I am probably not capable of doing this. What if I mess up? What will people say? Actually, I am an underperformer. I am not smart enough to handle this or that. Aren’t these sound like questioning one’s judgement? Of course they are. Everyone of us must have listened to an internal voice that plays with our psyche and flakes away our confidence and shakes a leg with doubts. Such doubts quiver one’s actions, abilities, thoughts, etc., and hence gives birth to self-doubt.

Self-doubt, from the dictionary, is a lack of faith in oneself. Would it be alright to consider it a part of experience or habit? Psychologists and psychiatrists have varieties of terms and definitions for self-doubt, but to make it simple self-doubt is a part of one’s behaviour that comes from the way they have been raised. The surroundings including neighbourhood, societal pressure, type of people associated with, methods of learning that one embraces, history of mistakes, performance anxiety, etc can be the ground for self-doubt.

According to the book the Self-Esteem by Dr. Joe Rubino, 85% of the population suffers from low self-esteem or self-doubt. It can be speculated that most of the severe incidents or accidents like sexual harassment and assault at the workplace or publicly are the result of self-doubt. They may  doubt of being blamed, doubt of not being heard, doubt of not getting justice, doubt of public defamation. self-doubt holds responsibility for many happenings and has much to answer for.

Healthy and unhealthy self-doubt

No self-doubt opens a door for overconfidence and gives way to bad decisions and choices. Sometimes self-doubt lets us recognise our potential and capacity, and questions our decision-making ability. Self-doubt in such moments is healthy.

Self-doubt which sways thoughts from perceiving own good qualities and makes people docile is unhealthy. A sense of unworthiness, incapability, inferiority, self-judgement, etc. gets shelter under unhealthy self-doubt.

A few general principles to distinguish healthy and unhealthy self-doubt –

  • If self-doubt is always your first reaction, it may be unhealthy.
  • If self-doubt has major impacts on your activities and works, it may be unhealthy.
  • If you are in regret or guilt after the decisions you made, it may be unhealthy.

Common causes of self-doubt

Past experiences and mistakes – The past is like a shadow which keeps following and affecting decision-making ability. Good experiences shower confidence whereas bad experiences upsets and rattle beliefs and confidence. Past experiences and mistakes authorise people to learn something new from them but failing to do so is a waste of a bright future which leads to self-doubt.

Childhood upbringing and conditioning – Upbringing and conditioning are the building block of habits, responsibilities, and personalities. This directly hits behaviour, if someone is raised with a low esteemed attitude, they gradually start to doubt their ability.

Comparison with others – Competition and comparison (these days) are the part and parcel of existence. Today, everyone is in a rat race and stressed in proving themselves the best one. May be Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest remains the priority. Comparison with others is like a comparison between a diamond and gold.  

Performance anxiety – Success and failure are a part of the performance. Both act as a benchmark. If someone tastes success this year, he/she would like to repeat the same and if someone tastes failure this year, he/she would like to perform better. In both cases performing better remains the primary focus and failing to meet the previous performances lead to self-doubt.

Some Do’s and Don’t

Do’s

  • Permit yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Write your past achievements.
  • Be in the present moment.
  • Value your learnings.
  • Keep patience and have faith in yourself.

Don’t

  • Always seek others for support.
  • Compare yourself with others.
  • Undervalue your learnings.
  • Be overconfident.
  • Give up before starting.

Get over from self-doubt

Face your fear instead of running from them – Self-doubt is the judgement of one’s ability that develops a fear of not meeting expectations. The more running from fears is the more distancing away from achievements. Facing fears is the ultimate step to achieve something and boost self-confidence.

Say no to excuses – Excuses are addictive. Making excuses, may be because of the situation, is different than depending on excuses. A self-doubt-immune person loves to be in the grip of excuses. Excuses invite procrastination which further results in low performance and failure. Saying no to excuses should be top of the priority list to get over self-doubt.

Practice the right kind of comparison – Humans are social and political animals. They are wired to perform, compare, work, and evaluate. Comparing to others is very common. But the question is – is comparison with others, right? No, the right kind of comparison is to compare yourself to your past versions, compare your works and achievements to your past works and performances. Such comparisons are roads to success, improvement, and self-confidence.

Name your inner critic – Talking about self-doubt, how can we forget to talk about the mesmerising inner voice that shakes our psyche and dances with doubts. This voice is very powerful and manipulating. Diluting its power and suppressing it is almost impossible but it can be controlled by giving it a name. Name can be anything like what you hate the most so that you do not wish to listen to this.     

The last corner

No matter what you call it – a habit or behaviour or experience, Self-doubt brings fear such as fear of failure, fear of being out of control, fear of incapability, etc. Because of such fear people may get ready to compromise and sell themselves short. The Mindset shift that refuses to listen to inner critic or voice of fear is enough to win self-doubt.

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