I have always been a believer of the idea that we are the biggest critics of ourselves. At some point in our lives, we have experienced the nagging feeling of self-doubt. We ask ourselves questions like, “Have I done enough,” “Am I really good at this,” or the more existential “Am I going in the right direction?” If these questions have ever crossed your mind, you know well by now that they’re accompanied by the heavy feeling of being incompetent, and even worthlessness. Psychologists call this the “impostor syndrome,” or the consistent pattern of self-doubt, and the internalized fear of being called a fraud or failure. Sounds familiar?
Perhaps, the saddest thing about the impostor syndrome is the fact that it affects people who are actually doing well at what they do. They question their adequacy in their chosen vocations, the validity of their ideas, and even the worth of the work they do. Unsurprisingly, it is also commonly accompanied by lots of stress, anxiety, and sometimes, even depression. In the worst cases, people quit. They leave the work behind, thinking that they have already failed because of how they perceive themselves. Like I said, biggest critics of ourselves? Us.
While much of what I said sounds sad, there is actually a silver lining for when self-doubt becomes too overwhelming. At the end of the day, we still have to fight self-limiting thoughts, because this debilitating feeling is the enemy of growth. Here are some simple things that you can do to help overcome self-doubt:
1. Say no to yourself
I know it sounds too simple, but saying no to yourself can really help with fighting your anxious thoughts. You know how sometimes all the belittling thoughts we have branched out to more bad thoughts? Before that even starts to become a many-branched tree in your mind, say no. Sometimes, it is all it takes to quiet the negative voices we have in our heads. You have to realize that self-doubt is a pattern, and this pattern can be disrupted with a simple and firm shake of your head.
2. Break out of the comparison cycle
Self-doubt, on its own, is already hard to overcome. Try not to add to it by comparing your progress to your loved ones’ or colleagues’. Remember that growth does not look the same for everyone. Comparing yourself to other people can trigger self-hate, and sometimes even jealousy or resentment towards the other person.
A nice thing to do about this is to replace this toxic cycle of comparison with a much healthier habit. Go on and compare yourself to yourself. Track your growth over time, and see how much growth you have accomplished between Day 1 and Day 365. Not only is this a healthier habit, but it is also a great way to see a clearer picture of what you are capable of doing
3. Fail with grace
Accepting failure may be one of the hardest things to do as a person, but it is definitely necessary to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder. A person who has successfully overcome self-doubt is someone who can see failures as temporary things. They charge the setbacks to experience and try again the next day. Take note: winners are just people who failed and tried again. So, be graceful about failures—learn from them and decide not to define yourself by the list of things you failed to accomplish. Fail, but continue to believe in your potential.
4. Keep a journal
For days that you feel like you are down, a few words of affirmation from other people can easily lift your mood up. However, your friends or family cannot always be there to say how great you are at what you do. So, do it for yourself. On good days, write about your wins in your journal. Share what obstacles you managed to go through and find at least three things that went well for you during the day.
If you are just beginning to journal, remember to keep your documentation as factual and detailed as possible. You will find that it is so much easier to battle your self-doubt when you have hard facts about your accomplishments to back you up. You will also see that as you build the habit of writing, you will become more objective in judging your own progress.
5. Absorb positivity
In your journey to breaking your old habit of self-doubt, try very hard to eliminate unreasonably negative thoughts from your mind. My advice: absorb the positive vibes around you. If you feel like your day started bad, take the day back by listening to your favorite song, or better yet, by reading self-development books. You may not be the type to read books of the genre, but once you try to, you will see how they could re-frame your mind to focus on your potential, rather than on your perceived failures.
6. Develop a personal mantra
Remember how I said that we are our biggest critics? Don’t be surprised, but you can also reverse that role into becoming your biggest fan and supporter. Do this by developing a set of mantras to say to yourself every morning before you head to work or school. You can start by saying statements like “I am capable; I am beautiful; I am loved,” out loud in front of a mirror. When we begin our days on a positive note, we tend to carry the attitude throughout the day.
Now that you have read everything, I’m sure you understand that the simplest way to say all of these is “Be kinder to yourself.” We tend to speak harshly about ourselves, not knowing how badly it affects our self-esteem, and our ability to grow in our careers or personal lives. It’s funny how this very negative mindset can be fought by simply choosing to love ourselves better. However, like most advice that you may have heard, this is also easier said than done. It takes work to learn how to be kinder and more forgiving to ourselves, but it is definitely worth the time you will be investing. Come to think of it, what better way is there to combat self-doubt than by turning your energies to loving yourself better?
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