My mum has always told me that there’s no such word as “can’t”. I'll be playing the piano. There'll be a certain point on a piece of music that I just can't get past. I’ll say, “I can’t do this.” And she’ll say, “There’s no such word as can’t.” But then a feeling appears. One that can prevent a lot of our goals and dreams from happening: self-doubt.
Many people think self-doubt is the worst and no one should do it. When carrying out research for this piece of content, I came across a lot of articles. Many of them told me how I could banish self-doubt for good and remove it from my life. The amount of articles telling you why it’s good for you were limited.
There isn’t one thing we can point to that explains self-doubt. There isn’t a part of our brain that will help us understand it. The whole of our brain works together to create our sense of self. It’s something we’ll never be able to get rid of forever. Which is why the title of this post isn’t “How To Stop Doubting Yourself”. I believe the key is to try and balance this feeling. So today, we’re going to explore a simple question: can self-doubt be a good thing?
“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~ Honore de Balzac
There are millions of different reasons why each person doubts themselves. A writer on the Crew Blog has narrowed these down to two main categories (source).
We have a fear of failure.
I know this is a strong feeling that so many people in this creative community have. So much so that I wrote a post on how to cope with it recently. We don’t ever want to say that we failed at something due to our lack of skills or ability. So what happens? We procrastinate and put small amounts of work in. All to avoid the possible outcome of failure. Whilst this does distance yourself from failure, it will actually increase your self-doubt.
We experience the inability to express our 'desired self'.
Self-doubt can come from a place where we feel like we’re not expressing the person we want to be. We can distinguish between our ‘possible self’ and our ‘desired self’. Our ‘possible self’ is a mental representation of who we see ourselves as. Our ‘desired self’ is goals and incentives that we set ourselves to achieve our end vision of becoming the person we want to be. Those who see a ‘possible self’ experience more self-doubt than those who see a ‘desired self’. They don’t have the ability to believe that they can achieve their goals. So they don’t set any.
James Clear calls self-doubt “fear-based decision making” (source). It’s when we let our fears or worries take over and influence our decisions. By doing this, we usually make the decision not to do something. It’s things like:
- “I’d love to write an e-Book. But what if people hate it? I’ll just do some more research before I start.”
- “I’d love to tone up. But what if people think I look stupid when I’m out running? Maybe I’ll just do something at home instead."
The recurring pattern is that there are so many things each of us want to do. But the fear of self-doubt always holds us back. And we end up not doing the things we actually want to do most of all. We’ve all been there. It happens almost every time we want to try something new. I’ve been doubting myself a lot at the moment. Simply with the slight change of direction my blog is taking. What if people don’t like it? What if they find it boring? They’re questions we always ask ourselves. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Three Reasons Why Self-Doubt Is Good
It can be motivating.
Some creatives believe that they wouldn’t be able to create anything without the feeling of self-doubt. It affects us all in different ways. You know those little voices in the back of your mind that speak to you? You don’t have to listen to them all the time. I’m a true victim of this. And that’s when my self-doubt is at its worst. But the key here is to admit that you’re doubting yourself. Then carry on with achieving your goals anyway. Like Vincent van Gogh once said:
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
You need that break.
When we’re thinking of trying something new, a lull can appear in our creativity. It may seem like nothing is happening. But you need that time to process the idea in your mind. It might take you a few days to realise that you definitely want to go through with it. Or, that time might make you realise that your idea isn’t ready yet. Whatever the outcome, doubting yourself has given you time to make the right decision. I swear by taking breaks. You can read a recent post I wrote about them here - Seven Reasons Why It's Good To Take A Break.
It helps you grow.
When we doubt ourselves, we can spend a lot of time thinking about our self-doubts. It comes with the description, right? But it gets to a point when you need to ask yourself whether it’s worth it. Is your self-doubt worth this risk? What’s worse – to try and fail, or not try at all? This is the time when you need to start doing instead of constantly thinking. The more thoughts we have, the more self-doubt will push itself into the forefront of your mind. But moving on from it and taking action because of it will help you grow. You can break the cycle of self-doubt by stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something intentional for yourself.
Why Not Try This?
Next time self-doubt appears and you feel the fear, ask yourself some questions:
- What exactly is it that I’m afraid of?
- Who can I talk to about this?
- What can I do to push past it and achieve my goals?
I believe we all have a choice. We can believe in ourselves from the start. We can let self-doubt swallow us up. Or we can use it to push ourselves forward and grow.
I’d love to know, do you feel the fear of self-doubt? Or do you use to push you further?
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