135: Challenging your feelings of Self-Doubt

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Welcome friends to Episode #135 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. There’s no escaping those feelings of self-doubt. No matter how much work you’ve done, how much of an expert you are in your field or how much you want to just not care – there’s a part of you that feels self-doubt. It’s not all the time, but enough of the time that you wonder if it will ever go away. We want to ensure that we don’t let self-doubt get in the way of achieving our goals, but what happens when they occur? Today’s podcast is on challenging those feelings of self-doubt.

Self-doubt comes with feelings of uncertainty about yourself, the task at hand, your worth or how successful you will be at achieving your desires. When left unchecked, it is debilitating. Often those feelings of uncertainty will drive your brain to safety. This often looks like staying with the status quo or achieving things just to feel safe. For example, if an opportunity presents itself and you feel self-doubt, you could decide not to put yourself out there because you’re not worthy in terms of the career or business side of your life. You could also decide to go for it because you feel you’re not worthy so you do this to prove you’re worthy. Notice the subtleties here. It’s not about what you do. It’s why you do it.

When you don’t challenge your feelings of self-doubt, you will make decisions based on fear. Fear of staying where you are. Fear of not being enough. I love how nuanced this is because it shows us that self-doubt and fear are not necessarily terrible things. A healthy amount of self-doubt and fear keep us from rushing into oncoming traffic. It will also help you make better decisions. If you have a fear of staying where you are, it might be time for you to move on. If you have a fear of staying where you are, it also might be ok for you to stay. The real question is what happens when you make a decision based on self-doubt as something negative, instead of a question to be answered.

Seeing Self-Doubt as Neutral

Your growth as you challenge those feelings of self-doubt will come from seeing that fear and self-doubt aren’t the problem. The problem is when we only see fear and self doubt.

When I work with my clients, we challenge feelings of self-doubt. This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to the worst case scenario of not finding another job or being disappointed when our days or numbers don’t turn out the way we expect. We let those feelings of self-doubt show us the way forward. We answer the questions that come up. How will you live off of that income? How do you plan to make the change? What will you say if they ask you that question? How will you say what you really mean?

What if the self-doubt was serving us? I remember when I had a feeling of self-doubt around the work I was doing and it was a signal that something wasn’t quite right. If I was constantly working so hard, trying to improve and feeling such significant self-doubt, what was going on? It was inconsistent with almost all the experiences I had in my past where my efforts mattered. The self-doubt showed me that I was in an environment where fear was used to drive people – and it wasn’t healthy. People weren’t set up for success. Self-doubt was not coming just from myself, it was coming from those around me as well. 

If you are a naturally empathetic person you will likely feel others self-doubt more than most. Be aware if this is you that there may be other people’s energy that you are taking in and it’s not healthy for you to make self-doubt mean more than it is. Someone questioning you may just be a question you need to ask yourself to answer. Someone with a hot reaction is someone who feels high emotion. That is them, not you. This allows you to come back to neutrality. From neutral, we can decide what we want to do without fear hijacking our minds.

Give yourself distance

When you see self-doubt as highly personal, it’s hard for you to challenge yourself to see an alternative or see it as neutral. This is why you need to give yourself distance. Our ability to witness ourselves from a more superconscious view allows us to prioritize and focus. Self-doubt as a story or a worry about something that may never happen can often spiral into anxiety and feeling stuck when left unchecked. Self-doubt as a neutral signal that is natural for someone going through what you’re going through is different. It’s a problem that you can solve.

When you can imagine yourself as a third-party you come back to healthy self-doubt. You can then see that you can still move forward even if there is some risk. You can identify whether that time, money or energy you are investing will still have a payback. You know what is worth it to you and what is not. You know if there’s something to be done or not about what’s on your mind. That knowing combats that uncertainty. 

Studies have shown that when you are able to increase your beliefs through things that you can change like your effort or your confidence in your abilities, self-doubt decreases. Personal agency increases. You see that the situation is not so heavily weighted towards the negative and perhaps there is also just as much if not more that’s right about the situation than is wrong.

