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Last Updated on August 12, 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 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.

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!

More About Self-Confidence

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 January 13, 2020

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

I was 10 and it was a white Lisa Frank journal with a red bubble gum dispenser on the front. It also came with a heart-shaped lock and key which was a must considering I had an older brother living under the same roof who was always looking for new and inventive ways to humiliate me.

That one little journal (okay…I called it a diary back then) unlocked a world of potential to me which quite literally became my saving grace, my happy place, for the rest of my life.

Over the years, the aesthetics of my journal evolved, as did my writing subjects and style thankfully. But the one thing that’s been constant is that, no matter how sad I am or how bad things have seemed before I started writing, somehow the world and my place in it always becomes clearer and less noisy after just 5 minutes of “writing it out.”

In this article, we will take a look at how investing a few minutes a day in the 5 minute journal can lead you to happiness.

The Benefits of the 5 Minute Journal

For most of my life, I never really knew or cared why writing for even 5 minutes made me happier, I just knew it worked.

If I was feeling lost or unhappy, I’d eventually realize I hadn’t written in a while (duh!). So I’d meet myself back at the blank page and word by word, start feeling more like me again.

To be completely honest, I did (and still do) this forgetting-to-journal dance way more often than I’d like to admit. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t keep doing the thing I know makes me happy every day instead of waiting until I’m unhappy to do the thing. Can you relate?

I’m pretty certain it’s not just a me thing: it’s a human thing. We know we’ll be happier if we eat better, exercise, disconnect from technology, get more sleep, etc. but often times, it takes us feeling unhappy in order to put in the effort to be more happy.

A couple of months ago, I found myself in that place:

I’d hit a wall of resistance around my business and a downturn in my health that caused me to doubt what I was capable of accomplishing. I was completely confused and indecisive about the direction of my business and where I should be focusing my limited energy, so I hired a coach to help me sort through my noisy brain.

As I laid out all of my decisions and endless to-do lists in front of her, she asked me an important question:

What’s one thing you can start doing everyday that will have a positive impact on all of these things?

In other words: What if instead of having to worry about ALL THE THINGS to be happier, you could just do ONE thing and everything else would get better too?

I could start every day with a few minutes in my journal.

It’s both hilarious and embarrassing that as a coach and a writer (and a coach who works with writers), that I hadn’t thought of this myself. Alas, as the saying goes, doctors are the worst patients.

Of course, the answer was writing in my journal! Isn’t the answer almost always the most obvious thing?

But sometimes, the answer is so obvious, so simple, so free and convenient that we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly do that much to improve our situation. Somehow in the busy-ness of life, I’d convinced myself I just couldn’t spare that time to do something so…(cringe) arbitrary.

Yet, as I thought about my coach’s question and the ONE THING that could positively affect all the things, I realized that journaling for me has always been so much more than a random outlet for exploring my feelings.

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Sure, nothing actually happened but me sitting on my bed in my pajamas writing. Over the years, from breakups to big moves, my most life-changing moments–like my decision to pursue writing as a career, to uproot my entire life and move cross country, and my finally feeling ready to become a mother–happened in the quiet moments between me and the pages of my journals.

How to Be Happy with the 5 Minute Journal

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about writing this article. I asked her how often she journals and if she thought it made her happier.

In general, she said, yes, journaling does seem to help her get things off her chest but she doesn’t always feel better afterward. And, in fact, sometimes if she’s already in a negative place, she can spiral even worse while journaling and go to an even darker place.

She told me that usually with time and perspective, she can see that just the act of writing and getting out of her head is therapeutic but, suggested that for people like her, prompts to help her not spiral into the negative abyss would be super helpful.

And so, in order to make sure you get the most out of your 5 minute journal, I’ve broken up each writing prompt based on how you’re feeling so you can let your emotions guide the best prompt for you that day to increase your happiness meter.

1. When you’re burnt out, talk to your inner hero (a.k.a the “real” you).

What’s the one thing everyone tells you about maintaining happy, healthy relationships?

You’ve gotta have great communication!

But what about your relationship with yourself? How do you connect with you? How do you continue being the hero in your story?

The same way that you have to make the time to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you, you also have to make the time for you to hear your voice:

To remember what YOU sound like amidst all of the noise in the world. To listen to your inner hero.

For me, the only way I know how to do this, the only way I’ve ever known how to do this, is through journaling.

Our brains can go down negative spirals, especially when we’re tired and stressed.

