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20 Ways to Overcome Doubts

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” ~ Pema Chodron

Nine out of ten times when I feel paralyzed, it’s because I doubt myself.

Sometimes I doubt my knowledge—whether I truly know enough to move forward. Sometimes I doubt the choices I’ve already made, as if I can somehow find a sense of control in rehashing what I’ve done and deciding how to do it better in the future.

Other times I doubt my instincts. I think I know what’s right for me, but my mind decides to split and take sides, creating a nagging sense of internal conflict over what I actually want to do.

I’ve mostly dealt with this as it pertains to my dreams, and it’s partially because I’m terrified of doing the wrong thing and somehow ruining everything I’ve been working toward. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, or make the wrong decision and then have to take responsibility for the outcome of my choice.

It feels easier not to choose at all.

But what I’m learning is that there is no such thing as “wrong.” The only wrong choice is not making one. That’s not to say we’ll always create the outcomes we visualize. But maybe that isn’t the point.

Maybe the point is to learn to be less afraid of leaping, knowing that the net may not always appear, but the fall will never be far enough to do any lasting damage.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I stretch outside my comfort zone with public speaking. As a former loner, I don’t deal well with crowds in general, let alone crowds staring at me while I talk vulnerably and passionately about something I love.

The space between the stage and the ground always feels like a massive distance, both in the ascent and the decline. I can’t say for certain I will ever feel fully confident in the spotlight. I may always feel at least some self-doubt, but I can choose not to doubt the choice to stretch and grow.

Doubts are just an inevitable part of life. The important thing is that we act in spite of them.

With this in mind, I recently asked on the Tiny Buddha Facebook page, “How do you overcome doubts?” I compiled some of the 100+ responses that resonated most strongly with me. They include:

1. Think, “In a thousand years who’s going to care?” ~Shaec Cooper

2. Focus on the good in your life, reflect on your past achievements, and look to your mentors and all they have achieved. ~Tiscanny Derksen

3. Tell yourself, “If I don’t try then I’ll never know. Don’t doubt yourself. You are a perfect example of talent and beauty.” ~Annie Pryatel

4. My mantra for this year: My abilities will always outweigh my doubts. The moment when I think I can’t is the moment that I can.” ~Lissa Rae

5. The moment you feel it creeping in, it’s time to act. Get involved and let experience prove you wrong. ~Hector Peguero

6. Acknowledge them but don’t invest in them. Then move on. ~Ray Benoit

7. Ask where the doubt stems from. Is it your intuitive self or your fearful self? Ask that question and listen to the very first thought that comes into your head. Believe that one. ~Wendy Chadwick

8. When in doubt, zoom out. If you doubt all the time, you need to zoom out to the big picture. ~Mary Mecca

9. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I doubt this doubt?” ~Gareth Stubbs

10. What’s the worst that could happen if you do what you feel doubtful about? Is that something you can deal with? Then do it! Most of our worries are a waste of time. What will happen, will happen. ~Kate Roselund

11. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going. ~Roze Quartz

12. Learn to live with them comfortably. ~Esteban Cabral

13. Realize that doubts are fear, and fear is: Forgetting Everything’s All Right. ~Sherri Levy

14. The doubtful vibe that you send out into the universe will only create more doubt. Refocus and believe. ~Tiffany Helton

15. Breathe. ~Marti Erickson Chamberlain

16. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Doubt is only a thought and feeling, nothing to resist. ~De-stress Your Success

17. Notice that a doubt is just a thought and don’t believe in it. ~Rami Liesaho

18. See doubt as a means to improve yourself. Break through the barrier of doubt to better yourself. ~Deepak Soowamber

19. You have to walk through them, and it sometimes turns out your doubts were well-founded. You aren’t guaranteed a “good” outcome but there is treasure even in a “bad” outcome if you know how to look. ~Alyson Irvin

20. Start with love. Be still with love. And work through with love. ~Pamela Paraison

Are you dealing with any doubts right now? What’s helping you move past them?

*Some of the Facebook responses were edited slightly to read “you” instead of “I.” Photo by MaplessInSeattle.

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • http://www.thinkchooselive.org Chris Barba

    This is a great list to read before doing something nerve racking!

    Feel the fear and do it anyway.

    The difference between intention and action is courage. It gives life to our virtues. It is the foundation that creates a reality around those beliefs.

    Great content from everyone in this post! Very applicable.

    Cheers!

  • kblack

    I couldn’t have read this at a better time.

    First of all, it was a pleasure hearing you speak at the IdeaMensch even on Wednesday. I would never have known you were ever afraid of public speaking by the way you stood on stage! You had a power in your presence comparable to seasoned public speakers. It was very inspiring.

    With that said, I’m dealing with a lot of my own self doubt about the path I’m on. I’m currently in my first year of law school and all these anxieties are creeping up about whether I even feel this is even the right field for me, whether this is worth all the student loan debt, whether I have the skills to succeed in this field, or whether my heart is even in this anymore.

