We all struggle with self-doubt. We all wish it would go away. We all blame it for sabotaging us as we pursue our biggest goals.
The funny thing is…
Despite our obsession with the subject, most of us don’t know what self-doubt truly is.
We think it’s a feeling. A nagging sense of inadequacy. A haunting fear of failure.
And while that may be how we experience self-doubt, the feelings are side-effects of a deeper, correctable issue.
In this post, I’m going to teach you a simple framework for identifying the sources of self-doubt in your life. Then, in the next post, I’ll give you strategies for replacing self-doubt with the confidence you need to boldly chase your goals.
Where the feeling of self-doubt comes from
Most people believe their feelings are the products of their circumstances. If a friend gives you rude feedback on your idea for a new business, you feel sad or angry. If your book proposal gets accepted by a publisher, you feel happy.
But the truth is a bit more complicated. As counterintuitive as it might seem, feelings do not come from your circumstances, and I’ll prove it to you.
Imagine going for a hot air balloon ride with a close friend. If you believe hot air balloons are a safe and reliable way to enjoy a great view, you’ll feel relaxed, exhilarated. After a while, you might even feel bored.
But if your friend believes hot air balloons are death traps, ever a gust of wind away from a fiery tailspin, she will feel differently. Fear, regret, anger at you for dragging her along — these are the feelings that will torment the poor soul while her fingers cling to the basket.
Same circumstances. Different feelings.
How can this be?
Our feelings aren’t the products of our circumstances. They’re the products of what we believe.
The feeling of self-doubt is no exception. Which means…
If you want to overcome self-doubt, you must identify your limiting beliefs and change them.
How to identify your limiting beliefs
Most limiting beliefs look something like this:
I could never accomplish this specific goal because _________________________________.
I can’t relax on a hot air balloon because I don’t believe they’re safe.
I could never be an entrepreneur because I’m not smart enough.
I could never be a public speaker because I’m an introvert.
I could never write a book because I don’t have any experiences to write about.
I could never make a difference in my community because my last attempt failed.
While limiting beliefs might look reasonable on the surface, many of them are completely false. So let’s take a look at your limiting beliefs, and see if any of them are causing you unnecessary self-doubt.
What are your limiting beliefs?
I’ve decided to write this post in two parts because if you skip this first step, the next step won’t help.
So for now, grab a sheet of paper and write “I could never ______________________ (write the goal you want to accomplish) because _______________________________ (write your reasons).”
Here’s the assignment:
Step 1: Come up with 10 reasons you don’t believe you can achieve the goal you’ve written down. It’s by digging deep that we identify our greatest saboteurs.
Step 2: Do the exercise again later this week, when your brain has had more time to process this concept. Better yet, keep your paper handy and record limiting beliefs as they appear.
Take this week to get clarity on the beliefs you need to change, and next week we’ll get to work changing them.
One last thing…
If you feel comfortable, share some of your limiting beliefs in the comments. I’ll choose a few to use as examples in next week’s post.
I enjoy reading your post. As I told you once, I’m planning to write a book, so I’m collecting material now. I promise I would let you know. Althought we’ve never met, you’re on the list of friends encouraging me to overcome my own limiting beliefs. Thanks
Abbas Dehdar says
I read carefully your post. I agree with you that human being has the capability to resolve any problem but sometimes in spite of all efforts you do not reach your target.
Nowadays I am thinking why the buyers should buy from me ,when I see myself in mirror I assume I do not have any positive preference to attract any potential buyers.what I can afford do not suffice them.
Your posts are interesting and encouraging. I use them to guide my daughter who is an under-graduate and faces many challenges. Keep up the good work.
Stephanie Anderson says
You asked us to share some of our limiting beliefs… A big goal of mine is to own my own IT solutions company. I have over 17 years of IT experience in almost all facets, from programmer, software engineer, business analyst, application designer, working with clients, etc. And in numerous industries. So I have collected information from each project/company/engagement, such as Best Practices, SDLC, bidding and estimate no-nos. I could continue to bore you with the details. BUT, I have found myself in a place of self-doubt and serious fear of failure (especially because circumstances took me out of the IT world for a bit, so I’m behind in some of the new technology and rusty in the old).
I listed some limiting beliefs that are obviously contributing to my procrastination to even begin to work towards this goal:
1. I could never be successful in creating an IT solutions company using my idea of how it should be properly ran (based on years of Lessons Learned while working with similar companies) because there is too much competition and I can’t create something different,
2. I could never actually run a successful business because I don’t have the needed business acumen expertise that would be required.
3. I believe that I may be thinking too big because its an unachievable pipedream.
4. I couldn’t handle the projects because I’m not talented enough in my IT skills.
5. I don’t have the proper network (or any network at the moment)
6. I fear that I don’t know where to start because it’s too overwhelming.
7. I could never succeed because I feel that I don’t have a good support system in place. (Moral support)
8. I could never get funding or grants because i have nothing to back up my idea and writing a proposal is difficult.
9. I couldn’t be able to obtain clients because I don’t have the courage to find them and/ bid for contracts without looking/feeling foolish.
10. I can’t even start the process of taking that leap, starting something new, finding others to work with me, to get out of my comfort zone because I’m so scared I’ll fail. It’s almost paralyzing at times. Self-doubt has lowered my confidence, whereas it has never been a problem in the past.
Thank you for reading my extensive comment and for all of your posts. I find them extremely helpful.
Kyle Young says
Stephanie, what an amazing comment! And congratulations on having the self-awareness to list so many of your limiting beliefs. Those are valuable insights. Obviously, I can’t tell you what to do, but I will say that starting small can be a smart way to build confidence, debunk limiting beliefs, and develop the skills you need to succeed. You might find this post encouraging: http://www.kyleyoung.net/hard-goals/