Where Did Your Self-Doubt Start?
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition & Job Search Coach | Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach
If you know the origins of the self-doubt you experience within yourself, it will help in overcoming it. Sometimes you just have to figure out where it started. Some people used to have a healthy sense of self-esteem at one point in their lives and lost it. Some never developed it in the first place. The cause for that might be a traumatic event that occurred early in one's life.
No matter the cause of your self-doubt, you can overcome it if you want to badly enough. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how it came about. What matters is what you do about it now. Start today by building your belief in yourself so that you can overcome any self-doubt that pops up in your mind. The sooner you start working on it, the better. In the meantime, you probably aren't enjoying life the way you deserve to be enjoying it.
Find below some places where self-doubt starts for some people. It varies for everyone, of course, and yours may be a totally unique experience, but in general, self-doubt arises from some similar patterns in people's lives.
Limiting Beliefs Learned During Childhood
Many people learn to delay their dreams and limit their big goals because of their parents. Most of the time, the parents are well-meaning. They want to keep you safe. And they want to keep you from being disappointed. As a result, they often discourage you from pursuing something that seems (to them) "too big a dream" for you to accomplish.
Sometimes the trouble comes from having abusive parents. Their interest is in keeping you small like they are. They don't have any self-esteem. Why should you? It becomes a generational pattern that can go on for decades unless someone dares to break the pattern and break free of the limitations set on them by their families.
This pattern occurs a lot in communities where people are extremely poor. Now, to be clear, nothing is wrong with being poor. But if your parents can't envision a better life for you than they had, they won't provide you with the kind of education and life experiences you need to break free of the pattern of poverty. Whether they mean to or not, they keep you on their level. Part of the problem is just not knowing what is available in the world beyond their experiences. Unfortunately, part of it is fear that you might show them up. After all, if you can work your way out of poverty, that means they could have, too.
Parents don't usually want to keep their kids from dreaming.
They’ think they're just "realistic." If you tell them about your dream to travel the world and become a writer, for example, they may react critically. Their reaction may come from fear. They may make statements that may be statistically true. Not everyone who wants to be a writer becomes a successful author, after all. But their fear may keep you from even trying. And later, you will regret not having tried. You may also resent them for holding you back from your dream.
A lot of parents discourage their children who want to pursue a career in the arts. They believe the odds are against their child becoming a successful author, dancer, or singer. Statistically, let's face it. They may even be right.
But there are exceptions to every rule. I recently saw the movie, Rocketman, the biopic loosely based on Elton John's life. He didn't get a lot of encouragement from his family. But he didn't let that stop him.
Think of people who have beaten the odds. They are no more special than you. The most significant difference is that they screwed up their courage, and they believed in themselves even when others didn't. They all had self-doubts at times. I am sure of it. But they went for their dreams anyway.
Bad Relationships from the Past Can Cause Low Self-Esteem
We often view ourselves through the eyes of others. If we are loved, we feelgood about ourselves. If we lose the love of someone important to us, it can be a blow to our self-esteem. You may even begin to doubt your ability to identify true love. And you become protective which translates to self-doubt and low self-esteem.
The relationship gone wrong may be with a parent. Not everyone is born to be a great parent, after all, and sometimes parents fail to offer their children the kind of unconditional love and support children crave and need to thrive.
Perhaps the relationship is a love interest. Most of us have experienced the heartache of teenage love gone wrong or unrequited. And marriage doesn't protect you, either. Your spouse may drag you down and create self-doubt in your life if you allow it.
These intimate relationships that become unhealthy and harmful are sometimes defined as "toxic relationships." Unfortunately, a toxic relationship can come from any relationship. You can experience them with both relatives and non-relatives, including colleagues and bosses at work.
Have you ever been in a relationship where a person criticizes and cuts down your ideas all the time? Does the person tell you that all of your ideas are "impossible?" If you have experienced this a lot in your life, it can take a toll. If you are still in any toxic relationship, it may be time to end it.
Harmful Work Environments and Experiences Can Cause Low Self-Esteem
At some point in your life, if you may have had a job that turned into a bad experience. If it was your first job, it might have stunted you from the beginning. Sadly, many people have had at least one lousy job where they felt abused by their boss or co-workers. I did when I waited tables back when I was in college, for example. And truth be told, I have worked for some principals who didn't have the greatest management style as well.
