Self-doubt is a master of disguise with an arsenal of special effects at its disposal. It often lurks behind overwhelm and confusion throwing out a smoke screen of obstacles to keep us stuck.
We all occasionally play our own version of this classic self-doubt scenario. Set against a backdrop of hopes and dreams, the story plot features characters locked in inner conflict and procrastination brought about by a multitude of becauses, and woulds, shoulds and should haves. It co-stars doom and gloom with cameo appearances by fear, guilt and shame.
It’s a common story. But it is just a story.
In dealing with self-doubt it’s important to know that the story we tell ourselves directly creates our experience. Scientists now know that perception influences brain chemistry, which in turn creates our experience. The brain responds to the story we’re telling by releasing a cocktail of neurochemical compounds and hormones into the body. In his book Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton tells us that shifting perception is the key to rewriting our chemistry and altering our experience.
To coach this talented author past her momentary but all-consuming self-doubt, I asked her to tell me another story. “Tell me about of the births of your children,” I said. Suddenly her voice filled with joy, love and enthusiasm.
“Was each birth experience the same?” I asked her.
“Of course not,” she answered.
“Was each one as joyous and momentous as the other?”
“Of course,” she responded.
“And did each baby have a unique life of his and her own?” I inquired.
As she focused on a positive experience, she relaxed. Her perception instantaneously shifted. She understood exactly how to change her own story to one with a happy ending so that she could stop comparing and enjoy the distinct creative journey of her new project.
Self-doubt is a fast moving current, but you can keep from getting swept up in it by using the following technique.
1. Keep a clear head. Remain calm. You can escape the grip of self-doubt before it pulls you under.
2. Stay grounded. Keep your feet firmly planted in reality by asking: “What story am I telling myself?” Sort out the fact from the fiction. What part of the story comes from fear? What is the real truth? Self-doubt has a way of casting half-truths laced with fear and catastrophic thinking.
3. Conserve your energy. Fighting the tide of self-doubt is exhausting. Conserve your energy and keep yourself afloat by changing your focus. Do something positive. Take a walk. Get some exercise. Go to the movies.
4. Change the tide. Practice deep breathing exercises. Rewrite the story in your head by asking: “What’s another story I could tell myself right now? What story supports the outcome I want to achieve? Spend some time visualizing yourself in that positive scenario. Breathe.
5. Call for help. Getting support during times of self-doubt is vital. Call someone you trust. Share what’s going on for you, about how you are working your way out of self-doubt. Remember also that sharing brings stories to life, so stay focused on your new story—tell the one with the happy ending.
If someone you know suffers from self-doubt, be a lifesaver and help them from getting swept away by sharing these tips.