I had one of those days yesterday. I was in and out, up and down, and all around about the worth of my gifts and talents. (I know it's not popular to reveal your personal flaws, but here goes.)
“Do I have what it takes to do this successfully?”
“There are so many people who are better than me, why even try.”
“What can I possibly add to this that hasn't been done before?”
My head knows that I've done all kinds of things that have impressed even me. But I wasn't feeling it. There are times when the light of your vision dims and it's hard to get a grip on what is real. I got out of it, of course, and that is what I am here to report.
You may not realize this but you are hardwired to doubt. When you are in a state of self-doubt, uncertainty triggers fear and your brain releases a flow of stress hormones (just as if you were being chased by a tiger). This puts you in a highly emotional state, hence the difficulty in taking action (or even seeing a way out).
Any time you step into your vision you are traveling in the sphere of the unknown. Uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear are sure to arise. This is the playground.
In this case, I took my own medicine, what I recommend in my circles and to my clients. I chose to connect directly with the feelings and sensations. I observed as the cacophony of less than voices chatted up a storm of potential loss, guilt, and shame. I sat with what was occurring within me. I curiously questioned and then emptied again and again. It took a bit.
Next, I shifted my focus. I went onto Facebook, where I usually find inspirational posts, and happened onto a group invite. I wasn't going to accept (who needs to belong to more groups) but a video caught my eye. It was meant for me at that moment. It transformed my energy instantly.
Finally, I decided to own it and write about it. I worked on shifting my narrative. Instead of feeling less than and ashamed that I wasn't up to my usual verve, I shared my experience with my community via my newsletter.
This 3-step strategy helps me move from self-doubt to self-trust every time. It's not always easy, and it might take a minute, but it works.
3-Step Strategy to Blast Through Self-Doubt
When you find yourself in the spiraling vortex of self-doubt you can move past it. Here is a simple 3-step strategy to shift from self-doubt to confidence:
Step 1. Sit with Your Feelings. This is one of my favorite strategies. Sometimes this alone will shift my feeling and thinking. For those of you that are more left-brain oriented, this may feel uncomfortable. Try it out and see if it works for you. Sit in a quiet spot, with no distractions, and notice what you feel. Stay with the feelings and body sensations, not the thoughts. The initial impulse is to resist or avoid it. Feel your energy expand beyond your body to the vastest you possible. Open to your feelings and let them move through you (as if you were permeable). Notice how the sensations dissipate as you engage from this perspective.
Step 2. Shift Into a Positive State. Do something that lifts you up and brings a smile to your face. Tap into the energy of love, wonder, and joy. It might be spending time with a loved one, reading poetry, listening to a guided meditation, or a visualization. In my case, I love quotes and inspirational videos. That's what I did. I popped over to Facebook and found a divine video of Eileen Kramer, a 107-year-old dancer, that moved me instantly. The ethereal music by David Orlowsky and David Bergmüller was a treat!
Step 3. Notice Your Narrative (and Shift It). Now we're ready to engage your mind. Notice that wasn't the first step! You want to have shifted your energy state before you dive into your intellect. Now, notice your thoughts. What is the narrative? You’re always telling yourself a story. Tell a new story. There are several ways, here are 3 that I use on a regular basis:
- Journal Your Thoughts. Notice what thoughts are battering through your brain. Get real with it. What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen? Allow yourself to go through all the different scenarios. Journal about it. In a 2020 study, Dr. Poppenk and Julie Tseng, of Queen’s University in Canada, found you have about 6,200 thoughts a day. That's a lot of thoughts. You want to make sure they shift towards the positive. Journaling will help you get a sense of where you stand on the positive/negative spectrum.
- List Your Achievements. Self-doubt can be like a house of cards, everything can start tumbling down if you don't stand on solid ground. Get a handle on what's true about you. List every challenge that you’ve overcome. Weren’t you unsure of yourself before you took the steps to make it happen? Yeah, you rock! Tell me more.
- Celebrate Your Small Wins. Make a list of all the small wins you experienced today. It could be going to the gym when you didn't feel like it. Or, the angry words you held back when someone cut you off in traffic. It’s easy to gloss over the everyday little wins but they add up. It's also good to remember that your brain is wired to focus on your failures but you can re-wire it with practice. You remember “cells that fire together, wire together,” right? That was a principle coined by Dr. Daniel Hebb, a Canadian neuroscientist. The more you focus on the fails, the harder it is to notice the wins (and more self-doubt, yikes)!
This isn’t about perfection, it’s a practice. Use this 3-step strategy and the next time self-doubt shows up at your front door you'll know how to welcome it. When you act in spite of self-doubt you activate new neural pathways and tap into your innate confidence. With practice, you are able to shift from self-doubt to trust that you know exactly how to move forward.
I could look at this off-morning as a verification that I am less than the moment requires. Or, I could take the time to rein in the wild horses of my self-doubt and anchor in the truth of who I really am! So can you, darling.