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Last Updated on September 28, 2018

How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It

How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It

We have all been there.

At some points in our lives, we question ourselves whether we are doing good enough, what consider as successful or are we capable for all the uncertainties that might come up as we grow older.

We doubt about decisions and choices we made or simply feeling “I am just not good enough for that.”

That’s what we called self-doubt.

Self-doubt occurs when we are lack of confidence or feeling incapable of doing things we need to do. People who doubt about themselves panic about things would go out of control or not going the way as they expected.

A certain level of self-doubt is good because it indicates you understand what you need to improve in order to do a better job. (Just remember that doesn’t mean what you are doing is not good!)

However, persistent fear and self-doubt can hugely affect your life, in a bad way.

How self-doubt keeps you stuck

Let’s picture this:

Your boss has assigned you an important task because he thinks you are the most suitable person in the room. But instead of taking it as a recognition of your work performance, you started to panic.

You panic about whether you are capable of doing a great job and failing to perform well will become a big joke at work. You spend time stressing over every single decision you made and picture how things might go wrong.

It’s not surprising that fear will then play a big role in your own little drama. It brings you to his best friend named procrastination. You delay your work and feeling demotivated.

At the end of the story, you hand in your work at the very last minute and of course, it’s not hard to guess you will have the feeling of “I can actually do better than this”.

Why would you doubt yourself?

What causes self doubt? There’re plenty of reasons behind this evil and I’m going to explain each of them here:

1. Past experience and mistakes

Past experiences can have a huge impact on how we react, especially if you have had bad experiences before like a really broken relationship or being fired without a concrete justification.

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Past experience can shake and rattle our beliefs. However, you have to understand that your past cannot be altered but you need to stay stuck with it.

Keep referencing to past experiences without learning from them is just a waste of your bright future!

What you need to understand:

You have to understand that your past cannot be altered but you need to stay stuck with it.

Keep referencing to past experiences without learning from them is just a waste of your bright future!

2. Childhood upbringing

Our upbringing plays a big role in shaping our habits and personalities.

If you are raised by parents that constantly telling you that you are not good enough or natured by schools that judge students heavily on their grades, you might have already internalized the habit of questioning yourself since you were a child.

What you need to understand:

Tell yourself that you are a grown up now and this is YOUR LIFE. You are capable of making the best decision for yourself. You no longer need to seek approval from either your parents and teachers at school.

Education and what you have learned so far in your life have shaped you into a better person than you were 10 years ago.

3. Comparisons with others

It’s not surprising for us to compare ourselves with others because we are living in a world of competition.

We can easily compare our work performance with colleagues or simply in the overwhelming world of social media. It’s easy for us to envy others’ lives and thinking that we are not doing just as great as they are.

What you need to understand:

Comparing yourself with others is sometimes a good practice because by looking at what you are lacking, you can find ways to improve yourself so you can become better at what you do.

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But when you’re comparing too much with others about what they have and what you lack, you’ll start to lose yourself.

It comes down to the old and cliche saying — learn to appreciate yourself.

This is very true because we are all different and we are all good at different things. That’s just not fair if you judge a goldfish by its inability to climb a tree (or simply living on the ground.)

4. The rise of new challenges

This is a pretty normal case because we have no experience on how to react or what are the things that we need to do. The feeling of uncertainty and insecurity will make you feel uncomfortable.

What you need to understand:

Instead of thinking that you are not capable, take it as a chance to learn.

I am sure we all didn’t have the knowledge on how to walk properly when we were young but I am sure you are all doing a great job now, isn’t it?

Remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes because we all learn how to become better along the way.

5. Fear of failure / Fear of success

Take Eilizabeth Gilbert as an example. She is the author of the book Eat, pray, Love that sold more than 10 million copies around the world.

However, In her book Big magic-Creative Living Beyond Fear, she revealed that this success had also once become her biggest nightmare because she wasn’t sure whether she could replicate her success.

This can happen to all of us. Previous success can become our biggest fear because we might think that’s the best we can deliver and we will never produce anything that’s equally better.

What you need to understand:

Instead of thinking about how to replicate the success, think about how to outperform your success because doing the same great thing twice doesn’t mean you are better than before.

Learn from your success, knowing that even though you are good at something, there are ways that you can do better.

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Focus on amplifying instead of replicating, take it as a motivation to encourage yourself to do better, becoming greater at you are already good at! You should not be limited by your strength!

How to overcome self-doubt

So what can you do to overcome self doubt and be confident again no matter how tough things go?

1. Ground yourself and say stop!

Once you discovered there are negative voices running inside your head, try to stay in the present moment and focus on the positives are keys to set you free.

Try to prepare something positive so you can go through whenever you feel negative or unsure about yourself. Ideas on what you can prepare:

  • A list of counter arguments. Things like “I can do this.”, “It’s just another chance for me to learn.” ,”Wasting time on doubting myself cannot help with the situation” and “He/She is doing great but I am not bad too!”
  • A jar that contains all your happy memories
  • A file that contains all the photos that make you smile
  • A list of quick energy-boosting activities you can do
  • A box of healthy snacks that you can always go to

2. Take a break and get a boost of optimism.

Sometimes the longer we feel stuck in a situation or emotion, the harder it is for us to come out.