In my last Lifehack article about finding motivation, I walk you through some questions you can ask yourself about whether you’re playing the role of victim or hero of your story. Definitely check it out if you’re really on the brink, or in the midst, of some serious burn out.

Essentially, if you’re burnt out, you’ve somehow let your circumstances take control of your life. In other words, you’ve started to act like the victim instead of the hero.

Luckily, just 5 minutes in your journal can help you find your inner hero (your true voice) and reclaim your right to live your happiest life.

Write down these questions in your journal and answer them one at a time–permission to be 100% honest granted:

  • What do I believe is the #1 reason I’m feeling burnt out?
  • Who or what did I blame in my last answer?
  • Taking 100% responsibility for my own life and decisions, and casting blame on no one (including myself), how can I improve this situation?
  • What decisions am I currently making to stay in these circumstances (how am I choosing them)?
  • What new decisions can I start making to get closer to where I want to be?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to get my energy back? What do I need to say “no” to?

When you start to own your role of hero, you start to realize how your current choices and limiting beliefs may be holding you back from living the happiest version of your life.

The great news is once you realize your past choices have brought you to your current circumstances, you also realize that you can make different choices to bring you to a happier place.

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2. When you’re doubting yourself, write off the gremlins.

Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, it usually has less to do with what’s happening on the outside, and more to do of what’s happening between my ears. In other words, how “I’m” talking to myself.

We all have little shame gremlins (I call mine “Mean Girls”) who live inside of our heads and tell us we’re dumb and ugly and worthless. The only way to combat those noisy buggers is to expose them for the liars they are.

Writing down these lies makes them powerless. Once they’re out of your head and on paper, you realize how ridiculous they truly are (even though they were completely owning you just moments before).

I like to write out all the nasties and put them in their place (which is on the page and out of my head, pronto). Then I can go back to living my happy truth.

Here are some powerful questions to ask your inner gremlins (perhaps better known as you being a real jerk to yourself). Write down each question and answer them in your journal.

Ask your gremlins:

  • What are you saying about me? (Don’t hold back. Really write down all of the terrible thoughts you’re having about yourself)

Then ask:

  • Is anything true about each of the things I just wrote?
  • Repeat this same exercise for each of the nasty things your gremlins are saying about you and expose them in their lies once and for all.

When you’re done, answer these powerful questions:

  • Knowing what I know now, what’s one thing I can do to improve each of these areas of my life?
  • Knowing that the voices of the gremlins are strong, what are 3 new beliefs or positive affirmations I can say daily about myself to drown out their negativity?

For example, let’s use a fictional character of a guy named Sam. Sam’s gremlins are telling him “you’re a lousy parent, a terrible spouse, and mediocre at work.”

If Sam asks himself, “Am I really a lousy parent?” Maybe his answer is “No, I love my kids and I’m doing the best I can. I just wish I could be more attentive when I’m with them instead of so distracted by work.”

So maybe Sam decides to not bring his work computer home with him anymore and really unplug once he leaves the office so he can give his kids his full attention.

Sam decides that his new daily affirmation is: “I’m a loving father and am fully present for my kids. I save the best of me for my family.”

Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you start to take back control over your self talk and program in the messages that empower you and get you closer to the person you strive to be.

3. When you’re indecisive or afraid, talk to your fear.

Those same shame gremlins or mean girls inside of our heads feed off of fear. It’s like a good piece of gossip they can’t help but spread and exaggerate.

Luckily, when we write out how we’re feeling and what negative thoughts are spiraling, we can generally recognize when it’s actually just our fears talking.

You’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s fear talking or your intuition, right? This is where exploring your feelings comes into play.

Are you feeling powerless? Are you feeling anxious or sad? Everyone’s response to fear is different but it’s never a positive feeling.

If you’re at peace and calm but feel nudged that something isn’t right, that’s most-likely your intuition talking. But if you’re in a glass cage of negative emotions, you can bet fear is the culprit.

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Don’t hate on fear too much though. Our fears are just trying to protect us from something–the rub is they also usually keep us from something even better in the process.

I like to use journaling as a way to have a little talk with my fear, understand where it’s coming from and then decide if it’s worth listening to.

Here’s your journaling prompt for hashing it out with your fear:

Again, write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

Ask your fear:

  • What are you trying to protect me from?

Once you answer that, ask:

  • What are you preventing me from having if I listen to you?

If the thing you really want is on the other side of your fear, then you know what you have to do next (luckily journals are a great place to make to-do lists as well)!

