Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 8, 2020

How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It)

How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It)

We’ve all been there. At some points in our lives, we question whether we are doing well enough or are capable of facing all the uncertainties that might come up as we grow older. We experience feelings of self-doubt around decisions and choices we made or simply feel that we’re not good enough.

Self-doubt occurs when we lack confidence or feel incapable of doing things we need to do. People who doubt about themselves experience uncertainty around things they can’t control or worry about things not going according to plan.

A certain level of self-doubt is good because it indicates that you understand what you need to improve in order to do a better job. 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 start to panic.

You panic about whether you are capable of doing a great job. You worry that failing to perform well will become a big joke at work. You spend time stressing over every single decision you make 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 leads you toward procrastination. You delay your work and feel unmotivated.

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 that you will have the feeling of “I can actually do better than this.”

What causes self-doubt? Let’s find out!

Advertising

5 Common Causes of Self-Doubt

There are plenty of reasons behind self-doubt. We’ll go through some 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 being in an abusive relationship or being fired without a concrete justification. Our mental health can take a huge hit in these cases.

Past experience can shake and rattle our beliefs. However, continuing to reference past experiences without learning from them is just a waste of your bright future!

If you struggle to let go of the past, check out this article for some practical tips.

2. Childhood Upbringing

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

If you were raised by parents that constantly told you that you were not good enough or were natured by schools that judged students heavily on their grades, you might have already internalized the habit of questioning yourself.

3. Comparisons With Others

It’s not unnatural 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 think that we are not doing as well as they are.

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

4. New Challenges

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

Advertising

5. Fear of Failure / Fear of Success

Take Elizabeth 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.

Even among successful people, previous success can become our biggest fear because we might think that’s the best we can deliver and that we will never produce anything that’s equally good.

This is an especially tricky area for women. One study pointed out that, in comparison to men, women “associate success with more negative consequences”[1].

How to Overcome Self-Doubt

What can you do to overcome self-doubt and be confident again, no matter how tough things are?

1. Ground Yourself and Say Stop!

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

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

  • A list of counter arguments, things like “I can do this” or “It’s just another chance for me to learn.”
  • A jar that contains 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 shift 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.

If you need an optimism boost, try make a list of things you’re grateful for. This will naturally shift your thoughts in a more positive direction.

Advertising

In one study measuring gratitude, hope, optimism, and life satisfaction, “Gratitude was determined as the most predictive variable for well-being”[2]. That’s a pretty great reason to practice gratitude!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

While it’s important to work on ourselves, it’s also a good idea to get support from your loved ones, including family and friends. 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 overcome self-doubt.

I write things down, and it’s 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, which helps me develop ways to improve myself.

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

I even stop comparing myself to others because, by looking at what I’ve written, I remind myself that I’m happy with my own life.

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

Advertising

Days 1 to 7: Write 3 Things You’re Grateful for Each Day

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

Days 8 to 14: Write Times You Feel Unsure About Yourself and Reasons Behind Them

At the end of the week, you should be able to identify your biggest fears 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.

Days 15 to 21: Write Steps You’ve Taken and How You Feel

No matter what you’ve done to overcome self-doubt, write them down and recognize yourself!

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

Doing so not only motivates you, but it helps you to stay on track with your progress.

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.

Try to get out of the loop as soon as you can and spend time on improving yourself. Self-doubt doesn’t have to hold you back.

More Tips on Overcoming Self-Doubt

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

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

10 Essential Books on Relationships To Help You Understand Love Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering 20 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) 23 Books About Racism to Inspire You to Embrace Race and Do Good

Trending in Mental Strength

1 Feeling Defeated in Life? 9 Ways to Take Back Your Power 2 What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important for Success? 3 How to Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement 4 The Importance of Self Improvement No Matter How Old You Are 5 How to Be Humble Without Putting Yourself Down

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 6, 2020

Feeling Defeated in Life? 9 Ways to Take Back Your Power

Feeling Defeated in Life? 9 Ways to Take Back Your Power

The human feeling of wanting to achieve more is a shared one and, consequently, so does the sense of feeling defeated. Things don’t always work out as planned, and we then feel beat down and sometimes downright downtrodden.

