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5 Steps to Deal with Self-Doubt and Trust Your Self Again

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~Honore de Balzac

A while back I began to feel out of sorts with my writing. It happened after coming down from the high of creating almost nonstop with my inner muse. I noticed that I began to feel down, like the feeling one gets after being at the amusement park when the excitement is over.

Creating and finishing my projects had been a wild ride. It was exciting and intense at times. But once done, an insidious feeling began to over take me.

My thoughts began to wander to “the dark side” questioning my abilities.

What if I can’t create something new? What if people don’t like what I have done?

Like after any expenditure of energy, there is always a lull. Lulls have been known to drain ones creative energy if you let them. I know from experience that if I let myself I can easily slip into a creative stupor.

When in that lull or in that space between creativity, it may seem like nothing is happening. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We need that break.   

When in this state I feel sensitive and quick to take things personally. I could just do nothing and give in to the disappointment when things have not gone as I have expected. Alternatively, I could use this as motivation, a starting point for another creative endeavor.

But self-doubt has a way of getting under your skin. For me I begin to feel an uprising of the “you’re not good enough” gremlins inside me when this happens.

I remember when this happened after something I submitted online was not accepted.  It felt like a rejection. “Forget it then!” belted out a voice inside with the force of a 2 year-old having a tantrum when she doesn’t get her way. 

But then another voice from deep within countered it with an equally persistent protest: “Why?” it asked, “Just write something different and submit the other to someone else!” It was the voice of my muse, the very same one who had helped me to write that first post.

When I had been writing and creating at numerous other times and felt discouraged and ready to give up, my muse told me in no uncertain terms to stop whining and start creating.

My muse also told me to use my experience—all those discouraged, annoyed, or excited feelings to fuel my writing.

The message was:

Trust your self, use what you have inside to create.”

With the right attitude you can bring any goal into being; it’s all a matter of perspective.

So I can trust myself, listen to my inner muse, and try again, or I can give in to the gremlins that discourage persistence, positivity, and faith in one’s self

It’s a choice one has to make with anything in life: to either believe in yourself or allow yourself to be sucked into self-pity and feelings of self-doubt.

I know I am not alone in this battle of wills. It’s a struggle for a lot of creatives, new and seasoned, to push on through for their visions to be birthed. It is easy enough to get lost in the sea of other creations out there.

Trying to navigate through them without comparing yourself to others’ successes can be difficult.

Muting the voices of self-doubt gremlins can be quite a feat. Here are some things that can help you trust yourself again when feeling defeated:

1. Ground yourself.

If you find yourself being pulled into negative thoughts stemming from past experiences or comments from others, staying present is key to being able to focus on the positive.

Sometimes it’s as simple as getting outside in nature. For others, meditating may help. I love walking meditations out in nature where I notice the details of my surroundings without judgment.

2. Balance the negative.

If you find that voices of the critical gremlins (both inner and outer) are way too loud, drown them out (or at least balance them) with your own chants of self-praise.

This can be hard when you’re in a real funk and find it difficult to access encouraging words for your self. To counter these voices you may find it helpful to write down 5 to 10 positive things about yourself in a handy mini notepad.

Whenever the gremlins strike with their undermining comments of “You’re not good enough,” whip out your book and read out loud words of praise for your self.

3. Take a break.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by what you perceive as not going so well, take some time away from that project and focus on something totally different. Sometimes shifting our focus away from what we are stuck on helps us take a new perspective when we come back to it.

Doodle, scribble, paint with your hands. Put on your favorite music and move around.

4. Nurture yourself.

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of self-doubt when we forget to take care of or own needs.

Make sure you have enough play time (away from work to balance the work and play). Be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day (not all at once), get enough sleep, and eat healthily.

Keep a gratitude art journal where you pick a picture out of a magazine or from online and choose one to three things a day that you are thankful for.

5. Connect with others.

While it is important to strengthen your self-love muscles, it is just as important to get the support you need from others. Whether this is from friends, family, or a professional therapist or coach, getting reassurance or help from others can make a big difference.

Sometimes just the reassurance that you are not the only one who gets stuck or has moments of self doubt can be help you shift a “why me” attitude.

What helps you overcome doubt in your abilities?

Photo by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

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Avatar of Petrea Hansen-Adamidis

About Petrea Hansen-Adamidis

Petrea Hansen-Adamidis is an Art Therapist and founder of Art Therapist Drawing the Self Out where she offers resources to help you connect more deeply with your inner muse.  She is creator of Free Your Inner Child a free e-course, and Dream Dialogues e-course. 

