I’ve had issues with self-doubt for as long as I can remember. In a journal excerpt written back in 2003, I write about how I stopped writing something because I was paralyzed by fear. “Maybe it’s because I won’t be able to complete it. Or maybe I would finish it but nobody would like it.”
It’s interesting because sentences like these find themselves wedged within entries that span my entire life. I haven’t found a way to get rid of it, but at least now I try to control it instead of having it control me.
1. Know thyself
If you think you’re “not good enough”, then maybe you need to learn to value yourself by yourself. The problem is, as human beings we tend to look outwards for self-validation. And that’s always going to be a source of misery because we can’t control the way people feel about us. They can love us or hate us, or love us today and hate us tomorrow…external measurements are that fickle. What we can actually control is how we see ourselves, and how we value ourselves. The best practical tip I heard on this was, “Every day, write a couple of things you value about yourself, and a couple of ways you added value to someone else’s life.”
The more you do that, the more you’ll know your where your strengths and weaknesses lie. When someone I know found themselves jobless, the first thing they did was work on their version of a “S.W.O.T.” matrix. A “S.W.O.T.” analysis is common in business and the letters stand for strength/weakness/opportunity and threat. Someone else might have been paralyzed by the fear of ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ but instead they put together an inventory of what they already had to work with and started from there.
Self-doubt comes from your inexperience with what you can and cannot do. So it always helps to know your strengths and weaknesses and the older you get, the better you are supposed to be when it comes to dealing with self-doubt, (‘supposed to be’ being the operative phrase here). And to have a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses, you need to actually…
The opposite of doubt is certainty. The best way of getting rid of self-doubt is to know for sure. And to know for sure, you’ve got to actually do something. Roll up your sleeves, and get to work.
This is based on the famous productivity idea of “ready-fire-aim” instead of “ready-aim-fire”. After taking the first step, you can always readjust your course of action depending on whatever results you get, but if you insist on perfecting the plan before its execution, you might find yourself mired in a perpetual state of indecision. And by not taking a step forward, you might never answer the question, “Am I good enough?” and you’ll always be left wondering.
Even if you end up failing after you’ve acted, you’ll at least be able to definitely tell yourself, “Nope. I’m not good enough for this, so I could either work to improve or if it’s not worth my time then forget about it.”
When the weeds of self-doubt clutter your thoughts, it is very easy to second-guess yourself. This happens a lot when you find yourself comparing yourself to other people (I’ve written about it in a previous note – Lesson Learnt from a Bicycle Rider on a Highway – so I won’t write about it here). Since you don’t trust yourself, you try to measure your success based on what everybody thinks your successful life should like. Some people take a step further and delegate their entire decision-making process to other people because, a) they don’t trust themselves to make good decisions and, b) they would like someone to blame tomorrow if it doesn’t work out. In that case, realize what you’re doing and take responsibility for your own actions.
3. Avoid naysayers like the plague.
We have enough inner voices that make us doubt ourselves internally. We don’t need external sources of such voices to reinforce our self-doubt. Enough said about that.
4. Be Grateful
I’ve written about this in “A Lesson in Gratitude” and “Attitude of Gratitude“. Since self-doubt tends to stem from a position of scarcity, where you tend to think you don’t have enough (brains/beauty/talent/wit/whatever). And gratitude always puts you in a better frame of mind as it shifts your perspective from one of scarcity to one of abundance. So practice gratitude.
5. Have faith
As Muslims, we believe that whatever misses us could never have hit us and what hits us could never have missed us. So in the end of the day, all we’ve got is the effort we can put into something and make du’aa to Allah (SWT) for the best.