The “Luxury” of Self-doubt

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If you’ve ever found yourself constantly questioning your own judgement and abilities, thinking “who am I to do ….?” Or  “Everyone else is so much better at….” Or simply “I can’t” even though there’s no real evidence to prove that.  If you change outfits before you go out multiple times only to still feel a bit rubbish or if you often feel stupid or don’t apply for that great job/course because you just don’t quite believe you’re good enough then you’ll be pretty familiar with self-doubt.  Perhaps, instead, you just feel the need to prove yourself all the time or compete with others or to constantly demonstrate your skill and worth.

Self-doubt comes in various shapes and forms, but whatever form it takes, it sucks.  I know I and many others experience it disproportionately to our skills, talent and abilities.  How often do many of us look at ourselves and see something totally different to what the rest of the world sees? How often do you look at yourself and find yourself lacking despite evidence to the contrary – qualifications, feedback from others, previous successes?

Whilst questioning ourselves is common, how often do you question the cost of this pest on your life?  What would you be doing if you didn’t have those doubts whispering in your ear?  What is the impact on your relationships when you misjudge yourself?  How much time and energy is wasted on these things?

In one way it sounds preposterous to claim that self-doubt is a “luxury” when I know I, and so many people wrestle with this, often quite painfully.  However,  I am increasingly starting to think that it is in the realms of far too costly and I’m  wondering if it’s a luxury that I can afford.  I’m not talking about believing I’m superwoman, just not bending the knee to the voice that says “you’re not good enough” or “you can’t.”  One of the things I love about coaching and how it has benefitted me, is how it shines the light on the limiting beliefs we hold and how much they are based in fact or fiction – start down that route and it’s a scary, but exciting adventure.  When I start exploring the evidence that says “I can’t” and I find it’s actually far more shaky than I thought it sets me on a whole different path.

When I pause and reflect on the number of things I haven’t done over the years because of self-doubt it’s actually quite scary.  The scariest part is that I don’t think that I have been aware of that being the real reason.  Sound familiar?  If not, just consider for a moment how often your anxiety levels rise when other people are watching you?  How often do you hold back for fear of what others think?  How often have you made an excuse to not do something that actually was probably not the strongest reason when you truly reflect on it.

Having made the scary jump from employment to self-employment this year I can tell you that I am more aware of my own self-doubt than ever before.  When you are your own boss you no longer have that safety net of someone else having to give you feedback or guide your work – it’s all down to you and it’s sink or swim.  Whilst it’s great to be reflective, analytical and to evaluate your work –  self-doubt, for me, if unchecked, is a fast track to overwhelm, inaction and living life out of fear not hope.  It has the potential to keep my life as small and risk free as possible at the expense of all adventure and learning.  If I live like that what am I missing out on, what is it doing to my business, my relationships and what am I modelling to my children?

The thing is that whatever our area of self-doubt – body image, academic prowess, parenting, work, relationships, self-doubt can be a poison – it can suck the pleasure out of things that otherwise might bring great joy and fulfilment, it can cause us to hold back or make poor choices for fear of the wrong things and most of all it can cause us to pay a high price with nothing in return.

So the quick fix or magic wand? I’m not sure there is one –  how many qualifications, encouragements from others, likes on Facebook do we need before it goes away?  What is enough?  Change has to come from within and we are all a work in progress.

For me the awareness of what I am thinking and doing is key – it means I can now make a choice – to listen to that self-doubt  – or to take a step back weigh my decisions and choose to risk.  Is self-doubt a luxury that I can afford – actually I don’t think it is – can I afford to waste the opportunity to grow business that supports families, builds confidence in others for fear of putting myself out there when everything tells me I have the skills to do it (except that little voice of self-doubt)?  In 20 years time am I going to look back and regret taking brave steps forward or staying safe because I was too scared to do otherwise?  What if other people don’t like me or what I do? Pushing through self-doubt is hard, but it’s possible and exciting and worthwhile.

If you can afford to live in a small safe bubble and that’s ok for you then great, but if the cost of that will be huge regret then I would ask you again – can you afford it?  What is the impact on your children and relationships? What would it cost to make a change? Is it truly necessary to carry on as you are or is it actually in the realms of luxury?

Here’s the acid test…..ask yourself the question “If I had all the confidence I needed what would I do/say/think/feel?”  If the answer is something different to what you’re doing now then maybe it’s time to stop and think – what is the self-doubt costing you and is it a price you want to pay?

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