Self-doubt is a powerful force, it has the ability to paralyse us into inaction and keep us stuck. But what if there was a way to harness this force and use it to drive our growth? Well, I believe there is. Read on.
Response to self-doubt can generally fit into one of the following categories.
The first category is where the force of self-doubt hijacks us and paralyses us into inaction. This is an unpleasant experience and it’s not useful. Nobody wants this response and we will generally go to great lengths to avoid this response. However, sometimes, when you least need it in your life, you may wake up with that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach and then you just have to deal with that the best way you can.
The second category is where we put up a fight against self-doubt. The moment we sense that wily foe creeping into our lives, we jump on it and crush it back down. This is favoured response in the majority of the personal development field; the 5-second rule. We crush self-doubt by taking action!
But what happens to our self-doubt in this scenario? Is it really dealt with or is it just pushed into a corner waiting for the next chink in your armour to creep back in?
Is any personal development strategy that requires you to deny a part of yourself truly sustainable?
I argue that both of these are fearful responses. We are not really dealing with our self-doubt and we are missing out on so much by not doing so!
There is another way
We can choose to respond to the presence of self-doubt with curiosity.
The first principle here is to recognise that the presence of self-doubt is a positive indicator in our lives. When we experience self-doubt, it is generally because we want something that we don’t feel capable to achieve. When we’re living happily in our comfort-zones, we don’t experience self-doubt.
If we can welcome self-doubt by actively searching for it in our lives, it will inevitably lead towards our heart’s greatest desire. If we recognise the presence of self-doubt as a positive force, we are more likely to accept it and want to work with it.
The second principle to recognise is that part of the earlier strategies I spoke about, where we will do just about anything to avoid it. This is a kind of motivational force that can assist us in our self-doubt inquiry. We do want to avoid paralysis and inaction because that doesn’t serve any good purpose at all.
Recognise how many times self-doubt has actually motivated you, because you have been unsure of your ability to achieve you’ve gone all out to make sure that happens.
I’ve been practicing this approach with some clients who I’ve been working with as case studies for a book I’m writing on ‘The Purpose of Self-Doubt’.
This is what we have found so far.
Self-doubt can be valid
When we find ourselves hesitating to take action and questioning ourselves, there can be a good reason for this. It can be an indicator that we really don’t have the ability we need. This can be helpful because it directs us towards developing that ability before coming back to the aim – my clients have ended up researching, learning new skills, developing their resilience and, even, asking for help to develop an ability!
Of course sometimes it is beneficial to ‘just take action’. The 5-second rule is great for getting out of bed, going for a run and even doing an activity like a skydive. But you might find that your hesitation is borne out of the significance of a particular action you might want to take. If something is really important to you, then this kind of black and white, ‘just do it’ kind of thinking doesn’t always serve the greater purpose. Sometimes it is important to try and tackle a task to your best ability. Sometimes you can even ruin a later opportunity by rough-riding over your doubt with no proper consideration.
Inaction doesn’t have to lead to paralysis, it can lead to greater consideration, development of ability and fruitful collaborations.
Self-doubt can direct us towards our limiting-beliefs
When we consider the purpose of self-doubt in our lives, we often get a sense that it may be protecting us in some fashion. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of fear in our primitive brains, to protect us from predators? We know that parts of our brains have never really evolved that much!
When we consider what it is that we need protecting from, it will inevitably lead towards a core belief such as fear of failure or not feeling good enough for the success we desire.
In these circumstances, an effective strategy is to double-down on the force of self-doubt and ‘doubt our doubts’. What does this mean? It means bringing into question the substance of these beliefs and transforming them to empower us rather than limit us. This is not a straightforward exercise but when we truly shed light onto these beliefs, we find that these are the real foe in our lives.
“Nobody said it was easy”
To coin the words of a popular song; to face our self-doubt with curiosity is not the easy, softer option. In fact, to be in that space of hesitation and consideration where the path and the next action isn’t clear, takes real guts and resilience. It also takes the kind of strategic wisdom employed on the battlefield; knowing when to hold back, when to proceed with caution, and when to charge. We are dancing on a delicate line with self-doubt because we cannot afford for it to overwhelm us.
We can learn much from the strategy of high-performance and endurance athletes. They know that growth is at the edge, they don’t run away from pain and stress, they welcome it and work with it. If we approach our self-doubt in same manner, it provides us with a solid and sustainable route to fulfilling our deepest desires.
The clients I have been working with have been showing true strength of character and resilience and their results are humbling and inspiring. I can’t wait to share these case studies with you!