Self-doubt is a reality that almost everyone faces. Depending on how often it comes up for you and how intense your reaction to it will determine how much it interferes with your life. But whether self-doubt is a major factor in your life or only a small issue every once in a while, it’s worth understanding what’s happening for you and how you can cope.
Self-doubt is a normal human experience.
Although it may sometimes seem that everyone else is going about their lives feeling confident and self-assured, let me assure you that this is not true (no matter what Instagram would have you believe). Self-doubt is a completely normal and evolutionarily adaptive part of the human experience. As human beings we are mammals who rely on our communities for our very survival. We are a social species and we must participate in community in order to survive and thrive. This is hard-wired into each and every one of us and is the basis for social comparison. It is adaptive for us to seek approval from our communities and self-correct when we sense that we are out of sync with the others members of our community. Of course, this evolutionarily adaptive trait can also become maladaptive when it becomes too entrenched in the way we see ourselves and our relationships with others. All this to say, when you experience self-doubt, know that you are not alone and in fact you are feeling something deeply ingrained in your DNA as a human being.
Self-doubt can be responsible for mood shifts.
When self-doubt shows up, you may notice that your mood shifts significantly. You may have been having a good day, feeling great, and a thought arises that makes you question yourself. Next thing you know, you may be filled with anxiety or be in a spiral of depressive feelings. It is important to be aware enough of your thoughts and feelings to notice when this happens. If you don’t notice, you likely won’t be able to address the problem head on and you may find that your low mood or anxiety symptoms persist much longer than they have to. If you are able to pinpoint the mood shift as related to self-doubt, you can speak directly to it.
Look inside yourself for reassurance, not the outside world.
Once you have acknowledged that self-doubt is responsible for your shift in mood, you can speak directly to yourself to help get things under control. It is vital that you look inside yourself for reassurance and not to the outside world. Engaging in affirming self-talk such as “I did my best”, “everyone makes mistakes”, “I am good enough”, “I know that my intentions were good” is the key to stopping the spiral of low mood. If you look to the external world, you will likely make the spiral of self-doubt worse. You may hope for reassurance from others that never comes, you may compare yourself to someone else in hopes that you feel better but will only see the ways that self-doubt makes you feel ‘less than’ that person. Looking inside yourself is essential.
Navigating self-doubt is a practice.
There are so many internal and external forces at play that breed self-doubt in all of us. It is impossible for it to go away quickly or at all for that matter. Engaging in reassuring self-talk, validating and normalizing your feelings with self-compassion and looking inwards as opposed to outwards are all part on an ongoing practice that is required. Becoming aware of your emotions and bodily sensations will help you pinpoint when self-doubt emerges but this kind of awareness is also a practice. Go easy with yourself, be patient and don’t give up. You are your best bet!