This feeling is something that every achiever human-being feels once in a while. The good news is that there are proven science-based ways to help take back the power. It’s not possible to continually win without experiencing a loss, and the way we react to failure is what defines us.

There are (sadly) many practical examples—from battling a bad habit (did anyone say Netflix binge on a Tuesday night?) or even an addiction to dealing with a boss you don’t like who makes every day seem like it will never end. It might be other issues that make you feel like Sisyphus, the Greek god who was forced to push a massive rock up a hill for eternity as a punishment, doing the hard work and not being rewarded for it.

You Are Not Alone

You are not alone; Churchill and Lincoln were also defeated.

Fortunately, we’ve found some fantastic examples of ‘defeated’ people who made a remarkable comeback—showing that character is at least as important as talent. One of those people is none other than Winston Churchill. Most of us know that he saved his country and potentially the rest of the world during World War II, but we tend to forget that he famously stated, “I am finished” almost 20 years before that—when he was 40.

He had lost the Gallipoli battle, and everything seemed to indicate that he would go down in history like the rest of us: unknown. However, his plan to come back to the forefront of politics succeeded (only to lose the election after the war, and then win again). He was feeling defeated but he managed to bounce back.

There are other examples of leaders who experienced loss and then made a remarkable comeback. Abraham Lincoln is known as a former US president, but no one remembers that he was defeated in elections for the U.S. House of Representatives just a few years before that. Napoleon Bonaparte was the emperor of Europe, only to be exiled (and then come back and then go into exile again).

Most of us are not ruling Europe or the US, but you get the point—you win some, you lose some—and you should never give up on your goals and dreams. This isn’t relevant only to famous historical characters. The human spirit is measured when it’s at its weakest and in need of finding strength.

Advertising

Personally speaking, I experienced a tragedy, having to watch my father die in front of me when I was 25. Less than an hour later, as I was in the hospital, I told myself that nothing would break me, and I embarked on a journey to save other people’s lives with Safe Lane, a non-profit I started to prevent car accidents. It is what we do that defines us, and not what happens to us. It’s how we deal with feeling defeated that defines who we are.

Feeling Defeated Is Not Your Fault

Research shows that feeling defeated is not your fault. The deep-rooted feeling of defeat is validated in research. For example, studies of animal species with dominance hierarchies showed that after losing in non-lethal fighting, the animals that lost showed signs of depression.[1] Other studies suggest that defeat and feelings of entrapment are associated with depression and anxiety. Sadly, it happens to humans as well.

Research also suggests that it hurts the poor more than others. In a study conducted in economically deprived areas in England, over half of the people felt defeated. They experienced feelings of entrapment.[2]

The research also proved a connection to anxiety and depression, showing that this feeling impairs the mental health of those living in more impoverished areas. The clear connection between where you live and how you feel is disheartening, as it makes clear that some populations are inherently more prone to suffering than others.

9 Ways to Take Back Your Power

The good news is that there are pretty good solutions one can use to fight this horrible feeling. Some of them can provide immediate improvement, while others help within a matter of weeks.

Here are 9 ways to take back your power when you’re feeling defeated in life.

1. Write a Gratitude Journal

Once a day, take three minutes to write down two things you’re grateful for. It might seem like a childish thing to do, but investing time in a gratitude journal has been scientifically proven to be helpful. Taking a note for yourself of the good things in your life makes you appreciate them more, and this kind of positive thinking also helps your brain change patterns.

According to a study conducted in Berkeley, students who wrote a gratitude letter to their peers had “significantly better mental health 4 weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns.”[3]

Advertising

Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, proved that participants who took the time to write about the good things in their lives had a huge increase in happiness scores.

2. Take Regular Breaks

When you’re working too hard, it can sometimes feel good because you’re pushing your limits. Nonetheless, you can’t work without taking breaks. Your energy is limited, and there have been a few studies proving this.

According to numerous researches, “taking a break can be very beneficial for you and your work. Micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks, and longer breaks have all been shown to affect well-being and productivity positively. By taking regular breaks, you can boost your performance.”[4]

3. Find Yourself a Mentor

I’ve personally found this to be very helpful. Every issue that you’re going through has been experienced by someone before you, so learn from that. Having a mentor reduces stress and helps you both practically understand how to handle the situation and emotionally put things in perspective. It also helps remind you that you’re not alone.