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  • Justin Mazza

    So true Petrea. I know that there are times when we are more sensitive or aware than others and we can get down on ourselves and take things personally. I agree, we just need to re-boot the mind and get back at it again. Usually when negative states arise it is because we have neglected our soul.

  • Loran Hills

    Petrea!  You did it!  We are totally on the same page – developing techniques to deal with doubt (which creates turmoil) so that you nurture yourself and achieve tranquility!

  • Alexandra Powell

    Thanks for this post Petrea… At this moment I am doubting myself very much, feeling un-grounded and disconnected. It was interesting to see that you connected those three things. I can certainly see how one influences the other. This was a good time to discover I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  • petrea

    Yes I agree Justin, when we are disconnected from our selves (briefly or longer periods) we don’t see clearly our true selves and potential.

  • petrea

    So wonderful Alexandra that you found this post today! And no you are not alone, I think many of us experience these feelings of self doubt.  In some ways the media feeds this insecurity so that we feel the need to buy the products that will make it all better.  This only reinforces that notion that the answers must be outside ourselves, when truely they are within.

  • Hjrohlfes

    I very much needed to read this at this time in my life! Thank you!

  • Square-Peg Karen

    Love these 5 steps, Petrea – particularly like how gentle you are with your “gremlins”. Thanks for this!

  • Pamela Jorrick

    It seems that the lulls in productivity are the perfect time (and necessary) to rest and restore, dream and plan, as long as we can keep the right fame of mind and appreciate the time to relax as a gift. Thanks for the post!

  • Maz

    Well now deeply conflicted and challenged by heartbreak and abandonment of ones I Love, I question my previous view that I ever was a loving, powerful, creative soul. I recognize your ideas as medicine for the soul, but these jewels, these pearls seem just out of reach. Not yet washed ashore. And I thank you for putting this to word as I continue with hope perhaps my strength will return and a whole new aspect of this great journey will begin.

  • Suzshannon

    I call my mom. She reminds me to take a step back and look at just how far I’ve come. She spurs ideas to reflect on and that gives me a boost (I’m 47; we all still need our moms sometimes).

  • Mike

    This is great, really having a hard time and this piece just gave me assurance I needed. Great Work

  • Katherine

    Thank you. Truly spot-on and very inspirational

  • Tanja @ Crystal Clarity

    I’m SO experiencing those doubts right now, Petrea… I have all these lovely comments about the ebook coming in, but my self-doubts are screaming at me and trying to drown all the good feedback out.

    I love your 5 steps, and I’ll be trying to use them over the next few days, I can promise you!

  • petrea

    Absolutely! It’s impotant to have someone to reflect our ideas to.

  • yvonne

    I’m sat here, laptop on my knee, fingers wavering over the keys and I’ve rewritten the same sentence a hundred times, and then pressed the delete key. Two weeks ago I was working at a wonderful pace, loving every second and really seeing the vision and capturing it. It lasted, like that, glowing beating passion for over a week. Over a whole solid week, when before I’ve only had tastes of it. Minutes here, there, maybe a few consecutive hours.

    Even breaks, conversations with others, daily tasks weren’t enough to kill the vision. It was like feeling alive for probably the first time in my entire life. I really thought, this is it! I’ve done it! I’ve made that leap to ‘be’ and I’m finally the writer and creator I’ve always longed to be. My husband laughed at my glow – overjoyed at my new birth. That’s how it felt. Waking.

    It didn’t last – what happened? No idea. It just didn’t last. Daily tasks became as combative as ever, my vision for my story appears at intermittent, disjointed times and it’s so hard to weave it with what I thought I was working on.

    I’m literally sat here, tapping away, but my head is heavy and empty. My bra feels tight. My fingers stiff. This morning, when I had to engage with people, my vision was jumping around, but I wanted to snatch it’s trampoline from under it – stick it in a bottle until I could sit quietly and watch it. I couldn’t function and follow it.

    I’m sat here, tapping away, and thinking of how wonderful two weeks ago was as I hit the delete key again. Then I came to Tiny Buddha for a little soul cleansing and uplifting, and I read this piece. Thank you for writing it!

    I’m sat here, smiling now, as I’ve just signed up for the inner child course and I’m beginning to glow again, thinking that perhaps I can make how I felt two weeks ago more of the normal way to ‘be’.

    I’m smiling now; I’ve come so far.