    I was never really a glass half full kind of person. But one of the mantras I took from the IdeaMensch event is that it’s not about the glass being half full or half empty – it’s about what’s inside the glass.

    I have to tell myself every morning to truly believe in my abilities, and truly believe that whatever happens will happen. I will end up exactly where I’m supposed to be.

    Trust, faith, and belief in myself and in my decisions never came easily. But with conscious daily practice I believe I can turn these doubts into thoughts of encouragement.

  • Jennifer

    It takes a lot of courage to write with so much vulernability. Thank you for that. I definately have a lot of doubt, then I am hard on myself about that doubt. I will keep this posting.

  • Sarah

    This is wonderful! I treat doubt like a cloud that will pass and keep moving forward.

    Sooner or later either the cloud passes (usually) or there’s a break in the cloud; a stream of glorious sunlight and there is clarity that has broken through.

    I sit with doubt, I move with doubt. And soon enough it shows its nature.

    http://www.comedykarma.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/sespensees larissa

    I’m in a constant state of doubting myself — my abilities, my character, my soul. But what this really comes down to is a fear of allowing ourselves to acknowledge and operate at our full potential. Without fear, one is also without doubt. I’m working every day to expel these feelings and operate without fear, and these tips will certainly help me do so. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m so glad you enjoyed my presentation. It’s a little-known fact that public speaking does not come easily to me. Ironically, I grew up doing theater, but that was largely because I fed on the approval (though I did genuinely enjoy performing). Since I have learned that about myself, I feel especially vulnerable on stage. I am continuing to push myself to do it simply because it scares me. Nice to know the fear doesn’t show!

    I also loved that point about what’s inside the glass. I think it can be challenging to know what our instincts are. We always hear that we should listen to the small, soft voice within, but sometimes that voice isn’t clear about what it wants. What I’m learning is to watch my resistance to distinguish between what I genuinely don’t want to do, and what I don’t want to do because I am out of my comfort zone. It does feel different in my body, and the more I tune into it, the easier it’s becoming to identify the difference.

    I have known a few people who went to law school and then decided it wasn’t for them, and others still who felt that and then realized they were just feeling overwhelmed and confused. I’m sure it will become clearer to you as you move forward. I hope that whatever it is you decide you want, that you follow it once you know!

    Thanks for being a part of Tiny Buddha. I appreciate you. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Some great wisdom in your comment. I love what you wrote about the difference between action and intention. Thanks for commenting Chris!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Larissa,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes it just feels safer not to expand. Thanks for summarizing it so nicely. I really love the conversations that form in the comments here!

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Beautiful. I love the cloud visualize. It always passes eventually. Most of the time we just need to summon the patience and fortitude to wait it out. Thanks for commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Jennifer. Ultimately, I feel a lot freer when I own the truth of what I feel. I don’t have all the answers and I often deal with intense emotions. But I believe that self awareness and honesty keep those feelings from completely overwhelming and paralyzing me. It’s always cathartic to acknowledge what’s going on in my head and heart, and suddenly I feel a lot more peaceful and free.

    I can relate to being hard on myself. It helps me to remember that I would never treat a friend that way, so why do it to me? I’m so glad this post was helpful to you. =)

    Love and light,
    Lori

  • Phranque

    Dwelling on doubts as if I could somehow change the past, instead of keeping the focus on changing the future, by changing what I do now. As if I maintain some kind of control over the past by NOT letting it go. This always brings to my mind the image of running ahead full speed while looking backward over my shoulder. I’m sure to run headlong into something!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Lori!

    I’m so proud of you for taking those leaps, and putting yourself out there regardless of your fears! You did so, and look at the incredible environment that you’ve created with Tiny Buddha!!

    Doubts and fears are invisible mental blocks that hold back people’s potentials. It takes a lot of courage to do what you want to do, while feeling the fear! Thank you for this post, your site has been a big inspiration to me, while I grow and experience these same doubts and fears.

    As always, keep up the amazing work!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Mike! It feels good to step outside my comfort zone and become just a little more comfortable stretching in that way. I’m thrilled that Tiny Buddha has been an inspiration to you. You’re an inspiration to me, as well. I love your positive energy =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Robson/508684034 Greg Robson

    A favourite quote of mine:

    If you’re going through hell, keep going.
    Winston Churchill

    Now there was a guy who had doubts but pushed through to succeed!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love that quote, as well! As someone who has spent a lot of time in my head, I think there’s something amazingly powerful about the simple decision to keep moving forward.

  • Bking

    Fortune cookie- “you will never know what you can do until you try”

  • Starr brown

    thank yoou for that because i doudt myself some time and then i don’t be positive!!!!!!

