuse that you didn’t do that well since there wasn’t enough time on your hand. Too much self-doubt turns you into this person who always shifts their gaze and shuffles their feet, never completely sure of what they should do next.

How to Fight Self-Doubt?

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”- Vincent Willem van Gogh

There is an inspiring story about a boy who didn’t seem special. In fact, he was underperforming as a child. He was a quiet kid, with a bad posture, afraid to communicate his demands. Everyone wondered whether he was disabled. At school, everyone knew him as the slow kid. He wasn’t particularly good at studies and often used to repeat his sentences to himself. He failed his college entrance exams, eventually earning his degree, but failing to get the teaching job he wanted. You must be thinking, if anyone should be crippled by self-doubt, it is this boy. But the boy did not give up. He knew his strengths. That boy was Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds ever. You may think he was a genius and an exceptional case, and yes it is true. Everyone cannot be Einstein. But everyone can learn from the fact that he faced his self-doubt and overcame it, in spite of failing again and again.

One of the simple ways to beat self-doubt is to act. Simply go for it. Undermine the thoughts that keep telling you cannot do it and just act, even if you fail. The effort itself will motivate you. Take inspiration from your past, something that made you happy. If you did it once, you can do it again. When you are fixated on a particular outcome, it presents itself to you as a giant obstacle. Do not try to take on it all at once. One strategy I follow is to take small but decisive steps that bring me closer to my goal. These small wins shall motivate you, and as time passes, you will see the giant shrinking and shrinking, until it becomes a dwarf.

 Final Thoughts

“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Finally, we should remember that there is nothing such as perfect confidence. Feeling doubtful is normal and a part of being human. But you should not let it control you. Recognize your self-doubt and its adverse effects on your life. Make yourself your greatest adversary and try to be a better person than what you were yesterday, instead of comparing yourself using the standards set by others.