In life, the only person you know who will be there for you till the end is yourself. While you’ll meet tons of good people along the way and will form great relationships, you also need to be able to rely on yourself. So what happens when all that you have is self-doubt?
Self-doubt is a dangerous thing, and it can really drag you down. But why does it happen so strongly and how can you get rid of it? Here are three things that cause self-doubt and three ways to gain confidence.
3 Things That Cause Self-Doubt
Do you engage in any of these self-deprecating behaviors?
1. Negative Self-Talk Causes Self-Doubt
Negative self-talk is what happens when you allow insecurities and fears to win over your mind. Sure, everyone has moments of insecurity, but those moments have to be managed and their associated emotions regulated to ensure that you don’t believe the harshness of those insecurities.
Negative self-talk causes self-doubt by:
- Insisting that your emotions are a reflection of reality; when something makes you feel bad, that feeling defines you and you believe what the emotions say. Research shows that this is extremely damaging to mental health.
- Giving you constant critique of yourself. Instead of encouraging you to find ways to improve and learn, negative self-talk slams you left and right for every small issue in an unproductive way. This increases self-doubt.
- Overgeneralizing everyday events. When something bad happens once, you become afraid that it will always go bad when you try again. This keeps you stagnant, say studies, and you’ll start doubting your abilities to overcome problems.
- Making you ruminate over various negative thoughts. Instead of processing thought and then doing what you can to regulate it and act productively on it, negative self-talk traps you. It keeps you stuck in an endless loop of overthinking negativity.
- Catastrophizing every single event. Whatever happens to you, negative self-talk blows it up into a huge, disproportionate problem. You’re not able to feel at peace and you begin questioning the point of your actions and efforts since everything feels so big to you.
2. Excessive Perfectionism Increases Self-Doubt
Perfectionism seems to be a trait for the most assured of their work, but in reality, it’s a mark of self-doubt and will only worsen that lack of confidence over time. To achieve your goals, you basically wind up needing to meet impossible standards. Studies show that this is a poor way to set goals, as it can become overwhelming and disappointing quickly.
Worse still, self-doubt feeds more perfectionism. Due to the lack of confidence, you feel that you have no choice but to compensate by proving to yourself and to everyone else that you can exceed ridiculous expectations. When that fails, you wind up with even more self-doubt to fuel back into the destructive cycle.
At some point, you may even begin to define yourself by those failures. In reality, excessive perfectionism isn’t something that any human being could ever satisfy – much less someone who’s already burned themselves out on past unrealistic attempts!
3. Self-Doubt Stems From Self-Comparison
In the world we live in, it can be hard to avoid comparing yourself to others. Social media is filled with people parading the very best snapshots and words about their lives. Meanwhile, as you sit scrolling, you’re aware of all your own flaws and the issues with your life, so you become envious of the facades you see.
There are less extreme versions of that self-comparison that are even easier to fall into. When you hear your friend talking about waking up at the crack of dawn to exercise, you wonder if you’re not trying hard enough in your life. When your colleague gets a promotion, you wish you could be as good as them. When a stranger walks by with a fit body, you wish you looked like them.
These types of self-comparison are inherently doomed to damage your confidence. No self-comparisons made like this are ever accurate. You’re comparing what you see of others and what they’re willing to showcase to the world with what you deeply know about your darkest flaws. Of course, your vision will be skewed as a result! It’s natural fuel for self-doubt.
If you absolutely must compare yourself to others, you should do it in a way that studies recommend. Upwards social comparison, where you use others’ success as a motivating or inspiring factor in your life, is a great way to keep on task. But remember that you have to do it realistically. You don’t know anyone’s life story and how it compares to yours, so overly direct, harsh comparisons will always be unfair to you and them.
3 Ways To Reverse Self-Doubt
Now that you know how you sabotage yourself, here are tips to help you undo the damage.
1. Develop A Positive Explanatory Style
If negative self-talk has had a grip on you, you’ll need to retrain yourself to overcome self-doubt. Specifically, the inner voice you have that criticizes and berates you needs to be dealt with and put in its place! But you can’t just shoot back with your own criticisms, you have to slowly but surely train that voice to be more positive. To do that, start with your explanatory style.
Your explanatory style is the way you naturally narrate the world around you. When you do so in a negative way that’s biased against you, that dictates your entire life’s perspective. It’s a surprisingly powerful thing, and very deceptively simple to change. Studies show that a healthier explanatory style can significantly improve wellbeing, mental health, and confidence.
Here are some examples of shifting your explanatory style.
1. Event: Your boss praises you for doing a great job at work.
Negative Explanatory Statement: “I sure am lucky that my boss is in a good mood and that work wasn’t too hard for me today.”
This is negative because it attributes your success and capabilities to luck instead of giving credit where it’s due.
Positive Explanatory Statement: “I’m proud of myself for the good job I’ve done.”
This statement gives you the internal praise and acknowledgment that’s fitting for the achievement.
2. Event: A cashier is rude to you unexpectedly for no clear reason.
Negative Explanatory Statement: “I probably did something really annoying.”
This is negative because it assumes, with no evidence, that you’ve done something wrong to deserve poor treatment.
Positive Explanatory Statement: “They’re probably having a pretty bad day. Hope they feel better soon!”
This statement acknowledges that you can’t be responsible for all other people’s unrelated actions. You realize that the world is about more than just you and that the cashier’s actions aren’t a reflection of you.
3. Event: You lose a competition for a hobby you’re passionate about.
Negative Explanatory Statement: “I’m just not very good at this. I should quit, this just isn’t my forte at all.”
This is negative because it prevents further growth by taking perceived failure as an absolute, defining end-all.
Positive Explanatory Statement: “That was a great learning experience. Next time, I can improve by…”