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Self Doubt: A Disease that Doesn’t Discriminate!

Self Doubt: A Disease that Doesn’t Discriminate!

    What if…

    What if I forget the words when I stand up there? What if I go completely blank? What if I totally suck? What if I look or sound stupid?  What if they hate me? What if I’m not pretty enough? Cool enough? Smart enough? Qualified enough? Experienced enough? Talented enough? Thin enough? What if they see through my act? What if they discover what I’m really like? What if they find out about my issues? Or my history? What if the course is too difficult for me? What if I do what Craig suggests and it doesn’t work? Or what if it does work and then I lose motivation and focus? Surely I’m too old to start something new anyway? Or too inexperienced to establish my own business? Perhaps I’m past learning new things and developing new skills? Surely I won’t fit in, will I? What if I get all excited – like I always do – and then fail again? What if I disappoint people again? Hmm, perhaps I need a little more time to plan and think about this.

    Which is code for “I’m too scared to do anything, so I’ll do nothing”.

    Again.

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    A Disease

    Self doubt; it’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It affects our mind, our emotions and even our physiology. It’s multi-dimensional and if you let it, it will destroy your opportunities, waste your potential, ruin your relationships, infect your thinking, crush your hope and at its worst, ruin your life. It’s not concerned with race, religion, age, skin colour, past achievements, social standing, sex, talent, IQ or bank balance and it knows where you live.

    Knock, Knock…

    For many of us, self doubt comes knocking on our door every day. Sometimes it will give an apologetic, sorry-to-bother-you kind of tap, and on other occasions it will almost smash the door down with it’s incessant and violent banging. More often than not, it will arrive disguised as something much more noble like concern, logic or reason but in reality, it’s none of those things. It’s just fear in a different outfit. Self-doubt with a little make-up and a pretty dress. Don’t be fooled; she’s a bitch and despite the charade, she doesn’t care about you at all.

    Fear by Another Name

    That’s all self doubt is by the way; one of the many faces of fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of public humiliation, fear of getting uncomfortable, fear of the unknown, fear of poverty, fear of isolation and even fear of success. Like all forms of fear, self-doubt is essentially self-created and perpetuated because it can only exist in our head. In order for it to survive, we must give it a place to live. And we do.

    In the pursuit of our best life, our challenge is not to overcome self-doubt but rather, to manage it. To recognise it for what it is (a form of fear), to feel it, acknowledge it and then do what we need to do (to reach our goals), DESPITE it.

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    “Recognising, feeling and acknowledging self-doubt, does not mean being controlled or determined by it.”

    The Human Experience

    Of course, over time we will find a way to turn down the volume (of the banging on the door), but a life totally devoid of self-doubt is an unrealistic goal. People who succeed (no matter what the endeavour) invariably find a way to do what they need to do, despite their self-doubt. They are aware of it and they are challenged by it, but they are not controlled or determined by it. Self doubt is universal and it is an unavoidable part of the human experience. For life. None of us are exempt. If you doubt yourself often, don’t feel weak or flawed, feel human. Feel alive. Feel normal. If self-doubt is a sign of weakness then I’m a big pussy.

    The questions we should ask ourselves in relation to this chat are not:

    “Do I ever experience self-doubt?”

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    But rather:

    1. “What impact do I allow self-doubt to have on my decisions, behaviours and results?”

    and…

    2. “Do I manage it, or does it manage me?”

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    If you came here today looking for a solution, then walk to the bathroom and look in the mirror; there’s your solution. Even if you don’t know it or feel like it, let me tell you that no book, blog, idea, program, CD, DVD or guru will change you. No, that’s your job. Those resources (that’s all they are) can stimulate, inspire, educate, challenge, provoke and encourage you, but only you can change your current reality and only you can build your best life. That’s why this website is not a solution but rather a humble resource.

    Do what you need to and stop looking for the magic pill.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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