  • David_Lee_Q

    I have recently experienced a bout of self-doubt. I work in television, and have worked at the same company for many years now. I’m very good at what I do to the point where it really doesn’t feel like work at all. A freelancing opportunity opened up for me at a different company, doing the same work, but with entirely different show formats. For the first time in almost 9 years I had to learn new and different things, and impress new and different people. This created major self-doubt in my abilities as I wasn’t sure I could do as well at my new job as my other job. I had to prove to people all over again I was capable of doing the work. It was a temporary blow to my ego, but I’m glad I fought off the negative thoughts and did well at my new job when it was time to show everyone what I could do. I still have some self-doubt, but I know as long as I remain positive, work hard, and envision great things in the long run everything will work out. Stay positive!!!

  • petrea

    Yay Yvonne, so happy you found this post. Those pregant pauses are hard to sit with sometimes.  My expereince has been there is always something going on even when it seems like I am doing nothing.  The seeds have been planted and tdormant though they may be,  they will germinate and sprout when the time is right. It can’t be forced.  The more I allow myself this understanding, the more things flow for me. 

    Your muse is not gone, perhaps she is just playing hide & seek. Join in the game with the playfulness of a child and you are sure to find her.

  • Gin

    Thank you for this post, Petrea – such wonderful tips! I’ve thought about trying what you mentioned in tip #2, writing down positive things about myself as well as positive things other people have said about me and/or my work, but I’ve never taken the time to do it. Now I think I will. Thanks again!

  • DaisyHdez

    What a wonderful post, I’m constantly having to work through those gremlins. I love the steps you’ve identified here and would love to apply them on a daily basis, not only when in doubt. Thank you!

  • Gina

    Wonderful post Petrea. It’s so amazing what can happen when we connect to our inner guide, our muse :). Thanks for these five steps……what great ways to bounce back from the doubt monster :).

  • Stevie

    A simple thank  you

  • Monica Loncich

    I was the student this morning waiting for the teacher to appear with the reminder I most needed…thank you for posting the 5 steps …so timely for me…

  • Elly

    What you write about is so familiar. I am struggling with the situation right now and hope that the muse will win again!

  • Admin

    As a long term follower, I have to say the blogs like this one need to be severly edited it’s like reading someones diary. It’s all about the writer, who cares. If it has to be said for relevance make it short!

  • Cherry

    Petrea believ it or not I have been going through a bit low and then stumble over this beautiful and practical mail and i am already feeling better readin…thank you!

  • Mdourountakis

    Thank you for the amazing upliftment

  • Brent

    Great post! Thank you for the insight.

  • kirtika

    Just what i needed. Thank you.

  • alcohol flower

    i almost read a lot about this self steem and trying to inspired myself but everytime i talked with my auntie i always go back to zero, there are times that i dont wanna talk to her like now, were in a long distance relationship you know shes all i have but everytime we talked i just wanna die and gone like a bubbles and everytime i tried to talk to her it always end up in no good conversation.. i know she love me that much and shes kinda control freak you know well before i dont mind that but one day i waked up and think about myself im already 20 and i dunno how decide on my own i always follow her then i stop and try to do things on my own ,she doesnt always want me to have friends and boyfriend i didnt know how to talk to others and i dunno myself, all along i always follow her now here i am trying to build myself but still im lost, when i started to disobey her our relationship gone rough.. and i still dont know what to do in my life… my friends are all went in a far place different country and i stop telling them how i really feel coz i dont want them get worried so much, i still dont know how to start in my life, im like a plain bond paper, a gun without bullet , a bird without feather , i dont know what to feel anymore – - ive got a boyfriend but i end up breaking him coz i dunno how to love him then i realize i need to learn to love myself first but i dunno how..
    i cant think straight most of the times those voice are so loud that i cant even stop it all their words are repeated over n over in my head

  • Michael Harris

    I am a highly gifted(iq 160+ by professional measure) and creative individual as such these gremlins whom I refer to as my demons are very strong and pervasive. I experience periods of extreme productiveness followed by profound withdrawal. I am not the best at coping with the withdrawal periods and often doubt myself as irrational as it is for me to do so. I often compare myself to other high iq people I know, such as my brother who is a theoretical physicist and highly successful in his field. I’ve struggled to find my niche as I prefer subjects such as history and philosophy to mathematics and science. The only other person in my family not into the hard sciences has been dead for several years now. It is a very lonely existence as a result. I take strong nor-epinephrine and serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and it is still a constant fight with my shadow side. Bottom line thank you for posting articles of this nature on tiny buddha.

  • Jeff Faulkner

    Great article, thank you. I think self doubt is kinda tricky mostly because it’s a by-product of self delusion and attachment. In other words, if I am really attached to the idea of being great at something and it turns out I am not, that’s going to hurt. But the attachment is the issue, not the self doubt. The doubting sometimes is just real life saying – get your priorities right and stop thinking you’re so special:) Also relax and love yourself for being a living breathing miracle and not the world’s greatest x.