New challenges, circumstances, and people bring with them a feeling of excitement, adventure, thrill, and sometimes, anxiety and self-doubt. Self-doubt is mostly an intense feeling of uncertainty that can creep in at any time. Doubting yourself is natural, and everyone gets this feeling at one time or another in their life.
Self-doubt becomes a cause for concern when the feeling takes a debilitating turn, and you cannot think of anything else. When self-doubt becomes debilitating and arises from negative experiences in the past that are not laid to rest, it can become extremely harmful. At such times, if the self-doubt is not addressed, it may further lead to:
- Low Self-esteem
- Imposter Syndrome (feeling like a fraud even when qualified or successful)
- Decrease in Self-compassion (negative feelings towards oneself)
- Decrease in Confidence
- Emotional Instability (unsure attitude, emotional turbulence)
- Procrastination (the act of putting off things)
Is Self-doubt Always Harmful?
Some psychologists believe that everyone should have a healthy mix of self-doubt and confidence. Having either of these two aspects completely missing from your life can cause severe issues in work and life. Instead, most people seek a balance between confidence and self-doubt so that they can work on their shortcomings, keep improving, and succeed in their personal goals. Having the self-awareness to realize which aspects of life are self-doubt and overthinking can be highly beneficial in the long term.
Self-doubt isn’t always harmful. Healthy self-doubt could lead to an increase in hard work, persistence, and confidence. Some people are prone to producing their best work when faced with feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and self-awareness.
Self-awareness plays a critical role in realizing which feelings are self-doubt and which can be worked on with help. Focusing too much on the shortcomings and ignoring your personal value can balloon into unhealthy methods that could lead to self-sabotage, self-blame, and feelings of failure.
Causes of Self-doubt
Self-doubt could emerge as a direct result of childhood experiences, criticisms, attachment issues, comparisons, and more.
Some of these reasons could be attachment issues. Attachment issues are directly related to developmental phases between infants or children and their primary caregivers. Self-doubt stems from a lack of bonding or attachment between children and caregivers during infancy and developmental years. Since attachment is adaptive between children and adults, there could be a gap in proximity, or an absence, which could be the primary cause of self-doubt.
On the other hand, secure attachments between children and caregivers are the foundations for better relationships as adults. Adults who formed secure attachments as children with caregivers, friends, pets, and family members are more likely to feel less self-doubt, anxiety, and feelings of insecurity. These adults are also more self-compassionate, self-aware, and confident and have less to no feelings of imposter syndrome, overthinking, depression, or emotional instability.
Another major cause for concern is constant criticism. Being criticized constantly can also contribute significantly to self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Children and adults who are repeatedly told they are lacking, not good enough, or incapable may constantly think about these negative thoughts. They could also experience extremely high levels of self-doubt that may harm their physical and mental wellbeing in the long term. A study using fMRI showed that constant criticism affected brain functions, cognitive control, and emotions.
Children and adults who are constantly compared to siblings, peers, friends, and over-achievers face severe self-doubt issues that could lead to feelings of inferiority, shame, depression, and more. Constant unfavorable comparisons can lead to self-destructive behavior, severe cases of anxiety, and social awkwardness.
How To Overcome Self-Doubt?
Overcoming self-doubt need not be a challenge. It can be tackled with face-to-face therapy or online counseling. However, there are alternative steps you can take at home while considering online therapy.
Remember Past Achievements
Reflecting on past achievements, and recollecting the hard work, challenges, and feelings of triumph can help reduce self-doubt. It is always best to remember past achievements that arose from facing your fears and anxieties and how you overcame them. Reminding yourself of things that have turned out excellent in the past can help you crush debilitating self-doubt at a critical moment while making a decision. However, constantly focusing on the past and not taking corrective actions in the present can be equally harmful. It is ideal to seek online therapy and start correcting the negative thought process and association with self-doubt.
Self-compassion is the process of remembering that you are human and mistakes happen. While considering a life-changing career leap or starting a business venture, it is vital to remind yourself that everyone is allowed to make errors, and there are ways to mitigate risk and financial concerns. Self-compassion helps create self-worth and decreases self-doubt in the long term.
While it is critical to work on oneself, it is also prudent to seek help. Reach out to your partner, loved ones, close friends, or family when you need support. Seeking assistance is one of the best ways to start the journey that helps to overcome self-doubt. Speaking to friends, loved ones or a mentor can help with the reassurance needed that helps with a boost in confidence.
If you are not comfortable speaking with others, there are options like online therapy. This type of therapy is extremely discreet and can be conducted from the comfort of your home. Skilled counselors are available throughout the week and can be approached via text and audio messages.. Therapists help with tools that alleviate the feelings of self-doubt. These techniques can also help improve your mood and overall mental wellbeing. Seeking help is the best way to overcome self-doubt.
Avoid Personal Comparisons
As we mentioned earlier, comparisons can lead to severe self-doubt. It is best to remember that each person has a different journey and several paths separate from yours. It is best to identify triggers that invoke a personal comparison, and instead of dwelling on the thoughts of ‘Why Me?’ or ‘Why Not Me?’ It is best to express gratitude for all the things you are thankful for. Reminding yourself about your talents, skills, and achievements will help reduce the feeling of self-doubt, and increase confidence in your abilities, instead.
Find the Source
Spending time digging can help find the source of your insecurities and self-doubt. Finding the origin of your self-doubt will not cure it immediately but will help you understand why the self-doubt manifested. The root of your personal self-doubt need not be a circumstance; it could also be a person or a thing you read somewhere. Therapy helps provide the tools to get to the source of mental health issues and eventually overcome them with correctly remediated measures.
Change Your Social Circle
If you have harmful friends in your life (and can identify them), you should immediately distance yourself. Instead, spending time with supportive people who believe in you can help reduce feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and anxiety. Surrounding yourself with individuals who support and encourage you, motivate you, and push you to be a better version of yourself daily, are the best pillars of strength in your life. Anytime you feel self-doubt creep in, you should surround yourself with the people who stand firmly by you.
Keep A Journal
Many psychologists and experts believe journaling benefits mental health. Journaling is known to reduce anxiety, overthinking, and brooding behavior and, instead, increase self-awareness, self-compassion, and positive emotions. It is also a favorable way to remind yourself of the personal thoughts, feelings, and insights you have and try to get better each day. Journaling is an intensely personal therapeutic tool that has benefitted countless people and should be considered the start of a positive association with mental health.
Find New Motivations and Goals
Finding new motivations that allow you to counter self-doubt are instrumental in the long term. While you may not act upon them immediately, connecting to a purpose will enable you to look towards a better future that is not bogged down by self-doubt and anxieties. For many people, positive reinforcement, goal-setting exercises, inspiring TedTalks, speeches, or other forms of motivational content also help.
Self-doubt does not need to become debilitating to the point that you stop seeing all the positive things in your life. It should be treated as any other health-related issue and be dealt with immediately. There are several tools, tips, and techniques that can help control, resolve, and eventually remove the feelings of self-doubt. While self-doubt can also be a positive tool for confidence-boosting and challenges, it should be treated as a learning tool.
Surrounding yourself with positive people that add value to your life can help immensely. However, if you are uncomfortable voicing your emotions, you can always seek online therapy as a method to discreetly put the self-doubt to rest. DoMental offers licensed counselors for individuals and teens and can help with a host of therapy options.