How Does Self-Doubt Speak to You?
Is it the presence in the pit of your stomach, the cramping ache, and the butterflies?
Or perhaps it comes through the harsh and critical voices demanding to know what you’re doing and who on earth you think you are?
Or maybe it’s the pressure of balancing that tightrope between regret and expectation that causes you to self-consciously analyse every word and action from the perspective of how others see you…
In whichever form self-doubt speaks to you, it is a powerful and exhausting presence. It’s no wonder we don’t want to listen to it, and we’ll go to so many lengths to exclude it from our lives!
But consider what it would mean if you could get that powerful presence on-side, working for you and not against you?
This is what I’ve been learning to do through my mission to find the purpose of self-doubt.
I’ve discovered that when I learned to hesitate and give space to self-doubt, to welcome it into my life, embrace it, and work with its messages, it brings a rich and rewarding route to growth that is meaningful and sustainable.
Now I’m helping my coaching clients do the same.
Self-Doubt is Positive!
The first step is to recognise self-doubt as a positive indicator in your life!
The presence of self-doubt is an indicator that you are outside of your comfort zone, which means you are in a space of growth.
Self-doubt links to something you want.
Consider this: if you are doubting your abilities in your new leadership position at work, it’s probably telling you that you want to be a good leader at work. Or if you’re doubting your ability to be a good Mum and a good Leader, then it’s telling you that you want to be good in both of these areas. Or if you are doubting your ability to connect with people in an authentic way, then you probably have a deep desire to connect with people in an authentic way.
And that thing you want is usually important. People just don’t doubt themselves about things that are not important.
Whilst it doesn’t feel nice, if you can learn to tolerate the experience just a bit more, you have an opportunity to tune into those messages with a different ear.
Recognising the presence of self-doubt as a positive indictor of being in a zone of growth and linking to something important, makes it much easier to accept its uncomfortable presence. This is how you can bring self-doubt on side and begin to gain great value from the experience.
The Excluded Parts of Self
When self-doubt reflects what you desire, it also brings into sharp focus those parts of yourself that you consider to be weak, or not good enough to accomplish your desire.
These ‘weaknesses’ are the aspects of yourself that you’ve been keeping hidden, not only from others but from yourself. They may come to the surface from time to time but usually when you haven’t got the time or the inclination to deal with them. These are the parts of yourself that you have excluded, denied, disowned.
The question of self-doubt will take you directly to these excluded parts of yourself. And this is your opportunity to acknowledge, investigate, and update these parts.
The gift that self-doubt brings you is to illuminate these messages as personal truths and bring awareness of how they have been driving you and governing your experience of life.
Levels of Truth
Two fish are swimming along, one says to the other, ‘how’s the water today?’ The second fish responds, ‘what is water?’
The fish doesn’t recognise water because all it’s ever known is water, so there’s no context to the experience of water.
The water is a metaphor for these personal truths. When they are all you’ve ever known, you live within that experience like the fish in the water. When you are immersed in these truths, they are too close to see.
The unpleasant messages that self-doubt triggers about these parts of ourselves that we consider to be weak are truths that we have been suppressing. Think of this as a first level of truth.
The problem is that when you suppress your negative, critical, and judgemental nature, you do so with negativity, criticism, and judgement. You judge and criticise yourself for your negative thoughts. You judge yourself as wrong for having those thoughts.
These judgements are the ‘rules’ that come with our social conditioning; or how we think the world should be operating, what people should and shouldn’t be doing, or expectations we have created for ourselves and others, and so on.
Your internal voice says things such as:
“Nobody wants to hear your bitching and moaning.”
“Your negativity is toxic, it will drive people away.”
“You must put on a brave face and show everyone ‘you’ve got this.’”
“You need to stop being a victim.”
“You know there are so many other people out there worse off than you, so what have you got to complain about? Be grateful!”
“You just need to get on with it and stop holding yourself back.”
“You just need to believe in myself. Isn’t that what everyone says to you?”
“That’s just the way things are, get over it.”
This suppression may work in the short term and enable you to function for a while, but holding all that negativity and judgement below the surface becomes exhausting.
And because you’re suppressing negativity and judgement with negativity and judgement, the first level of truth is self-reinforcing and that’s why it keeps you stuck. You can’t challenge the negative thoughts without acknowledging the negative thoughts.
Eckart Tolle says, “Whatever we resist, persists, and whatever we fight, we strengthen.”
Instead of fighting these harsh and critical messages, the key is to acknowledge them as a first level of truth.
Doubting Your Truths
Whilst it may not feel nice to accept that there are parts of us that we feel unworthy, or incompetent, or even shameful, when you are able to acknowledge them you know that at some level you actually do believe them. And when you acknowledge this, you have an opportunity to question them, or doubt them, and that takes the power from them.
Now you are able to access the deeper level of truth that is beneath these parts. These are the limiting beliefs that cause you to think these parts of yourself are weak and not good enough.
Eckhart Tolle also says, “Whatever you expose to the light, becomes the light.”
By bringing these excluded parts of yourself out into the light, you get to question them and gain a different perspective. You get to doubt these truths that you may have been carrying since childhood, but you didn’t know were there and driving you.
You get to challenge these truths and transform that drive so that it begins to empower you rather than limit you.
You get to recognise and honour the rich tapestry of life and everything that has made you the strong, resourceful, creative, human being that you are today.
How to Meet Your Truths
The etymology of the word ‘doubt’ is simply to hesitate. The first step of meeting these truths is about hesitating and tuning in with them.
The second step is about suspending the judgement that keeps you stuck. The cure for judgement is compassion. So, meeting those parts of yourself with compassion is the key.
Amy says, “Self-compassion is the process of being open to one’s personal failures, inadequacies, and suffering and responding to them with common humanity, mindfulness, and self-kindness.”
You can see the full episode here: https://oliviadsilva.com/meeting-yourself-with-compassion/
You may also enjoy my episode with Dara Blumenthal Ph.D. where we talked about Embracing Tenderness.
Dara says, “Die more. Learn how to kill your ego more. Continue to enter into your suffering more. All of that is tenderising work and, as you do that, you actually become much stronger.”
You can see the full episode here: https://oliviadsilva.com/the-doubters-with-dara-blumenthal/
The paradoxical magic about this work is that by allowing your weaknesses to come to light, you actually become much stronger.
If you want to know more about my project and how you may discover the purpose of self-doubt in your life: https://oliviadsilva.com/the-purpose-of-self-doubt/