Giving yourself distance is like treating yourself like someone you love and care about. When you treat yourself compassionately, you will see so much more intuitive knowledge, faster decision-making, more accurate predictions and a lot less rumination. This is why coaching helps. Your coach is a third-party that is able to witness what you’ve experienced as just another thought and natural concern. Something to be handled with the appropriate amount of consideration. Paying attention to true cues of concern such as your health and mental state in a situation is often more important than self-doubt. Why? You will always have self-doubt, but you can feel self-doubt along with a healthily optimistic and energized state of being. This duality means that all people can feel uncertain even when they have positive approaches to life. Knowing this means that you’re human.

Reframing self-doubt

One of the most powerful things I help my clients do is to reframe their self-doubt. We have a variety of ways that this occurs, but the outcome is that they see self-doubt as normal and not a big problem. It isn’t easy, but it’s a muscle we train ourselves to use. New ways of seeing things come with practice and time. Many times we think we should be over self-doubt by now. Whether it’s because of our age or because we don’t think others have it like we do, we assume erroneously that we’re the only ones wondering if we’re doing the right thing with our kids or if we are going to lose our job because someone’s going to find out that we’re not as smart as they thought we were. It sounds irrational for sure, but there are many times when this feels completely rational and true. 

What has helped me personally was to start seeing self-doubt as a part of the journey, not a sign something has gone wrong. I can feel the familiar feelings of fear creep in when self-doubt takes over, but like the muscle analogy, I go back to the tools and practices I use to challenge those feelings. Instead of a weakness, self-doubt becomes a superpower. It is the thing that lets me see the possible alternatives and choose the best course of action. It is the natural state of things and if I am truly in my most vulnerable place, it is allowed to serve me and show me where I still have some work to do. We all have edges that we sharpen or soften. Self-doubt shows us those edges. Often, the things we have the most talent and strengths in are also where we feel self-doubt. They are also places where over time, self-doubt has almost disappeared. Both have been and can be true. This shows us that even when you’re so hesitant, feeling the doubt and worried that you’re not making the right decision – it doesn’t mean that this is true.

Through meditation, breath, thoughtwork, coaching, energy and taking action on what we know – there are a myriad of ways to challenge your feelings of self-doubt. It is all part of the process to evolve and grow. Do not fear self-doubt. It is part of our human experience and for the first time, you might be allowing yourself to truly feel all your feelings and this means letting all things come in, including self doubt. The difference is that now, you’re equipped to handle it. You’re able to take some of the tools I’ve shared and make friends with something that once felt scary.

Self-doubt means that you’re heading into the unknown and a new path forward will often challenge us to overcome self-doubt again and again until we realize that we’ve gone so far down this path and we’re used to dealing with self-doubt. We’re used to seeing those voices of uncertainty. We don’t run away or ignore them. We let them exist and leave when they’re ready. It is such a transformative experience to literally see something you were once scared of as just not a huge deal anymore. When this happens, you will create so much space for something new to come through. All that energy that has been utilized worrying and ruminating can be used to decrease the gap between what we know to do and what we actually do. It is so fun when this transformation happens. 

The coaching work I do with my clients helps us fill the void in healthier and healthier ways. It gets to the point where they truly see problems not as problems and they have so much more energy to live their lives and address things that are of real importance. You won’t ever eliminate the self-doubt but you can eliminate the suffering that comes from it. You’ll then see how much closer you get to closing the gap between what we know to be true about who we are and who we are.

If you love these topics, you’ll love coaching. Reach out to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more about how you can be one of the handful of clients I work with to go deep and transform your life from the inside out. Right now, we have a retreat coming up in Sedona in February. It is a strategic planning retreat done the Spiritual Achiever™ way and I invite you to join us. We’re going to get work done and sharpen the clarity, purpose and path forward. Then we spend the next months executing and refining that plan together. Whether it’s your career, relationships or health – we tackle it all. Reach out at www.mayempson.com/contact, today.

That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.

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