  • loveley

    like when im goin to calfriona for interveiw i be getting nevous i ready this in the hotel and it calm me down that why i like this im going to buy a book yes i will………. love this

  • http://twitter.com/AgencyBookkeep agency bookkeeping

    tinybuddha i think it is time for you to inspire us in the tumblr world as well =)

  • Anonymous

    Really helpful and insightful post on dealing with fears and doubts. Another point is that thoughts are only ideas crossing our minds and only become real if you attach importance to them ….. viewing thoughts in this way can really help you shift your mind set!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there! I just saw your comment. What a great image and way to explain it! Thank you for adding your thoughts. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Great point! I sometimes give way too much power to my doubting thoughts, as if they have some type of factual basis just because I’m thinking them. It’s always helpful to remember that just because you think something, that doesn’t mean it’s true!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s a great idea! I will look into that. =)

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  • sidney

    Well, there can be some truth in your doubts. Honesty to oneself requires critical thinking. Accepting the difference between desired outcome and desired capabilities. If a doubt is pointing to a weakness, such as I can not scuba, if I can not swim – then perhaps one needs to inventory that road block and address it first.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Great point Sidney. Thanks for adding this!

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  • Darth Pedersen

    This post means so much to me. I just recently decided to turn my life around and do better for myself and my husband and do the things I’ve always wanted to do. I have decided to go back to school and that doubt and fear is coming back. I will talk to my husband about it to let the fear out and I will cry and this post just helped me remember that the fear and doubt will pass and what will be left will be beautiful. Thank you.

  • Darth Pedersen

    This post means so much to me. I just recently decided to turn my life around and do better for myself and my husband and do the things I’ve always wanted to do. I have decided to go back to school and that doubt and fear is coming back. I will talk to my husband about it to let the fear out and I will cry and this post just helped me remember that the fear and doubt will pass and what will be left will be beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. I’m so glad this post was helpful to you!

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  • G 1952

    The truth in your words sounds like you must know me better than I do

  • 6i6i

    Thank you for this!

    I’ve tried over and over again to achieve my career goals and every time I tried I doubted myself so much. I now realize that I was afraid to fail, yet that fear kept me from reaching my true potential. I kept second guessing my self and afraid that I wasn’t good enough and that I wouldn’t make it. I tried to keep an image that everything was fine, but in the inside my anxiety was taking over me. 

    I have grown a lot in the past year, I have taken the time to accept myself and look within. I have allowed myself to feel that fear and not suppress it. I have changed my perception and think more positive thoughts. I have realize that I am very fortunate to have the friends I have, and I am choosing to be grateful. I have become a happier person, and I now feel more inner peace. Granted, I still work to do but at least I started that journey. Thank you for this blog, it is always inspiring and uplifting. 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. It sounds like you’ve made some wonderful positive changes recently. =)

  • Anon.

    I am working with a very nagging doubt right now

    I’m chosing to chage my discipline in uni. I want to switch from BBA to Architecture/engineering. Im not so doubtful that ill make it, but more of what will happen IF i DO make it? What then? What abot the story after the happy ending? cx even happy endings continue, and what if i dont like the continuation to my happy ending. I will always have to remember that i CHOSE it. I chose this path, this more difficult path, i CHOSE to trouble myself and those that love me. I CHOSE to tread the path less travelled.

    Right now, at this very moment, i doubt whether ii should chose. I doubt i’ll remember. Right now, im freaking out, hence i cant even focus on exactly why i chose it. Normally, the simple reason of interest and fascination more than suffices. Right now, it’s not clicking. and that’s making me freak out. Help.

  • ABinLA

    The best moments in your life,
    are the most fearless moments in your life. – AB

  • christopher

    help f you can I beg I feel the doubt of me and my partner will not make it and that they may be unfaithful to myself. help my put the doubt in the past
    !!!!

  • biswajit

    well, even my mind is creating many kinds of silly doubts……i just dont know why….every single thing that i come across in my daily life..my mind starts to create doubts about them…..and this kills me from inside….like i will give you an example- when i solve mathematics and deal with calculations ..my mind creates doubts like why is 2+2 equal to 4..even though i know the answer my mind tells me why is this the answer….what is the reason behind it??plzz help me out of this…..

  • jezzus man

    “I want that D” quote by bruh man

  • Believe

    Perhaps dealing with doubts and to prevent it from becoming road block is rephrase it in a positive manner like wearing a seatbelt. It is a safety mechanism to hold your back from injury or death in case of accident. Once you are safe, you have can release it and free to make choices. So doubt is your safety mechanism to slow down, thinking it through then proceed

  • Jeff Garcia

    Thank you for making this site . I am currently working on a mix tape and it’s really stressing , everywhere I go and rap everybody always tells me that its going to take me far in life. The elders, people like me, the older people, etc. . I’m still an adolescent, 15 years young looking for a future. I’ve been though real rough times and I juss got out of juvinel hall . This site gave me some motivation because theirs times I doubt myself because of teachers , cops , and racist people insulting my work when they have never heard me . What I say in my music is educated , I’m self educated but people don’t see that in Hispanics . If you would like to hear my mix tape when its out I’ll gladly inform you. Thank you

    -Jeff Garcia ( MaCc Duce )

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Jeff,

    You’re most welcome, and congrats on putting the mixed tape together! I think it’s wonderful that you’ve done this, in spite of the lack of support. And I’d love to hear it when you’ve completed it. =)

    Lori