Picture this. You’re about to apply for your dream job. Reading the description, you feel your heart soar. Everything in it is you. Your experience, your dreams, and your aspirations. You write the best cover letter in your life.
All you have to do is hit send. As your finger hovers over the link, a voice comes into your head.
“Who are you to think you deserve this? You’re not good enough. They’ll laugh when they see your resume.”
Self doubt is like a creepy ghost who whispers in your ear. You might not know it’s there, thinking instead that it’s your “voice of reason.” But self doubt is anything but reasonable.
It can keep you in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Hold you back from pursuing the career you deserve. It can even prevent you from getting the medical help you need.
Others may try to sow the seeds of self doubt in you. They’ll pick up on any weakness in you and use it. For example, as many of us in the chronic illness community know all too well, doctors will tell you your problem is all in your head.
As The Indigo Girls sang: “The darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and the lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.”
Yet the more you tune into that call, the less you listen to the one that’s against you.
When you get rid of that doubting voice in your head, you’re free. You can choose the path you want to take.
You no longer take “no” for an answer when it comes to your career, health or anything else that’s important to you. Best of all, you feel better, because that doubting Thomas isn’t taking up real estate in your head.
How do you do it?
The best defense against self doubt is a good offense. You need a game plan. Self doubt can be beaten. Don’t give up.
Here are the five keys to removing self doubt from your life:
- Stop caring about what others think of you. Think instead that if people don’t see you in your highest light, they’re not worthy of your time or attention. Remind yourself that people don’t think much about others. They’re too concerned about themselves. And if they’re gossipy or judgmental, who needs them?
- Answer the voice in your head. If the voice tells you you’re not worthy, tell it that it’s wrong. If it taunts you about your weaknesses, remind it that it’s human to have strengths and weaknesses—and that you can overcome many of them if you need to. Whatever it says, don’t let it go without comment. That’s how you take back control.
- Find the part of you that knows who you are and what you’re capable of. Self doubt can make you feel stuck and frozen. Dig deep, and you’ll discover that you already know that you’re a worthy person. This will loosen those bonds, until one day you’ll wake up and realize you’re free.
- When self doubt creeps in, ask yourself this one simple question. If you’re telling yourself you can’t, you’re not worthy, they’re right, or whatever it is, ask yourself this, “I wonder where you learned that?” You’ll realize that somewhere down the line, someone taught you to doubt yourself. You may not know who it was, but you’ll see it isn’t anything real. It’s just something someone said to you—most likely when you were a kid.
- Make a list of the people in your life and rate them. People can be divided into three categories: givers, takers and hangers on. Givers are the people who make you feel good about yourself. Takers, meanwhile, leave you feeling less than. Hangers on are sometimes neutral, and other times draining. You want to surround yourself with as many givers as possible. They’re the ones who care about you and, as long as give back to them, will stick by you through the tough times. It’s not easy, but if you want to banish self doubt, you have to take care of yourself, which means cutting the takers and hangers on loose. It may mean you have to spend more time alone, but that can be a good thing.
Take this advice, and you’ll see your life changing. Keep at it. Don’t give up. That’s what the doubting voice wants. It wants to wear you down so you stay stuck and unhappy. It wants to steer you away from feeling fulfilled and happy.
There’s so much at stake.
One final thing. All of this is easier if you have some kind of spiritual or religious practice. It can be meditation, seeking help from a higher power, a belief in God, or something else. For me, it’s a combination of things—a regular meditation practice, connecting with Judaism through writing and online talks, and seeking help from non-physical beings, especially angels.
The Jewish piece helps me connect with my identity and ancestry. If you have a way to get there, I encourage it. The better you know your roots, the easier it is to stay grounded.
You can also look to other spiritual traditions, at least for a time. There’s so much wisdom in the world once you start looking.
The important thing is to take time to go inward. That’s how you free yourself from reflexive thinking. Once you do that, all of this gets easier.
Remember: you are lovable. You’re talented, and deserve a good life. Your best self is worth fighting for. Even if you’re sick, or others view your life as less valuable. You know better.