Overcoming Self-Doubt that May be Holding You Back in Your Life
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition & Job Search Coach | Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach
Have you ever chosen not to do something because you secretly doubted that you would succeed even if you gave it your best shot? Did you prefer not to try rather than to try and fail? After all, trying and failing can lead to embarrassment and humiliation.
I know I have held myself back at times in my life. I have shared before in previous posts that I didn't go for my Ph.D. until I was 50 years old. I had been encouraged to pursue it when I got my first Master's degree. That was when I was 37.
Later, I was encouraged again when I was 48. But it was another two years after that before I finally screwed up the courage to go for it.
What stopped me? Self-doubt, pure and simple.
I recently listened to a podcast episode with one of my new social justice heroes, Preet Bharara. If you aren't familiar with Preet, you should check him out. He has had a distinguished career as a U. S. District Attorney. And he continues to distinguish himself now in private life as a podcast host and author.
The two men are both highly distinguished attorneys and former government officials with a long list of accomplishments between them. In spite of their many accomplishments, however, they shared their insights into "impostor syndrome" in this podcast. Preet had written about it a little in his book, and Chuck asked him to elaborate on it a bit for the listeners.
I suspect you have had this feeling on occasion. You may even think you're the only one who doubts themselves so often and so intensely.
Preet, as successful as he is, however, owned up to feeling some "impostor syndrome" when he was first promoted and put in charge of the Southern District U. S. Attorney's Office in New York. Chuck then offered that he had felt it at times during his career as well.
It was definitely "impostor syndrome" that kept me from going for my doctorate until I was 50.
Self-doubt and the fear of failure show up in many forms. One of them may be "impostor syndrome." You experience it when you think you aren't good enough to do something you really want to do. You doubt yourself and ultimately, you don't even try.
But what if you could learn to overcome your self-doubt?
What if you could decide that from this point on, you are going to go for your big, audacious dreams? What if you were to screw up your courage and "just do it," as Nike suggests?
What might you be able to do if you decided to do that?
For the next few weeks, I want to encourage you to take a serious look at the doubts that you have about yourself, whether openly or secretly. I want you to think about how those doubts may have caused you to hold back from something you wanted in your life. They may have made you pass up some crucial opportunities that were presented to you.
I once dated a guy who had been offered a football scholarship at a prestigious university out of state. He told me about it years later with a sad tone in his voice. I could tell there was a lot of "what might have been" going on in his head as he told me about it.
I asked him why he didn't take it. He blamed it on his father. He said his dad didn't want him to go "that far away from home." He said his "old man" didn't think he could handle being so far away from home without getting into trouble. So, he turned it down. He later joined the Army and went away from home after all.
I don't think it's necessary that everyone go to college to be a success in life. But what struck me about my friend was his sense of regret over a missed opportunity.
It also occurred to me to wonder if he didn't also pass on it with some relief at the time. That university was also academically challenging. Did he let his father keep him from taking the scholarship in part because he wasn't sure he could cut it in class?
I don't know. I don't know if he knows. But I do know that when he talks about that scholarship, there is a certain wistfulness in his tone that implies what might have been.
Self-doubt is a tricky thing.
It can disguise itself and present itself in many different forms. Sometimes it shows up as a practical way meant to keep you "safe." After all, taking chances on the unknown can be risky. What if it doesn't work out?
To give you a clearer picture of what I mean, take a closer look at what self-doubt is.
What Is Self-Doubt?
The dictionary defines self-doubt as "the lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities." This is a pretty good definition. But it doesn’t get into the various problems caused by it.
Think about these questions:
· When you succumb to self-doubt, what are the dangers you perceive?
· When in your life have you given in to self-doubt to protect yourself?
· Where do you think YOUR self-doubt comes from?
· And perhaps most importantly, do you believe you have it within your power to overcome your self-doubt?
The Dangers of Self-Doubt and How It Affects Your Life
Many dangers lie in hanging on to self-doubt. If you suffer from serious self-doubt, it’s essential to understand the harm you’re doing to yourself. It has impacted your past for sure. It is also most certainly affecting your present.
And it may ruin your future if you don't deal with it now. Those are pretty compelling reasons why you need to tackle it now.
Consider these facts about self-doubt and the harm it does by holding you back.
· Self-doubt ruins motivation. When you don’t think you can do something, you won't even try. You don’t trust yourself. Fear gets in the way of doing anything you want to do. This lack of motivation will affect your entire life. You may wind up with fewer satisfying relationships, a job you hate, and a life experience you don't enjoy much as a result.
· Self-doubt causes people to procrastinate. If you don’t think you know how to do things "exactly right," you may end up thinking you’re a "perfectionist."
Procrastination is an excuse for never finishing anything. Or maybe you finish it, but not until the last possible minute to do it and then do a crappy job. This is how people set themselves up for failure. Perfection isn't a virtue. It's an excuse!
· Self-doubt leads to a life filled with all kinds of regrets. When you miss out on opportunities, you will feel regret sooner or later. And regret, when left unresolved, can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. This will eventually build upon itself to create even more self-doubt. That will generate more regret. And the cycle continues. Ultimately, it may lead to profound depression.
· Self-doubt causes you to feel a sense of defeatism. If you allow self-doubt to continue, you can start to become morbid in your belief that you cannot experience anything good in your life. You will convince yourself that everyone else is happy but you. It leads you to an acceptance of failure.
· Self-doubt keeps you from undertaking self-improvement. When you have no faith in yourself, how can you even think about improving yourself? You think you have too much to improve on! After all, you have already convinced yourself that you can’t do anything! And maybe you even believe you are a victim of circumstances. You may feel that life is stacked against you. So why even try?
· Self-doubt keeps you from feeling inspired. When you don’t believe in yourself, it’s hard to get inspired to do anything new. Want to be creative? End your self-doubt and start believing in yourself.
Want to learn more about how to overcome self-doubt and improve your life? Stay tuned. This is part of a series of posts on this important topic.
That's it for now, though.
Until next time.
We have a group of teachers in the group who have decided it is time to make a change in their careers, and they are doing something about it.
If you missed out on the opportunity to join us last night, it's not too late to join. You can watch the recording of last night's call and catch up with ease.
And for the rest of this summer and into the early fall, you can start laying the foundation for the job change you want for yourself.
If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment for a 20-minute consultation to determine if this program is for you.
I hope you will think about it!