Overcoming Self Doubt

I often say to my life coaching students, ‘Action comes first, feeling follows’. You don’t eradicate self doubt by waiting until you feel confident.  You overcome self doubt by acting as if you feel confident, and over time you will start to feel confident.

Everyone has doubts but confident people don’t dwell on their doubts. When you go through life always seeking reassurance you set up a fertile breeding ground for self doubt, then when the slightest hiccup occurs some people see that as a sign that it’s not meant to be and they change their plans.

When I bought my home I created a lot of unnecessary problems for myself by questioning my solicitor, triple checking everything myself, and looking for problems. A part of me felt that it was too good to be true, and I had a few trust issues. This created setbacks and delays for everyone involved. When we had to delay settlement the seller was uncooperative, and it ended up costing me more money, and took longer than it needed to.

My friends said to me, ‘We don’t think you should buy the house, nothing has flowed’. Fortunately, I didn’t agree and proceeded. The delays resulted from my fears and if I had listened to my friends I would have missed out on living somewhere that I love.

When we are not talking to others, we talk constantly to ourselves.  This is such a natural process that we generally don’t notice the phrases that circulate in our minds.  This self-talk affects the way we feel about ourselves and what we attract into our lives.  Have you ever said to yourself, I’m stupid. I can’t win. It’s too good to be true. I don’t know if I’m making the right decision. Or, You can’t have it all? This behaviour reinforces self doubt and beliefs that take you away from what you want.

If I was interviewing someone for a job and she told me she was stupid I wouldn’t employ her.  You may think you wouldn’t say such a thing in an interview, the problem is that when you become accustomed to talking to yourself in a particular way, put downs slip out without you even noticing them.

Your words impact others as well. I always told my children they could have everything they wanted, then one day I heard myself say, ‘You can’t have everything you want’.  Talk about giving my children mixed messages.

Words are powerful and whether you are talking to yourself or talking to others it’s important that your words always support your choices.

Actions are equally important. Act as if you already are the person you want to be and are living the life you want to live. That doesn’t mean spending money you don’t have, it’s choosing to act with confidence when you feel doubtful. You could do this by distracting yourself, or saying a positive affirmation when doubt creeps in. It’s not talking about what is lacking in your life or even talking about what you want all the time, because sometimes that’s a reminder of what’s missing.

Allowing no doubt means:

Being proactive even when you feel insecure.

Spending your time wisely by doing something that will lift your spirits.

Keeping your dreams to yourself, or only sharing with people who believe in you.

Being aware of where you place your attention on a daily basis.

Not worrying about tomorrow, or what can go wrong, it’s learning to enjoy today.

Some people are naturally confident and some have to work at it, but if you act as if you believe one day you will notice just how many things you’ve been able to manifest.




The Getting of Confidence

I was in my twenties and had just started a new job, when one of the girls in the office said, “No one is that confident, you have to be faking it”. I was quite taken back by her comment as I was just being me.

Over the intervening years I have sometimes wondered why I have been confident in most situations, with the exception of public speaking, whilst many others struggle, and I believe it’s because I learnt that it is  okay to fail at an early age.

Fail early – Fail often

Most people don’t wake up one day and suddenly feel confident, you become confident by trying, falling down then picking yourself up again, and being prepared to fail until you get it right.

I came from a family of perfectionists who lacked confidence so at one time when I was just a young kid, Dad asked me knock on the neighbour’s doors to see if they had a garage to rent, while he watched over me from the safety of the street. My mum would have me go into a shop and ask if they had something. My sister was so shy that she wouldn’t even buy a train or movie ticket, so if we wanted to go anywhere I learnt that I had to be the one to take charge. Psychologist now recommend that we learn to fail early and fail often, this way we learn to experience setbacks and develop resilience, so while it used to annoy me when I was young that I had to do everything for my family, I am now so grateful for the confidence I gained from those times.

Shawn Achor tells a very funny story of how he used to sell his body when he was a student at Harvard. As Shawn was always in need of money he often volunteered for paid experiments such as MRIs and various other tests as a way of supporting himself. At one time he volunteered for a study to prevent elderly people from falls, the study was three hours long and he was promised he would be paid $20. He was given a set of bike reflectors with Velcro straps and tight white biker shorts and he was shirtless. He had to attach the velcro straps to each of the joints in his body and he was asked to walk down a padded hallway in the dark with a video camera positioned to the reflectors on his joints. As he did this the floor would suddenly slide to the left and he would crash onto the lightly padded walkway, then the floor would slide to the right throwing him off balance. He had a cord attached to his leg which would be yanked from behind, pitching him flat on his face. After 120 falls the researchers told me that they had forgotten to put video in the recorder and asked him if he would do it again.

After three hours Shawn was met by a Professor who told him the study had nothing to do with helping the elderly, the researchers were studying motivation and resilience and Shawn was the only person who had lasted the full three hours. He was given $200 for his efforts.

The Getting of Confidence

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn says, “More memorable than the generous prize were the lessons I learned about the nature of resilience—about picking ourselves up when we fall.” Years later Shawn was grateful for this opportunity when he had to address thousands of business leaders around the world who had had their legs yanked out from under them due to the global financial crisis. He now encourages people, as I do, to look for the good in every situation.

Countless studies have shown that if we view failure as an opportunity for growth, our confidence grows. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.

The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor is published by Virgin Books. It’s a great read.