According to UNL, “mentoring provides professional socialization and personal support to facilitate graduate school success and beyond. Quality mentoring greatly enhances students’ chances for success. Research shows that students who experience good mentoring also have a greater chance of securing academic tenure-track positions or greater career advancement potential in administration or sectors outside the university.”[5]

4. Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are powerful tools that are widely available today through the use of apps such as Calm and Headspace. There have also been countless books written about them. One of them is “Wherever You Go, There You Are:  Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s. By being present, you can control where your energy goes.

I used to be a skeptic, but I have learned that it’s helpful to meditate when you need a moment. Countless studies have proven that breathing helps build resilience. Just by breathing slowly and deeply, our body knows when to enter into a relaxation mode.

We’re living at a time that makes us feel overwhelmed. We have too much on our plate and sometimes, we’re in a position that doesn’t immediately allow us to solve the problem at hand.

Advertising

Don’t worry—by meditating, breathing, or just trying to relax, you can understand what to do by letting your mind some time to think and improve. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here reading this article!

5. Your Self-Talk Is More Crucial Than Ever

Our thoughts and beliefs can sometimes be discouraging. Many people tend towards a negativity bias, which means that we’re prone to notice negative thoughts and emotions more than positive and neutral ones. This is where self-talk comes in.

Using self-talk to analyze whether your perceptions are helping you or not and whether they’re an accurate representation of reality can help you understand that things may not be as bad as you think. Research shows that this is, in fact, often the case.

It’s a good habit to also remember to be kind to yourself. Some of us sometimes forget the crucial ingredient of self-compassion. It also might be a good idea to motivate yourself by watching others—Youtube might be a good place for that.

Here’s an excellent example:

6. Educate Yourself

For whatever of life’s hurdles you’re currently facing, there’s an answer that someone else has already thought of. Google Scholar or even just plain old Google can help you find proven methods to deal with what’s bothering you. Educate yourself about your situation and learn what can and cannot work for you. Knowledge is power, indeed.

7. Don’t Obsess About What Happened

One of the proven ways to help sports teams stay on track is not overthinking the future and not getting stuck in the past. It’s useless to obsess about what already happened, and at worst, it can only harm your mental and emotional well-being.

One psychological way to think about that is the radical acceptance approach, which is pretty self-explanatory. It means that you should accept what happened and instead, think about what you should do moving forward.

Advertising

According to the NYU School of Medicine, “past experiences shape what we see more than what we are looking at now.”[6] So, it’s not easy to fight that. But it is also possible to change it by radical acceptance and growth mindset methods.

8. Create a Vision for Your Life

Another method for dealing with daily hardships is to think like an organization and create your life vision. When you understand your goals and purpose, it’s easier to not sweat as much as some of the difficulties on the way.

According to “Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice” by Francis J. Greene,

“Effective strategic management begins with the organization clearly articulating its vision for the future. The organization’s vision refers to the broad category of long-term intentions that the organization wishes to pursue. It is broad, all-inclusive, and futuristic (Ireland et al., 2009)”.

It is imperative to understand your vision and implement it in your daily life to keep your balance.

9. Stay Healthy: Exercise and Eat Well

You don’t have to run a marathon. Simply walking or doing any other type of physical activity you enjoy can help pump things up and make you feel better physically and emotionally. Exercise can help you overcome depression and improve your mental health. It also enables you to feel in control in some cases, and that’s a powerful tool for someone who’s feeling defeated.

Healthy eating and keeping yourself hydrated goes a long way. Sleeping more than 7 hours each night is also super helpful for improving your physical and mental well-being.

Final Thoughts

It’s normal to feel defeated in life sometimes. After all, we all have our unique struggles and challenges along our journey in life. The important thing is that you learn how to face these roadblocks in your life. Whenever you’re feeling defeated in life, you can start with these 9 ways to gain back power and control in your life.

More Tips When You’re Feeling Defeated in Life

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next