I know you know the feeling. It’s that wave that creeps up behind you, engulfing you, causing your heart to drop in your stomach. The thousands of thoughts of ‘but what if this happens…’ or ‘I can’t possibly do that..’ pop into your mind clear as day, as if it’s already happened instead. We call this experience being human and more specifically we know it as self-doubt.
The Number One Excuse for Procrastination & Fuel For Self-Limitation
Self-doubt is arguably one of the biggest excuses that cause people to procrastinate in their life by self-sabotaging all their dreams and desires. Self-doubt is effective because it holds you small and prevents you from taking action. This might not be what you want, but this is fulfilling the purpose of self-doubts job: to keep you safe and keep you living comfortably in familiar territory.
The reality is, self-doubt is about being stuck in your mind and being disconnected from your body, meaning that you don’t get to physically experience what it is you want to have because you’re too busy living out potential worse case scenarios in your mind.
Let’s say you want to make more money or have more money and instead you’re having self-limiting beliefs and experiencing self-doubts like:
“My current job doesn’t pay enough..”
“Saving money is boring..”
“I’m not good with managing money..”
All these self-limiting beliefs are happening in your mind (and maybe it’s true in your reality – but you wouldn’t have noticed it unless you had first thought this in your mind). As you continually think these thoughts, you fuel the fire for the list of things you don’t want in your life. This is the trick of your mind that keeps you from taking action, because if you do, you could step on one of these landmines that creates the worst-case scenario you’re apparently trying to avoid.
Living In The Comfort Zone
Not only does the mind fabricate these self-limiting beliefs, but it also searches for evidence to back them up. This might look like digging into the past for prior experiences in order to avoid those situations replicating in the future, or it could look like remembering something that happened to someone else so, ‘therefore it could happen to me too’. These pieces of evidence are a fence we build around ourselves to trap us in with our self-doubt in order to ‘stay safe’ in our comfort zone – that self-doubt being that cozy little fire you’re huddled up to inside your mind that’s being fuelled by all that ‘what if this happens’ worst-case-scenarios.
Some obvious reasons as to why self-doubt is not effective are that you’re not growing, you’re not shifting, and life is staying the same. When things stay the same, they stay under control – because control is consistency. The human mind loves being in control, therefore it prevents you from taking action so that you stay where you are, in your comfort zone where life is predictable. Interestingly, having things under control is simply a subjective perception. We always choose to see what we believe we can control, and if we believe we’re not in control, we look for ways to regain it.
Why We Trust Others Over Ourselves
Another method related to self-doubt in regards to ‘fuelling the fire’ and building our ‘fence’ for the sake of our comfort zone is: seeking external validation.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that self-doubt is actually a severe lack of self-trust. If we trusted ourselves, why would we doubt ourselves? Having a lack of self-trust pushes us to seek external validation – a trust in someone else or something else because we are unable to find it within ourselves. The reality is, if we’re having all these horrible negative thoughts in our minds, how could we possibly trust ourselves? We don’t, so we lean on others instead.
The reason why we lack self-trust is because something happened in the past where we failed ourselves and then we decided that we could no longer trust ourselves. Self-doubt becomes a safer tactic than to rely on ourselves ever again. To let others tell us what to do or to seek external validation means that if we fail, we get to blame the external situation for false information on someone or something else, rather than ourselves. There’s no escaping the disappointment of self-let-down. The only way to lessen the blow is to deflect those situations from ever happening again.
When we lean on others for external validation, this means that we get to continue avoiding that similar experience or moment in time where we failed ourselves and allowed self-doubt to take over.
There’s no power in this because we are always the ones that are creating our life, our reality and our perception. When we allow our past experiences to define our relationship with ourselves and we decide to not trust ourselves – we will always live in that reality of ‘never being able to trust ourselves’ and we will refuse to take any kind of risk outside of our comfort zone.
The sneaky part of external validation is that it gives our power and responsibility away. If we follow the advice, guidance, beliefs of others and it doesn’t work out – then we get to blame the ‘external validation’ on them, avoid responsibility for ourselves and continue to fuel the fire of ‘worst-case scenarios’ behind our fence of evidence because they were wrong and we were right – ‘it’s not safe to trust my own judgement and they too let me down though I trusted them as well’.
This entire situation can be a vicious cycle, if you let it. It’s interesting because it really does all start with the mind. It may seem that people have a lot of evidence for what they don’t want – but if we look for the evidence of what could go right instead, things will start to open up and perceptions will start to shift.
Putting Out The Fire
This entire experience is a pattern stuck on repeat. How to break that cycle is in fact: self-forgiveness. Letting go of what happened in the past and choosing for it to stop dictating the future is the first step. Asking yourself: what can I learn from these past experiences that will better prepare me to seek opportunities for the future instead? This inquiry is much more powerful than ‘how can I avoid replicating this failure again in the future?’.
The next step is really acknowledging that the past only lives in your mind. Even if you have physical evidence or a physical item to represent the past, if you give that item to a stranger, they will not have the same experience or judgement of that item as you do – because the past only lives in your mind. Remember, our perception of control and our beliefs are entirely subjective.
The journey of self-forgiveness is a process.
Have compassion for yourself for being doubtful or negative – there could be years, decades of evidence piled up for you to work through. At the end of the day, the underlying intention of all of this was to keep you safe, but keeping you safe does not allow you to grow. It’s time to let go now.
Whatever it is that you experienced in your past happened in order to allow you to make better decisions for the future. Things of the past were not punishments, but in fact lessons, to create the path for what you actually want for your future. These experiences may have even been a moment in time for you to get clear on what you don’t want as well, while discovering what it is you do want.
Look for the evidence in your life that you can trust yourself. Trust is trust. Whether you choose to trust yourself with money but not relationships – that is a choice, it’s still trust. Get the impact: What’s it like to doubt yourself? What are you missing out on? What do you not get to experience because of self-doubt? And what could happen if you trust yourself instead?
Remember: You get to decide to let go because the past lives in your mind. You get to chose to forgive yourself and allow that space for trust.
Here’s The Truth
What people actually don’t realize is that experiencing self-doubt is one thing, but choosing to allow the spiral into a negative rabbit-hole is another. Typically when people experience self-doubt, their mind starts automatically looking for evidence to support whatever doubt it is and then this drags us deeper into a negative hole of disempowerment.
What’s also possible when self-doubt pops up, is that it’s simply feedback. Feedback that you have fears, worries, concerns and doubts about what it is that you want simply because it’s important to you and you care. This does not mean who you want to be or what you want to achieve is impossible – it just means you’re entering a new uncharted territory of growth full of uncertainty because it’s something you’ve never done before. Dare I say it, with this perspective, self doubt is actually a positive thing.