“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” ~Cicero
At one point or another, we all questions whether or not we are doing enough, making enough money, or if we are going to be “successful” enough. I know this firsthand, as I’ve spent long periods of my young adult life in a persistent state of fear and self-doubt.
When I graduated from college, I worked 60, 70, even 80 hours a week in a corporate setting climbing the proverbial ladder. In my mind, I thought that was success—even though it wasn’t what I truly wanted for myself.
I held onto dead-end jobs, toxic relationships, and draining friendships because I thought that if I left them, I’d be a quitter.
I doubted myself to the point that I was making my decisions based on what others wanted of me, and not what I wanted for myself. I was constantly struggling with confidence and always second-guessing myself.
What I’ve learned from my experiences is that if I don’t nip the self-limiting thoughts in the bud right away, this “woe is me” mindset can become debilitating.
I’ve discovered a few things in my work to help with self-doubt and boost my confidence that may help you too:
1. Stop comparing your accomplishments to your friends’ and colleagues’ accomplishments.
I find that I doubt myself the most when I’m comparing what I’m doing with what other people are doing. When I compare my accomplishments to a colleague’s, I start feeling inadequate. Your colleague’s accomplishments are not a litmus test to grade your own success.
One key thing to remember when you find yourself in this mental pattern is that everyone is on his or her own journey.
I find that I am most successful in my personal and professional life when I am following what works for me, and what makes me feel good, even if it is different from what someone I look up to is doing.
2. Forget about what everyone else is thinking of you.
When you care about what everyone else is thinking of you, you inhibit yourself. You’d rather do nothing and not get judged, than do something and risk criticism.
Worrying about what other people think of you will continue to hold you back from doing something potentially huge for yourself.
If you hold dreams for your future—which you probably do if you’re reading Tiny Buddha—then at some point you have to let go of everyone else’s opinion, otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of self-doubt.
3. Just make a decision, and then correct your course as you go along.
Getting caught up in a decision is another surefire way to water the seeds of self-doubt. It’s very easy to get stuck in trying to make decisions. This back-and-forth thought process—questioning if you should go with option A or option B—can exacerbate self-doubt.
What is the cure for this? Just make a decision already! Usually your first reaction is going to be your best since it typically comes from a place of intuition rather from the ego, and before outside opinions get in the way.
Rainer Maria Rilke says, “no feeling is final” and I feel the same could be said about your decisions. Just make a decision, and then fine-tune your course along the way.
4. Write yourself a hand-written letter.
Sometimes a kind word or compliment from someone can totally bring me out of a slump, and I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation where someone made your day.
But what if you’re feeling low and unconfident, and no one is around to pick you up? Well, there will always be one person left to uplift you and that’s you. A great exercise that I’ve come up with is writing myself a hand-written letter.
This negative, doubtful, scared part of ourselves is our shadow side, and we all have one. And just as we have a shadow, we also have a light side, the positive, optimistic and productive self.
What I do is actually write a hand-written letter from my light side to my shadow side basically saying that everything will be okay, and I even list all of the things I have accomplished recently to help me feel better. (It really does work!)
5. Listen and/or read positive material on a daily basis.
One of my quick go-to ways to boost my confidence in a jiffy is to listen to some of my favorite self-development books. My favorite sources are:
- The Luck Factor by Brian Tracy
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
I’ll put the audio books on my iPod and listen to them when I’m walking to work, taking the subway, or just strolling out and about in the city. I find it gives me a nice reminder of my potential. It’s an instant pick-me up
6. Write in a gratitude journal at the end of each day.
It’s far too easy to wallow in pity and focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Giving those feelings energy will only create more situations in which we come up empty handed.
Instead of focusing on what you are lacking, focus on what you do have, and what you have accomplished. This fosters a feeling of gratitude, and when you invest energy into gratitude now, you’ll start to find that you’ll be rewarded in the future.
Feelings of gratitude put you in a positive frame of mind. When you’re feeling positive, you’re feeling good. And when you’re feeling good, good things happen.
7. Identify your biggest fans, and then nurture those relationships.
No (wo)man is an island—meaning, you can’t do it all on your own. Sometimes all you need is a little reassurance, and your biggest fans are the people who do just that for you.
You first need to identify your biggest fans—the friends, family members, and peers who think you’re the cat’s meow, and who have always been there for you. Friend’s who tell you that you’re awesome, just because.
Then, put your energy into fostering deeper and lasting relationships with these people. We all have them, so nurture those relationships and draw strength and confidence from them.
8. Go to your mantras for support.
I have a set of mantras that I’ve come up with over the years that I basically repeat whenever I doubt myself. The mantras remind me of how far I’ve come, and that I’m doing great things for myself.
They also remind me to slow down, be easy on myself, and always listen to my heart.
One of my favorite mantras I use is, “You are loved.” Doubtful feelings can arise when we feel we’re not good enough, and that can stem from feeling like we are not loved. By repeating this mantra, I remind myself, that yes, people in my life do love me, that I am good enough, and that I need not doubt myself.
At one point or another, we will all find ourselves experiencing some sort of self-doubt; it’s part of being human. What I’ve learned as I continue on my own journey is that feelings of self-doubt usually arise when we aren’t fully feeling loved.
I’ve learned that by surrounding myself with my biggest fans, by focusing on my own goals, and by practicing gratitude I can experience love more deeply, minimizing feelings of self-doubt.
Photo by Arman Dz.