by Jessica Thiefels | Featured Contributor
Self-doubt is real—and we’ve all felt it at some point in our lives. In fact, in a recent poll on my Instagram Story, of 90 responders, 85 percent said they struggled with self-doubt in some area of their lives.
While that self-doubt is totally normal, it can keep us from taking action. Instead of moving from dreaming to doing, we get lost in analysis paralysis, criticism and most importantly, fear. What would people think if I fail? What if I think I can, but I can’t? What if I’m not enough?
The thing is, this self-doubt will always be there because it’s rooted in fear. As long as we’re moving toward something that matters to us—and pushes us out of our comfort zone—that fear is going to pop up again and again, which is why you can’t let it stop you.
As Steven Pressfield, author of, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, says: “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.”
In reality, this self-doubt, as pesky as it is, is actually a good thing. If you’re doubting yourself, you’re likely committing to achieving what matters to you, and that’s always a good thing.
This year, instead of letting it paralyze you, get familiar with it. When you welcome self-doubt into your world, you may just find that you become fast friends.
Recognize It in Your Body
The first step in welcoming self-doubt as a friend is recognizing when it comes up. We often feel this first and foremost in our body. Like any stressor, it affects us physically, not just mentally, and if you can recognize it creeping in, you can start to become friendly with the feeling instead of resisting, or worse, ignoring it.
Become a student of your self-doubt for the next few weeks and notice how you feel when it comes up. As you move into a place of questioning yourself, does your chest tighten? Does your heart flutter? Does your stomach turn?
When that happens, feel into the sensation in your body. Welcome the feelings as they come and go, like you do with your thoughts when meditating. Make a note of what the feeling was and what you were doing. Do this over the course of a week or a month and you’ll likely notice patterns. This gives you an idea of when that self-doubt is triggered, allowing you to prepare yourself to welcome it in next time you’re doing the same thing, rather than being scared or deterred by it.
Understand Why It’s Showing Up
When you slow down and recognize the self-doubt, don’t judge the thoughts or shame yourself for feeling them. Instead, get curious and let the feelings guide you. Like a good friend, the self-doubt can support you in achieving your dreams if you let it.
For example, if you notice you always feel self-doubt as you sit down to send an important email, you may be struggling with fear of rejection—What if they don’t respond? What if their response isn’t what I want to hear?
Now, instead of being stuck in this feeling of self-doubt, you have something to work on: why you’re struggling with fear of rejection. Tackling this underlying issue will allow you to be more powerful in your work and more successful with what you hope to achieve.
Let It Be a Reminder to Trust
We often feel self-doubt when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have big dreams, but if we can’t understand the “how,” we start to wonder if we can ever make them a reality. I notice this come up as I write my book. I’ve never published a book before, and my goal is to become a NYT best-selling author, so every once in a while, I feel that self-doubt flare up—How is that even possible? I don’t have a big brand. I don’t know how the publishing world works. I don’t know how to do this.
When that happens, I remember something important: you can control how much work you do and how you commit to your goals and dreams, but there’s something else playing a role in your success: The Universe, or the higher power that you believe in.
This higher power meets you at the point of action. You don’t need to have it all figured it out. You don’t need to know HOW it will happen. You just have to trust that if you move toward what you want with intention, your higher power will be at your side, pulling strings and supporting your efforts too.
Let It Open You Up to Support
This self-doubt is also an important reminder to surround yourself with people who have strengths in areas where you don’t. Of course you doubt that you can code that app because you’ve never written a line of code in your life! That’s just common sense—and though you could probably figure it out if you had to, you can also ask for support instead of letting the self-doubt consume you.
For example, I’m working with an agent who knows the publishing industry, and many of the top publishers, so I can let go of the need to control that part. Let your self-doubt guide you toward figuring out where you can bring in support so you can let go of the need to control, and the self-doubt that comes with it.
Become Besties With Your Self-Doubt
Self-doubt will always be there if you’re working toward goals that matter to you because you open yourself up to criticism and failure when you do. Instead of letting that self-doubt have power, or keep you stuck, become friends with it. It can be a guide if you let it, so lean into the feeling, understand why it’s showing up, and then let your higher power support you, along with others who bring strengths where you know you have weaknesses. It’s normal to feel self-doubt, but instead of letting it run the show, welcome the guidance that comes with it—you may be surprised by what you learn when you do.