Self-doubt comes up often in my work with clients in professional and personal coaching. It’s time to talk about a mindful way to deal with self-doubt on the blog so all of us can relate better to it and we can get on with letting our light shine at home, work, and in our world.
Have you experienced this?
One moment you are riding high, feeling good about yourself, feeling confident, feeling like you are in your groove and in the right place. And then, in one fell swoop, you question everything, you feel hopeless, you feel like a loser and a fraud, you don’t believe you are good enough, you don’t believe that you want/dream will ever happen, and you feel like giving up?
Have you gone from “I got this!” in one moment to “I suck at this!” in the next?
Or how about going from “This is so what I am born to do!” to questioning whether this is where you should be and maybe you should just forget it?
Yes, me too.
In moments of self-doubt, we believe we are the only ones experiencing it, we question ourselves and our abilities, we get attacked by “impostor syndrome,” and we go from one extreme to the next.
You are NOT alone!
It can FEEL like you are alone in the moment and so you stay quiet as you look around a think, “Everyone else looks like they have their shit together.”
That’s self-doubt talking.
Do you know what’s interesting?
A client recently told me that when she finally made partner at the firm she works at, she thought that voice of self-doubt would die down. “Finally, I’m being seen for the hard work I do and the expertise I have.” But what she found is the opposite: self-doubt got louder.
“Who are YOU to think that you deserve this position?! Maybe they just gave it to you because you are a woman and they needed to up their female partner rate. They don’t really believe in you. Soon they’ll discover that you are a fraud. You might be highly educated but they’ll soon find out that your abilities don’t back up your education.”
I bet that you have heard your own version of self-doubt.
So what can we do when we experience self-doubt?
HOW you go about addressing self-doubt it key.
I am not going to teach you how to whack it up side the head, try to talk your way out of it, insert a completely opposite positive affirmation, or go to battle with it.
None of that really works in the long run.
I’m going to teach you how to RELATE TO SELF-DOUBT DIFFERENTLY – in a mindful way that doesn’t get you so caught up in its whirlwind and in a way that actually allows you to remember the real truth.
Here we go:
Seven Mindful Steps to Dealing with Self-Doubt
1. Become AWARE that self-doubt is talking.
Awareness is key. Without awareness, well, you don’t really know what in the heck is going on and what’s happening to you. You don’t know that self-doubt just swooped in for a visit.
The MOMENT you see that self-doubt has come for a visit, say to yourself, “Ohhhh, that’s self-doubt talking!”
Name that it’s here.
Name that self-doubt just swooped in for a visit.
What does this do? It helps you to get oriented to what is going on. It helps you to get a handle on what’s actually happening. And it helps you to begin to have some healthy distance from self-doubt.
2. Get grounded.
In order to not get swept up in the whirlwind of self-doubt, you have to get grounded in a mindful way. Put your feet on the earth (uncross them, and put your right and your left feet on the ground!). Feel your feet on the earth. Soften into the legs. Feel the support of the chair. Lengthen up through your spine. Soften the muscles in your face. Feel the shoulders moving away from the ears and creating a nice, expansive collarbone. Lift up from the back of the heart. And feel yourself being breathed. (Need help with this “getting grounded?” No worries – I’ll guide you – check out my guided meditation, The Sacred Pause).
Say to yourself, “Soften.” I LOVE “soften” rather than “relax.” When you invite yourself to “soften,” you relax! You soften the tension that self-doubt causes.
4. Counter self-doubt with self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff has researched self-compassion. She suggests that when you are having a difficult time, you remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are other people who are feeling just like you – even in this very moment. Here’s what I do and I tell my clients to do:
a. I put my hand on my heart and I imagine all the others at this very moment who are experiencing this exact same thing…they are brilliant AND filled with self-doubt. They are doubting themselves right now and feeling like they are the only one, too.
b. And I say to myself, “May you know that you are not the only one.” And as a prayer out to them, I say, “May every woman know that she is not the only one…”
You won’t FEEL like showing yourself compassion when the voice of self-doubt is loud, but you can REMEMBER to try it. And the more you counter self-doubt with self-compassion, the more self-compassion will become a healing habit for when you experience self-doubt.
5. Normalize self-doubt.
Meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, often talks about the 10,000 joys and sorrows that are just part of the human experience. Self-doubt is one of them. It just happens. It’s part of life. Rather than going down the path of believing that there is something wrong with you because you doubt yourself, you can cause yourself a lot less suffering if you just accept that self-doubt is part of the human experience and it will just happen.
6. Take action in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
In her book, the Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins suggests that when you want to shift a habit, you have to take an action in five seconds or else you won’t do it. When you notice that self-doubt has come for a visit, you’ve named it, you are grounded, you have softened, you have given yourself a dose of self-compassion, and you have normalized self-doubt, now is the time to do something that is self-encouraging, self-loving, and self-empowering. That might be standing up and shaking off the self-doubt with a few loving yoga poses. That might mean saying to yourself, “I’m going to treat myself as if I believe in myself.” That might mean calling a friend and sharing what just happened (affirming that you are not the only one!)
7. Notice the Shift.
Once you are out of the moment when self-doubt was strongest and you’ve taken some action, look back and notice the shift that has taken place. When your brain realizes, “Ohhh, self-doubt doesn’t stick around forever! It just comes to visit and then with skillful attention, it can soften,” you are more likely to remember “this is temporary” the next time self-doubt stops in for a visit. Noticing the shift also empowers you – you realize that you CAN do something about self-doubt.
Instead of trying to get rid of self-doubt or throw it out of the house when it comes to visit, you can learn to relate to self-doubt in a healthy way that leads you to feeling capable, calm, and connected to the truth of who you are. Your “home” can more easily return to being a place of calm and clarity when you realize that self-doubt might come for a visit, but it doesn’t have to take over the whole house. You remember that your house has room for the 10,000 joys and sorrows that are a part of the human experience. And you can welcome them all, like the Sufi poet, Rumi, says in The Guest House: an unexpected visitor who was “sent as a guide from beyond” and may be “clearing you out for some new delight.”
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~
*** If self-doubt often comes for a visit and takes over the whole house (your thoughts and emotions) and prevents you from rising in your authentic power and shining your light, grab a free consult and see about how coaching can nourish and support you to thrive.
** Photo of Lisa by Chrissy Miller. Follow her on Instagram: Szemere PhotographyBlessings,