I work mostly with teachers in my coaching practice, but I also work with other mid-career professionals. I have heard many stories of abusive supervisors and administrators. More and more, mid-level managers seem to believe that bullying is an excellent form of motivation. It isn't. If you are being bullied at work, either stand up for yourself or get out. It's just that simple.
Lack of Life Experiences May Cause Low Self-Esteem
It is possible for you to suffer from self-doubt because you haven't had a lot of life experience. Some people were sheltered in childhood because they were sick a lot of the time. Other issues experienced in childhood may keep you from stepping out of your comfort zone. If you have no successful experiences to look back on, it can be hard to imagine success moving forward. If you have only experienced failure and disappointment, it can be doubly hard to envision success for yourself.
Where You Live (or Lived as a Child) May Cause Self-Esteem Issues
Where you are born makes a huge difference in how you see the world and your place in it. Many people who were born of privilege don't appreciate what it is like to grow up in poverty. How can they? And if you grew up in poverty, you may not have had experiences that would help you grow out of it.
The sad fact is that most people do not escape the situation they were born into. That doesn't mean you can't. It is just statistically a fact that many people don't. That is a pattern that is more and more evident today than it might have been a few generations ago.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, many poor kids were allowed to go to college and start careers that helped them break out of their cycle of poverty. Parents appreciated that a good education could help their children live a better life than they had had. And many parents during that time made tremendous sacrifices so that their children could go to college.
My parents did, for example. My dad sold off part of the family farm to help finance college for me, my sister, and my brother. My mother stayed in a job that she hated because it paid well and offered excellent benefits that helped the family financially while we were in school. They each made sacrifices so that my siblings and I could have a chance at a better, more financially free life than they had had.
No matter what your situation is, as long as you are living and breathing, you can change your circumstances. You are the architect of your life. I know this to be true. If you want to change your life, then do it. No one is stopping you, but you.
Undiagnosed Anxiety Can Cause Low Self-Esteem
Anxiety can be a symptom of self-doubt. It goes in a circle. Self-doubt can, in turn, cause anxiety. If you can find a way to address the anxiety, you may be able to overcome your self-doubt. Many people who have anxiety describe it as the bad sensation of a million butterflies in their stomachs. They feel this sensation whenever they think of doing something that makes them uncomfortable.
This feeling can be so bad that the person suffers from debilitating panic attacks. Some people don’t get the panic attacks, but they don’t push themselves either. They avoid a feeling of butterflies by avoiding any experience that they consider unpleasant.
There is a theory that adrenaline junkies see this same feeling as a positive thing and they seek it out. The person with anxiety, on the other hand, uses that same feeling to stop doing whatever causes it.
If you suspect that you have undiagnosed anxiety, it can be hard to get the help you need. Going to your doctor and confiding in them will make you anxious. You may fear they’ll think you’re silly or worse. But you can get help with your anxiety. Seek advice from your doctor as quickly as you can.
Vitamin deficiencies cause some symptoms of anxiety. Your doctor will likely perform some blood tests. Or they may recommend you to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication to help you at least short term. The thing you want to do is remove the anxiety so you can start enjoying your life more.
Established Patterns Can Exacerbate Low Self-Esteem and Self-Doubt
Sometimes people experience self-doubt simply due to patterns they’ve developed since childhood. Or perhaps they created the patterns in adulthood.
You may need to get introspective so you can see the truth about where your patterns arose. Then you’ll need to be able to take decisive action that will help you start to experience success in your life.
Establish new habits that you can build on as you overcome your self-doubt. You want to start believing in yourself. Even now, there are so many reasons that you should believe in yourself. Once you start realizing that, this next part should be simple.
In next week's post, I am going to offer reasons why you should believe in yourself.
Have you had a chance to check out my new podcast, "Teachers in Transition?" This last week's episode was about breathing as a stress management technique. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or GooglePlay, wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for "Teachers in Transition."
Please listen, leave a review and subscribe so you can be alerted to new episodes as they come out. This week, I will be talking about your personal and professional "brand" and how you need to recreate it when you change your job or career.