Just take a moment to relax and shifting your focus to something totally different. By doing so, it can allow us to clear out mind and look at things from a new and fresh perspective.

3. Don’t be afraid to seek help.

While it is important to work on ourselves, it’s also a good idea to get support from your loved ones.

They can be your partner, family members, friends, mentors, supervisors or even a coach.

Getting advice and reassurance from others can also improve our self-confidence and keep us motivated.

4. Take this 21-day challenge on regaining self-confidence.

I have this one great approach that has successfully helped me to build my confidence and become a person with gratitude.

I write things down, just as simple as it sounds.

By writing down things that make me question myself and review weekly, I am able to identify what makes me scared and have developed ways to improve myself.

And by writing down things that I am grateful for, I started to appreciate myself more and focus on what I have instead of what I am lacking.

I even stopped comparing myself to others because by looking at what I wrote reminds me that I am happy with my own life.

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A lot of people might think writing journal is a waste of time because we have to spend long hours keeping a record of what has happened but that’s not necessarily the case.

This is my 21-day plan on regaining self-confidence and you should give it a try too!

Day 1 to 7: Starting by “Write 3 things that you are grateful for.”

Review them at the end of the week and you will soon realize, the more you write, the more you will see there are actually a lot of things that can make you happy.

Day 8 to 14: On top of what you have been recording, “Write down times that you feel unsure about yourself and possible reasons behind.”

At the end of the week, you should be able to identify what are your biggest fear and moments that make you feel stressed.

During the review process, you can start to think of ways to solve your problems, it can be “focusing more on myself” or things you think you need to improve on.

I named mine “My awesome plan of attack.”

Day 15 to 21: Write down what you have done to overcome your uncomfortable feelings and how you feel.

No matter what you have done, write them down and recognize yourself!

We all need motivation along the way and no matter how small the steps you have taken, it’s an achievement and they indicate that you are one step closer to what you want to achieve!

Doing so does not only motivates you, it helps you to keep track with your progress and becoming the person you want to become.

Final thoughts

It’s common and normal to doubt ourselves, but you need to understand that staying stuck and panicking for too long won’t do you any good and it’s just a waste of time.

Try to get out from the loop as soon as you can and spend time on improving yourself. Don’t give up! You can do it!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on December 13, 2018

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

It’s Monday morning. The alarm rings. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you open your eyes?

“I really don’t want to go to work today”, “I have such a long day ahead, what a dread”, or “Yes! It’s a brand new week ahead! Looking forward to getting lots done.”

Whatever your response may be, ask yourself this question:

“What is it that made you feel unmotivated?” What was driving you to feel negative or positive about your Monday ahead? How to get motivated?

Meet Nancy

I used to have a colleague by the name of Nancy. She came to work at the same time every morning, and would leave at 6.30 sharp every evening. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. She was known to be the office grinch as she was often grumpy towards everyone, so much so people would avoid her whenever possible. She complained about everything under the sun.

I had a brief conversation with her one morning in the office lounge where we were both getting coffee. She told me she had been working with the company for over 20 years! When she told me that, I asked her what motivated her to stay on for so long, and her reply was simply “I don’t know. It’s a job that pays the bills, and is close to where I live.” With that, she walked away and I was left standing alone in the lounge with my hot coffee, at a loss for words.

How could someone be doing the exact same thing for over 20 years? And she clearly doesn’t enjoy her work, what with all that complaints and grouchy attitude. So why hasn’t she done anything about it?

The 2 Types of People

This might be an extreme case, but I’m sure you must know of people who have been doing the same thing for years and seem to not have any problem staying stagnant. Whether it be in their marriage, job, or personal endeavors, they seem to be getting along just fine without progressing towards anything ‘better’.

On the other hand, I’m sure you would also know of individuals who focus on the positive, set goals and are constantly pushing themselves to greater heights. Be it promotions at work, building a family, celebrating milestones in their marriage or relationships, upgrading houses and cars, setting up new businesses, or going to school again, these individuals seem to constantly progress towards something that improves or enhances their life.

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So what’s the difference between these 2 category of individuals?

What you feel like or don’t feel like doing, boils down to one thing. And that is motivation. It is the force, or lack of, that keeps driving you forward to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve your goals.

Without motivation, you’ll give up after a few failed attempts or even on the first tough challenge that comes your way. Or, in the case of Nancy, just remain where you are: unhappy yet not doing anything to progress ahead.

What is Motivation, Really?

Whether you realize it or not, motivation is a huge force in your life; and it needs to be harnessed in order to excel and actually enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many overgeneralize the word motivation. We think of being either motivated or demotivated as a simple “yes” or “no” state of being.

But motivation is not a switch. Motivation is a flow. To feel motivated, you need to dive beyond the surface. Just reading a motivational quote, being encouraged by your friends or even mentor won’t help you build sustainable motivation in the long run.

