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Last Updated on May 8, 2019

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 or capable for all the uncertainties that might come up as we grow older. We doubt about decisions and choices we made or simply feel “I am just not good enough for that.”

This is 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 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.

In this article, you’ll find out why self doubt is holding you back from happiness and success and what you can do to overcome it.

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”.

5 Common Causes of Self Doubt

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:

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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.

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:

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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.

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. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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.

The 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.

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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.

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: Start 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 June 26, 2019

7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown And Get More Out of Life

7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown And Get More Out of Life

The fear of the unknown can be hard to describe because all the feelings and thoughts around this fear are in our head. These negative feelings and thoughts create mental blocks. It is these mental blocks that influence the way in which we live our life and if let loose can have a detrimental impact on us living our lives to the fullest.

When we choose to live with our fear of the unknown, the choices and decisions we make do not serve us well. Any decision we make based from this fear will not be a decision that will move us forward in life.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

Living your life to your fullest potential can only be achieved when you have come face to face with your fear of the unknown. But this is not an easy thing to do. It is a bit more complicated than just choosing to ignore your fear of the unknown. To be able to conquer your fear of the unknown, you have to be committed to making the changes within yourself and that is where it gets tough.

There are many layers of emotions that are associated with your fear of the unknown and overcoming this fear requires you to dig deep to find the courage to actually step into the unknown. This is not what your fear of the unknown likes. All those deep-seated limiting beliefs will be resisting and fighting back because your actions will be challenging them and questioning their existence.

What Is the Fear of the Unknown?

There is an extreme form of the Fear of the Unknown which is a phobia called Xenophobia.

Xenophobia is when some people have irrational thoughts and beliefs about people and situations that they perceive to be strange or foreign. Essentially it is the fear of anything that is beyond their comfort zone.

People who are Xenophobic tend to have a fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures or strangers. They also have a fear or dislike of people who are culturally different from them. Their behavior can be extreme and violent; The Klu Klux clan is made up of people who are xenophobic. Since the abolition of slavery and even today they have committed violent crimes of hate.

We are not xenophobic. We do not commit violent crimes toward other people because of our fear. We do however let our fear of the unknown rule our lives. If we listen to our fear of the unknown, we choose to live our lives in our comfort zone rather than taking up the opportunity to step out into the unknown. It is when you step out into the unknown that you truly start to live your life to the fullest.

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How to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown

To overcome your fear of the unknown is a personal journey that never really ends. However if you live your life controlled by your fear of the unknown and want to break free then here are 7 strategies that will help you on your personal journey of transformation. Where you are living life to the fullest and you are no longer controlled by your fear of the unknown.

1.Understand Your Fear

“Fear of the unknown… They are afraid of new ideas… They are loaded with prejudices, not based upon anything in reality, but based on… If something is new, I reject it immediately because it’s frightening to me.” What they do instead is just stay with the familiar. You know, to me, the most beautiful things in all the universe are the most mysterious.” Wayne Dyer

Fear is not unique to you. Fear is part of our human DNA and so it is not unusual for you to feel fear when you are stepping out into the unknown. Our brain is hardwired to prefer negative consequences to uncertain outcomes. Our brain does not like us stepping out into the unknown or living in a world of change.

However, as Wayne Dyer says in his quote above; our fear of the known is not based on reality. Our fear of the unknown is just a whole pile of self-limiting beliefs based on what we think may happen and not on what is our reality.

Accept that you have fearful thoughts but don’t let these fearful thoughts paralyse your life.

2. Find the Cause of Your Fear

Our fear of the unknown is part of our DNA and is an essential part of our survival. There is fear that will protect you and heighten your senses to threatening situations. This is a good fear to listen to. Then there is the fear that paralyzes you and stops you from living life to the fullest. This is the fear that you need to understand why it exists within you.

The fear of the unknown is made up of many thoughts and beliefs that result from negative experiences. If you have failed in business or you feel you have failed in life and have low self-belief, then your fear of the unknown will be heightened and wanting to protect you.

