Doubt sneaks into our lives slowly and gradually until suddenly we realize that it has consumed us. Doubt can interfere with even the best of marriages, sever the most talented career trajectories, rob the most brilliant creativity and shatter the most dedicated of drives. How is it that the seed of doubt alone can take down so much? Here are four important spheres of your life in which self-doubt can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to create, and how to beat it.

1. The newlywed

Doubt about marriage is a proven harbinger for unhappy matrimony and divorce. As common as prewedding jitters may be, UCLA psychologists found that newlyweds who reported doubts before their wedding were two-and-a-half times more likely to be divorced four years later. Those doubters still married after four years reported being significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those who didn’t experience doubt. Once the seed of doubt is planted, it is nearly impossible to ignore. No evidence exists that problems stemming from doubt in a marriage ever go away – in fact, such problems have only been shown to escalate over time. As the trust is lost, so is the relationship.

Marital satisfaction varies from culture to culture and is largely dependent on the couple and the associated social support system they marry into. Some cultures help to prevent the risk of doubt by eliminating the opportunity for separation. In cultures where divorce is not a seemingly viable option, the question of “Will this last forever?” is not even a consideration. As a result, doubt is seldom a factor and these couples tend to experience longer-lasting marriages.

What can we learn from these cultures? Remember that you made a decision to spend your life with someone for sound, rational reasons. Your choice was logical, it is only your doubt that is worth questioning. Second-guessing is nearly impossible to prevent, but easy to overcome. The key is awareness. If you are able to recognize that doubt is our mind’s natural tendency to double-check that we are making sound decisions, then you are in the driver’s seat. You can choose to digest the emotion and remember the logic behind your choice. You are in control, not your doubt.

2. The artist

For the creative, self-doubt is enemy number one. A creative needs to express, not impress. If expression can inspire, resonate and uplift, the audience will respond with rewards in many forms, be they remuneration, accolades or applause. The key to fulfilling and purposeful art is to let the beauty and the emotions drive you, not to be distracted by how the work will be interpreted or received. If you allow the audience’s response to distract you, doubt will inevitably creep into the creative process and that will slowly but surely kill the artist in you. You are an artist – that’s all that matters. Trust your intuition and people will respond to your bravery and uniqueness. Let the finished product speak for itself.

3. The entrepreneur

Self-doubt can destroy the entrepreneur, who needs confidence to endure the highs and lows and the hesitation of others. Doubt diverts your attention from the necessary persistence it takes to succeed. Even if your innovation fails you, it is still worth a lot as you gain experience, and that experience serves as the seed for future triumph. As an entrepreneur, you are also setting the tone for all of your employees, whom you are asking to have faith in your guidance and ideas. Trust your talent. Be a solution-oriented thinker. If you foresee an issue in your business, don’t let self-doubt overwhelm you. Instead, develop a solution and move on.

4. The athlete

The marathoner can’t doubt her ability to cross the finish line, the pitcher can’t second-guess his fast ball, the quarterback can’t hesitate before passing the ball for the game-winning touchdown, and the wicket-keeper can’t doubt the techniques he uses to take the fielder’s throw and create that extra fraction of a second needed to run the batsman out. Self-doubt enables failure to become the inevitable. As an athlete, train until you have the confidence to win. Train enough that the doubt is no longer a factor. You have the ability to eliminate doubt by knowing that you’ve worked as hard as you can, that you’ve given it your all. Don’t think about what others are doing or how they will perform. Know yourself, trust your talent and know that you’re giving it all you’ve got.

Learn to doubt your doubt

We doubt so many facets of our lives, often without even realizing it. Sometimes we see dangers that are not there. Oftentimes, it isn’t until we’ve let doubt fail us that we “suddenly” realize what is broken. We fail to notice the gradual nature of doubt, and allow it to consume so much of our routines. Slowly, gradually, and then suddenly, doubt squanders us. Awareness of this habit can help prevent the devastation caused by self-doubt – recognize it and make a diligent effort to combat the uncertainty.

Learn to doubt your doubt. Having confidence in your doubt leads to more distraction and less productivity. Questioning your doubt can lessen its crippling impact and help you to regain focus. It is so easy to stop yourself before you even try. Be mindful of this habit and work diligently to break it. Remember that you have the control to overcome self-doubt. Always, always, doubt your doubt.

Featured photo credit: Christine Heidel Photography via flickr.com

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