Self doubt holds us back, keeps us safe, keeps us where we are. It gives us a reason to turn down the invitation for a date, a reason not to go to the gym, keeps us in the same job we do easily for years and years, not reaching for the promotion or change to something more fulfilling
Many of us doubt ourselves… a lot.
• Wanting to go on dates and no-one is accepting?
• Can I stick to a relationship?
• Will I ever find someone who ‘gets’ me?
• I’m not qualified for the career that lights you up when you talk about it.
• You tell yourself you’re too old to change or too young to start.
Not to mention health! The resolutions to get fit are stacking up, you get started, then you hit a wall time, and then you start to wonder; doubt you’ll ever be fit and healthy.
Overthinking is a trap
Do you listen to the thoughts that tell you ‘You can’t?’ It’s easy to remind yourself of times when you’ve failed, rather than use it as inspiration to have another go. How about trying a different approach, you’ve probably heard the famous Edison quotes;
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Thomas A. Edison 1847-1931
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This can be easier said than done though. In the moment it’s easier to listen to the reasons not to have another go, the familiar voice in our head, than listen to a guy born in the 1800’s.
But thinking this way isn’t the problem, it’s what we focus on that is the biggest problem. Our unconscious mind is like a supercomputer that processes a lot of information very very quickly. It has a secret skill and want’s to get us what we want. You may have heard of professional athletes talk about visualisation. In order to become the best in the world, athletes must learn to control their thinking. They have to choose what they think about, what they focus on. When an olympic swimmer steps up to dive into the pool, he is not thinking about all the times he has lost. She’s not remembering all the times she has screwed up a stroke. He has spent years focussing on what he’s learned. She’s creating a visual loop of the best case scenario which she has rehearsed again and again.
Michael Phelps said, at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, during the 200m butterfly, as soon as he dove into the pool his goggles filled up with water. By the end of the first leg, they were full and he couldn’t see a thing. What’s impressive is not just that he continued, but that he went on to win and beat the world record. Michael Phelps explained what happened in interviews “I dove in and they filled up with water, and it got worse and worse during the race,” Phelps told reporters. “From the 150-meter wall to the finish, I couldn’t see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning.”
How? Before every race (and before he goes to sleep each night) he closes his eyes and visualises the whole race, stroke by stroke, from start to finish. He pictures himself gliding through the water in the perfect stroke every time. He plays a mental movie of the “perfect race”.
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Next time you catch yourself re-living a failure, consider taking the opportunity to turn it around and focus on what you would do better next time. Before you step through the door to that interview or first date, visualise what you would need to do to be your best self. You can’t control what others say or do, however you can control yourself, your actions, and your thinking.
Who are you comparing yourself to?
One of the triggers for self doubt is when you start to wonder whether you can actually do something. Maybe because you’ve done it before and failed or you’ve never done it before and you’re comparing yourself to somebody who has, somebody who’s the best at it.
Imagine someone just starting out in business and they compare themselves with Richard Branson. Richard Branson grew up in a family that ran businesses and he has been in business since he was in his early school years. Of course you’re going to have doubts.
If you’re shy and you want to be really confident, if you compare yourself to somebody who is naturally very confident, someone who is out all the time, who is an extrovert, and an incredible communicator, the benchmark is set too high. Realising where you’re starting from is important. I call this getting in perspective with where you are at.
It’s great to know where you’re going but it’s also really important to know where you are first.
I read “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge. It’s a book about how we learn, that what we learn and who we are is not set in stone, that our brain is plastic which means that it can relearn, or learn new things; our brains are adaptable. There is a story about stroke victims who had lost the use of their arm. During rehabilitation sessions, they split people with these issues into two groups.
Group A would get physiotherapy and learn how to move their arm again. The goal was for their arm to be stretched out at a 90 degree angle to their body. They would do rehab everyday and would always be trying to get their arm out to 90 degrees. But they found they weren’t getting close, 90 degrees was too far away.
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Group B did the exact same exercises but they were told to focus on the little movements. Every time they were able to move their arm at all, even if they achieved a millimeter of distance, they would celebrate. The exciting thing was that the group that focussed on the little, tiny changes eventually (and quite quickly) got their full arm movement back. Whereas the group focussing only on the big goal didn’t.
It’s good to remember to focus on the little things while keeping the larger goal in mind. It would be easy for the group that was trying to get their hand up to 90 degrees to develop self doubt. They were looking for big movements, the big changes, and when it wasn’t happening, they could start to doubt whether it was actually possible.
Whereas the second group, the one that was celebrating their little movements, because the goal everyday was to move a little bit they started compounding that movement, and overtime all those little bits all add up to a large movements. By reinforcing by celebrating, and reinforcing with recognising those little changes, they grew a lot faster.
The reasons I doubted myself
The reason I doubted myself is because I forgot all the things I’d done that got me to where I was. I forgot to feel good along the way and forgot to celebrate what I did well!
I spent all my time comparing myself to other people, rather than comparing myself to me five years ago or me six months ago, or me one year ago. Don’t get me wrong it can help to compare yourself to others if you’re using that to motivate you to be able to have the health that you want, or the career, personality, charisma. But it goes hand in hand, with comparing yourself with yourself. It’s important to recognise your own significance. The feeling of worthiness, of accomplishment of not just the big stuff, but the little things, the hundreds and thousands of little things that I’ve done.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
So, I started making a significance list. It might sound funny but I started one day on a blank piece of paper, on it I’d write all the things that I’ve done, that I felt good about. I didn’t hold back, I wrote everything down. I learned how to ride a bike, I put my hand up in year three and spelled weather and whether out loud, and I got it right Woohoo!
I had a birthday and I had my friends over and we had a great day. I made a cake for my dad’s birthday. I went on a first date, and it wasn’t so great, but you know what, I went on it. I was really shy and I learned how to be confident. So now I can go up and talk to anyone in the room.
What did you learn how to do? What have you done? What have you overcome? What have you accomplished?
Start writing your own significance list. Write down the things that made you special, the things that made you feel important. What have you learned, what have you done? Focus on all the good stuff. Once you start it, keep adding to it, make it as long as you possibly can because it will never end.
Every single person who struggled with something before has wondered whether it’s possible to achieve that thing. Focus on the possibility that you can actually do what you want to do and keep going. If you ever wonder whether it’s possible, look at your significance list. Look at all the things that you have done. All that you’ve achieved along the way. All that you’ve learned in order to be the person you are right now, and who you are right now is ready for whatever the next challenge is. Create a ‘perfect picture’ of the best case scenario, and play it like a movie on repeat. Tell self doubt to move aside for self support.
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