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 a sea of self-doubt when we forget to take care of our 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, 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 help you shift a “why me” attitude.

What helps you overcome doubt in your abilities?

Photo by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

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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  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • me

    That’s a really great insight. Thank you for that.

  • Shaunak

    I feel Doubt is fear in us about the unwanted outcome of any action or decision and the unpleasant suffering. It is lack of confidence to take a decision. There may be a lot of underlying worry of failure associated with it. This worry is due to the past experiences when we could not manage ourselves during any past problem and the resulted suffering
    associated with it affected us a lot. Why we suffered because we did not have following help. In first place, if we would have managed ourselves better then the suffering would not have happened at all…or in case of any suffering that happened, if we would have managed the experience of suffering then there would not be any fear of negativity implanted in us post the experience.

    What is managing the suffering – we know that suffering (bhoga – Sanskrit) is associated with any Karma…so if it is positive outcome, we enjoy the suffering; if not then we may get tortured due to the negative outcome…actually positive and negative is the perspective of our approach and attitude… Now how to manage this negative suffering – better management is possible by understanding the root cause or reason of any outcome and its associated suffering and LEARNING from it…this keeps us away from the negativity. Benefit of this approach – we do not get afraid from the experience, we get a learning- we tend not to repeat that and we remain positive.

    1. External help / correct guidance of elder, friend, relative.
    2. Strength of a true Guru or the faith and confidence (some may call their Grace) due to the trust in Guru
    3. Inner intelligence, positivity (even small traces help).
    4. Even the understanding to forgive one helps.

    Doubt is the root of all the anxiety, it has a cascading effect, it would affect a decision if taken after doubting a lot, and late…further what happens our doubt gets reinforced, confidence shaken. And we become gradually sure about the genuineness of our doubts.

    So instead, we start taking steps with all positivity, faith and confidence then this cycle can be broken. Obviously we have to analyze well before taking the step and once sure with all the logic, should take a leap of faith and be ready for anything. One important point is not to be critical about the result as it may be according to our expectation
    or may not and gets better gradually. So keep the faith and go on…Also as we
    know that sometimes something results into what we never would like to accept
    but it turns out to be the best outcome…
    We are not able to take correct steps, we seek for assurance and confirmation and safety. Due to this we may end up wasting time for no reason, this may also affect even the correct decision if not taken in time…

    We seek inner voice, how we will be hear that when we have so many doubts? I trust the God still helps us and we may hear that. But the point to note here is has doubt affected my inner self, inner voice, inner calling, confidence and courage to take risk and covert the failure into our advantage or able to see the positivity in any negative

  • Nick M.

    Thank You David your words brought comfort to me eases that tension I feel now :}

  • Nick M.

    I to have he same feeling”but my self-doubts are screaming at me and trying to drown all the good feedback out” I struggle every day with those demons that attack my thoughts”. I shall over.come these “Dragons” or die trying only one will survive, with my will I pray I will be the victor !

  • Nick M.

    Strange how I came upon this site, here I sit in the wee small hours of this morning thinking, dreaming, visualizing my goals! Just a few minutes ago I ask my higher power for help, for I feel so alone in my new endeavor. Feeling that all around the people that I am trying so desperately to help remain silent, no words of encouragement come from any of them..just silence,no phone calls, no e-mails! That feeling all alone troubles me every day! I’ll tell you that after my higher power told me go on the net and “ask why do people doubt themselves”, and like a flash this site came up through some mystical power or realization I feel 100% better up beat what a miracle our universe can produce just by asking!

    I can say that I do not feel alone, my spirits have been lifted my demons of self doubt have left me, I no longer feel despair…Just reading all the comments of honesty how one feels, thinks: wipe away all those negative feeling,thoughts,
    I feel like a “Knight In Shining Armor ” I mounted my faithful steed{ my mind} pick up my colors and today I will go after that “Dragon of you can’t do it”.Thank you all even if this great feeling last for a hour ..I will know I still have it in me! Love you all!

  • Vikrant Chauhan

    there one big thing in this life which can make all the differnce that is fear of death………….you know you may die tomorrow so what can i do today to make my life fullfilled that’s all..guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • J

    I am a runner. I stumbled upon this while trying to figure out how to get out of what seems to be my phase of bad races. Let me clarify, my “bad” races are not bad. My bad races land me in 3rd place, land me with many points to help my team drastically, but I am not satisfied with that. Mostly because I keep comparing my races in those of last year, in which I began receiving first place and beating all my past times. I remind myself that I was at my high point, my stage of immense improvement, but my mind won’t let the unsettling feeling of “failure” let it slip through. I feel as if I failed myself and everyone who had such high expectations of me. That was a main issue. I came into the season with everyone around me telling me how I would be beating the school record and such, but I knew that that would only happen with the work of a miracle. My PR was so far off from the school record, it would have been nearly impossible. However, no matter how logical I could get about the situation, there was always a small voice that would tell me that it isn’t 100% impossible. That voice killed me. That voice killed me as I ran the first race of the season and didn’t even beat my time from that course last year. That voice continued to kill me the more races I ran, so much that I fell sick. And that didn’t help. The speedy freshman runner beat me, and that hurt. I love being the best, and I love winning. I love hearing my name be called for first place, and I love seeing peoples faces when I tell them I won. I love people’s reactions and the attention I receive. What can I say, I’m human! So I have a race Friday. I won’t win, for we are racing against people outside our league. I want to PR though. I wasn’t to be able to tell myself that, yes, I will PR. The problem is, even as I type this, I want to say that I know deep inside I cannot PR. But i want to. SO bad. SO SO SO SO bad. So I have to unlock that potential inside of me, and I think I can do it. It’s taking longer than usual to unlock it, but I hope Friday is the day.