When you are faced with the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, spend some time analyzing the cause of your fear of the unknown. Once you have identified the cause of your fear, then brainstorm ways to minimize risk and ways in which you can cope with the hurdles you may face.. Then go to Strategy 3

3. Question Your Fear

We all know that our fears are not based on reality. The fear of the unknown is based on our perception of what might happen in the future. The future has not happened and this is where you take your fears to court and question them.

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For example, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  • What evidence is there that supports my fear of the unknown?
  • What are 3 examples where I have successfully coped with uncertainty?
  • What evidence is there that I will fail and my fear of the unknown will be right?

I am sure you come up with many more questions, but always remember your fear of the unknown is not based on reality. – so question it and move forward.

4. Accept Failure as an Option

“The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.” Gordon Parks

An underlying cause of our fear of the unknown is based on our fear of failure. This is especially true when we are about to embark on a new journey that will take us out of our comfort zone.

If you really understand your fear of the unknown and have looked at realistic risks in regard to stepping out of your comfort zone, then you just have to accept that failure could be an option.

If you cannot accept that the possibility of failure is an option, then your fear of the unknown will convince you to stay put in your comfort zone.

Remember ,your fear of the unknown prefers that you don’t do anything and live with regret than step out and possibly fail.

If we take away the idea of failure and use setbacks as experiences to draw lessons from, there will always inevitably be a positive outcome at some point in your journey.

5. Ride the Wave of Fear

It’s fear of the unknown. The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that-it’s all illusion.

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“Unknown is what it is. Accept that it’s unknown and it’s plain sailing. Everything is unknown-then you’re ahead of the game. That’s what it is. Right?” — John Lennon

Anything we try in life that takes us out of our comfort zone comes with lots of discomfort, disruption and feelings of uncertainty. This is guaranteed and you will not be able to avoid the disruption of change in your life.

However, once you accept that over time, the discomfort will subside, then riding that wave of fear becomes a lot easier. Talking to someone about your feelings is one good technique to managing your fear. Also, exercise and mediation help to slow your thoughts down and keep your mind focused on the present not what may or may not happen in the future.

6. Embrace Change

The one thing that is a constant in our lives is change. We live in a world of constant and at times disruptive change. The more we resist change, the more it will persist in our lives.

Accept that you cannot avoid the effect of change in your life. Also accept that change is not to be feared by you. The more you open up to the concept of change, the more resilient and courageous you will become.

Resisting change keeps you in a place of discomfort and that’s where your fear of the unknown likes to be. Your fear will keep you paralysed in a bad situation because it is what it knows best and where it can control you.

Stepping out and embracing change will open you up to a world of opportunities and growth. Change will become a fact of life that you will embrace and successfully manage

7. Practice Mindfulness – the Key to Quieting Your Mind

“To quiet the mind is not to eliminate thoughts, but to soften their hold us” — Jen@aimhappy.com

Your fear of the unknown is created by your thoughts and self-limiting beliefs that are all held in your mind. For some of us, these thoughts and beliefs have been in our minds for many years and have a huge influence on how we live our lives. In fact, our fears keep our minds very busy with self-talk and thoughts spinning around 24/7.

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These thoughts and beliefs will not go away over night. It takes commitment and work from you to retrain your mind so that you have peace and successfully manage the noise of thoughts in your mind.

Mindfulness is a practice that I believe is the best strategy to managing an overworked and busy mind. Some of us like mediation as a tool and some prefer to take walks however whatever strategy you choose, make sure the context of practise is to be mindful and present.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.” – Deepak Chopra

If you want to learn more about mindfulness, try this article: Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

The Bottom Line

To live your dreams and embrace life, you have to be fearless and willing to step into the unknown. There is no other way to live your life to its fullest potential. Listening to your fear of the unknown will only result in a life where you live in discomfort and dissatisfaction with life.

The 7 strategies are tools that you can use to help you overcome your fear of the unknown and become the courageous person you were born to be. Go live your life to the fullest. Embrace change, ride the wave of fear and experience life to the fullest. You will not regret it – that is a promise!

“By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.” — Alan Wyatts

More Resources to Help You Conquer Fears

Featured photo credit: Nicole Harrington via unsplash.com

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