My last and favorite questions to ask fear is:

  • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

For example, let’s say you’re terrified of breaking ties with a client who is making your professional life miserable. You may answer this question with something like “My client blacklists me and smears ugly rumors about me all around town and not only do I lose one client but my entire business goes down.”

Eeesh. That does sound scary. Now ask yourself:

  • What are some steps I can take to ensure the worst case scenario doesn’t happen?

And then:

  • How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen (especially if I use the plan above)?

Maybe, when you think about it, the client is actually preventing you from bringing in new business because they’re taking up so much of your time.

And maybe that client doesn’t even have the best reputation so the chances of them being able to bring you down are pretty small.

What if you spent one hour a week for the next 3 weeks working on bringing in new business to replace the the income you make from that client, and figure out a way to end the contract in a very respectful, classy way to hopefully make the odds of them making a stink minimal?

Now you have a plan! But there’s one more question to ask yourself:

  • If the worst case scenario happened, what would you do?

Maybe you realize that if you really needed to, you could always go back to your previous job; they loved you and beg you to all the time. Or you could get by for a couple of months until you were able to bring in some more clients, especially if you cut back on expenses.

Once you stare your fear in the face, it magically loses its power. Left inside of your head, it can destroy you; but taking a few minutes to look at it and use it as a friend who’s showing you where you may need to implement a plan in order to protect yourself, you can take back the reins of your happiness and realize that fear really isn’t all that scary at all.

At this point, it needs to be said that journaling isn’t only good for getting out the nasty feelings, it’s also super useful for recording the good stuff of life which leads me to the fourth writing prompt.

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4. When you’re in a funk, focus on gratitude.

Just about any happiness book or article you read will tell you that being in a state of gratitude dramatically increases your happiness. For me, having a place to get down to the truth of my life and what’s actually going really well and what I’m grateful for helps put everything into perspective, especially when I’ve got a case of the blues.

Here are some of my favorite gratitude prompts to help get me out of a funk and focusing on the sunnier side of life.

Write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

  • What is something good that happened today?
  • What made me laugh or smile today?
  • Who am I grateful for today?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • With my “gratitude glasses” on, how do my problems or the funk I’m in look in relation to all of the good things I have in my life?

Take a look at this article too to learn more about keeping a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

Shifting out of a funk and into gratitude shifts your energy out of “woe is me” and into “yay for me” which means, based on the Law of Attraction, you’ll begin to attract more of the things you want and less of what you don’t. Seriously, yay for you!

5. When you’re uninspired or bored with the status quo, let it flow.

One of the best and easiest ways to tap into your inspiration and feel a little bit of creative magic in your life is through stream of consciousness writing.

I dare you to put your pen on a blank page for 5 minutes and do nothing but make sure the pen doesn’t stop moving.

No thinking. No judgements. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is overthink or judge your writing. It’s all good. Everything that comes out is good (even if it’s total crap).

When I was in grad school, I took this awesome class on creativity and in it read a book called From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. The book is mostly about fiction writing but essentially, he says that the best time to tap into your subconscious (where your “flow” lives) is when you first wake up in the morning. Since you’re fresh from dreaming, your brain is still tuned to that frequency, so to speak, and not clouded by “reality” from your day-to-day life.

So my last and final 5-minute journal prompt for you, uninspired one, is to wake up and let yourself keep dreaming on paper.

Here are your instructions:

  1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Open your journal.
  3. Pick up your pen.
  4. Keep your pen moving until your timer stops.

What I love about this is it requires releasing all expectations and giving yourself creative freedom to let whatever needs to come out come out.

Become Happier in 5 Minutes (or Even Less)

Giving yourself a safe space to not expect anything other than to just show up and be honest is incredibly liberating.

In a world where there are endless things we are supposed to be doing, and ways in which we’re supposed to be doing them, I love showing up to a blank page with no requirements other than to just let my hand move.

It’s free and requires nothing from me other than just showing up wherever I am–talk about an endless source of grace!

Plus it gets my myriad thoughts out of my head and allows me to release them from my body, which research at top universities has shown can dramatically reduce stress.[1]

You don’t need to change EVERYTHING in your life all at once (it doesn’t work anyway, trust me, I’ve tried).

Start with giving yourself the gift of reflection in your journal every day and see how your life starts to change. I guarantee you’ll feel more connected with yourself in the process and over time everything in your life will start to be a better reflection of you and what you value.

And that, my friends, is the key to lasting happiness.

More Journaling Ideas

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma

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