  • Nikki Gupta

    i always doubt on myself that i m looking good or not and then concludes that i dont look good i find lack i me and i looses my confidence in front of others.this problem is from childhood.

  • Nature Lover

    I am very afraid of being judged. I guess this is because I judge others, and quite harshly too. (Even though I usually keep the judgements to myself.) Being very afraid of judgements and criticisms make me very unwilling to place myself in situations like job applications (not just interviews) where I will certainly be judged. Then a swarm of embarrassing moments, regrets, and failures floats up. Does anyone have any good advice on how to deal with it?

  • Hemangi

    This is a really good post! I felt so good after reading it. Thank you!

  • HelloItsPerson

    I used to love writing. I wrote everyday and made countless stories cone to life with my pen or keyboard. Then a few years ago everything started going downhill. I stopped writing, reading and painting. My inner gremlins have successfully convinced me that I don’t deserve everything I did that was for my pure pleasure, they convinced me that I don’t deserve to be loved and that I shouldn’t trust or love myself. Whenever I would hold a pen that mean voice would say what’s the point and I would have no answer and just drop it. It was when I had my first suicidal thought that a small, almost buried, part of me said you have to stop this. That’s why I came here and I read your beautiful words describe inner demons perfectly. I am trying and that’s something I haven’t done in quite a long time. Thank you for your words.

  • Danielle

    Ignore the assholes, be picky about how and who you spend your time with, listen to nothing or no one but the positive voice in you that is always guiding you to what is best and easiest. People will act according to how you act. Create your life now. NOW. GO. And don’t give up. That is all. It’s better than the alternative.

  • Catherine Pleasants

    Just a quick question for clarification: In the last paraphraph under #4 subheading, could you elaborate on the first phrase, to the word “and”? Excellent article and very relevant, by the way, thank you!!

  • Wolfe

    I’ve always struggled with self-doubt to the point I probably have a clinical title, sure I have waves of optimism, but underneath the doubt is slowly resurfacing afterwards and fear takes over my plans. If I try to live my life more fully and take advantage of the bigger world we have to us in this era before I’m old and tired or weighed down with kids, I’m called foolish and financially stupid by family. Being used to rejection should make me strong….yet, it just reminds me how little anyone believes in me and in turn, I figure, maybe they are right….I’m not cut out for much.

    And as a cycle, I become angry, resentful….passive, and also passive-aggressive. If I ever plan to do anything, my ideas are always frowned upon no matter what it is. I consider myself unique and it is both a blessing and a curse: I have something, but most people could care less about it because it is “different” than their idea, thus it is tossed aside.

  • Elisha Volante

    HI Sir, i was really inspired by what you wrote. But sometimes my positive energy is almost at the verge of its extinction. My problem is i’m 21 i’m college undergrad and i’m having a hard time looking for a job too. Mostly because i have no work experience, which really made my self esteem in its lowest point. So reading some articles like this keep me hopeing to find some light and enlighten myself for a better result someday. Have a nice day 🙂

  • No

    So if you experience anxiety or depression you’re “just whining”? How condescending.

  • EvilDarkWolf 101

    I have also experienced self doubt until today. I always told myself that you’re worthy less, why am I even born and a lot more self doubt sentences. This would always happen at the end of the day when I fall asleep or should I say, cry myself to sleep. I would always show happiness to other even though I’m not happy myself. I show fake smiles that doesn’t even mean anything. I’m still in school years too. So my parents always scold me to do even better even though I already have 100% in my test. Even if I got a 90 they would always say, “Why were you even our child?!” Then after they say that, that’ll be stuck on my head for days, weeks, months and even years. I even get bullied in my school so my problem with self doubt gets doubled. I’m also one of the sporty kids. When everytime I make an accident like, accidentally choked my friend (had shirt on neck) and so when I tried to tag him, my fingers got caught on his shirt and choked him by accident. Luckily, I saved him by not falling head first to the ground. Then after that happened, everyone will say, “you choked him! What are you?! A phycopath?!” Then everyone would put all the blame to me. They didn’t even say sorry, well except for two. But to all to the fake smilers or self doubters, don’t be like me. Stay strong. Like one of the Indian stories. There are two wolves fighting inside of you. One is light and the other is dark. Then a boy asked, “which one wins?” Then the grandfather answered, “the one you feed.” So if you have self doubts and say mean things to yourself, you’re feeding the dark. So to be short, be positive!