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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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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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