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How Self-doubt Destroys and What You Can Do to Stop It

How Self-doubt Destroys and What You Can Do to Stop It

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

1. The newlywed

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

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

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

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2. The artist

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

3. The entrepreneur

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

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4. The athlete

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

Learn to doubt your doubt

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

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

Featured photo credit: Christine Heidel Photography via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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