You can think of the motivation that we want to achieve like the Sun (self-sustaining and long lasting), which supplies a constant influx of energy to all life on Earth. Just like the Sun, your “motivation engine” has different layers, starting from the core and spreading out to the surface. The surface is what you see, but the real process is driven from the core; and that’s the most important part… I’ll explain why in a moment.

If you can create a self sustaining motivation engine, you’ll not only be able to find more meaning and purpose in your life, but you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of what you’re doing, which will make your roles and responsibilities less of a chore. Now wouldn’t that be a game changer?

Let me help you understand this motivation flow better, by breaking down the Motivation Engine into 3 parts:

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  1. Core – Purpose
  2. Support – Enablers
  3. Surface – Acknowledgement

I’d say we’re most familiar with layers 2 and 3, as we come into direct contact with both of them frequently.

The Second Layer: Support – Enablers

In essence, the second layer of the Motivation Engine (also known as Enablers) is what supports your goals. They can magnify the motivation core you have, or speed up the momentum that you build. Basically, they create favorable circumstances for things to go smoothly.  

The Third Layer: Surface – Acknowledgement

The third layer, also known as Acknowledgement, encompasses any type of external recognition that might give you motivation. It may come in the form of respect or recognition, such as compliments and praise.

Or it could be emotional support through encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism. It could also be affiliation, where you have mutual companions or buddies sharing the same goal or burden with you.

This is generally what you see on the surface when you look at other people. You see the external acknowledgement, respect, and recognition they’re getting.

The Innermost Layer: Core – Purpose

But what’s most important, and the true driving force behind your Motivation flow, is the innermost core – your Purpose. Your purpose is what differentiates the motivated from the demotivated, the achievers from the underachievers, the happy from the unhappy.

Your motivational core is your Purpose, and is sustained by two things: Having Meaning, and Forward Movement. With these two as a foundation, you’ll have a power source that will feed you motivational energy indefinitely.

So, how do you do these two things?

How to Sustain Your Purpose

Having Meaning is simple. Just ask yourself a question: Why?

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Why are you pursuing a certain goal? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. While motivation provides you energy to do something, that energy needs to be focused somewhere. So without meaning, there is no direction for your energy to be focused on.

Yet, having a meaningful objective doesn’t mean you have to change the world or create A huge impact on society. The secret to meaningful work is simple: it should contribute value to something or someone that matters to you.

Next up is gaining Forward Movement. In short, this means to just keep moving. Like a snowball, motivation from having progress creates momentum. So to keep this up, you have to keep moving.

And the good news is, your progress doesn’t have to be huge for you to recognize it. Small amounts of progress can be just as motivating, as long as they keep coming. Like driving a car, you may be really impatient if you’re at a complete halt. But, it lessens if you’re moving forward–even if you’re moving slowly.

Creating a simple progress indicator like checklists or milestones, are a great way to visualize your small (and big) wins. They trigger your brain to recognize and acknowledge them, giving you small boosts of motivational energy.

This is why video games are so addictive! They’re full of progress indicators everywhere. Even though the progress is completely virtual, they’re still able to trigger the motivation centers in your brain.

Find Out What Drives You Today

So why not take some time today and do a quick reflection of where you’re at now? Take one aspect of your life that you’d like to be more motivated.

For example, it may be your current job. First, start with why. Write down your reasons for why you’re in the job that you’re in. Then think about your Motivation Core: Your Purpose. Write down what it is within your job that gives you meaning, and what are some things that will help push you forward in life.

Once you have those points, it’s time to do a comparison. Does your current job help you make progress towards that Purpose that you’ve written?  

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If it does, then wonderful! You’re on the right track. But if it doesn’t entirely, or you now realize you’re way off target, don’t panic. It’s definitely not too late to align your actions back to your true purpose.

Here at Lifehack, we’ve condensed over 15 years of life improvement coaching into 7 distinct Cornerstone Skills. And finding motivation is just 1 of 7 Cornerstone Skills that you can master to dramatically turn your life around!

Wouldn’t We All Like to Be Happy?

Happiness need not be a vague term or illusion that you’re constantly chasing after–with no end in sight. By finding your true motivation, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your happiness and finding meaning in all things you do.

And for those of you who feel like you’re already working towards your purpose or goals, learning these 7 Cornerstone Skills will only help you to push progress even further, and at a much faster rate. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be 10 times more productive?

You may have read hundreds of books, articles, and watched videos, maybe even tried some solutions too to help you stay motivated. But, none of them really have any impact. They bring only incremental changes, and that’s not what you’re really looking for. This is because permanent change requires a holistic approach, and is more than just focusing on one area of your life, or working on changing a part of your routine or actions.

You want to make a fundamental change; but it feels like big, unknown territory that you can’t afford to venture into at this point in your life.

The truth is, taking your life to the next stage doesn’t have to be this complicated. With our course, it’s actually quite simple. It’s an all in approach, and the 7 Cornerstone Skills is just what you need to make that holistic change. So if you’d like to take the first step to achieving your life purpose, the time is now!

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

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