Overcome Doubt by Gaining Perspective2 min read

Self-doubt is just one out of many possible ways to look at things. It is not the reality of things. It is a narrative—and a limiting one. In Mindful Self-Discipline, we discuss three methods for overcoming self-doubt: Not Now Technique, Remove Your Options, and Getting Perspective. This page explains the third one.

One way to to practice it is to get temporal perspective, by remembering that this too shall pass. Whatever challenges you are going through will not last forever. Three months from now—or maybe three years from now—you will surely be in a different place, provided that you continue on the path and take action.

Write down and post “this too shall pass” somewhere you will see it often. Tattoo it on your brain. Contemplate it in times of need. 

A second way to gain perspective is to adjust your expectations regarding the length of the journey and the challenges that you’ll encounter. Avoid the false hope syndrome by anticipating difficulties and being prepared to persevere.

Let’s imagine that your goal is to become great at singing (or any other skill). You get the best teacher you can find and go to the classes with great enthusiasm. Then, after only two weeks of lessons, you feel disappointed that you are not progressing as quickly as you expected. That is actually a normal experience, and not a reason to doubt. But if you start thinking that you don’t have the voice for it (doubting yourself), or that this method of learning won’t work (doubting the path), or that perhaps singing is not really for you or is not worth it (doubting your goal), you are likely to give up too soon. 

Instead, readjust your expectations regarding the process. This will help you overcome those doubts.

A third way to gain perspective is to let go of unfair comparisons, which can bring doubts in your ability and in your path. The most common of these is comparing your process with somebody else’s result.

Imagine you’re a beginner artist looking at someone’s masterpiece and thinking, “I’ll never be able to paint like that… maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Or you are a tennis player and think, “I’m not progressing quickly enough… I’ll never play like Sampras…” Avoid this unfair type of comparison. You don’t need to be better than they are; you just need to be the best version of yourself. 

Since comparison is hard-wired in our minds, we may not be able to completely stop it, but we can learn to compare more wisely.

  • For inspiration, compare yourself to those ahead of you, without losing perspective of the path it takes to get there.
  • If you need self-compassion and encouragement, compare yourself to the previous version of yourself, or to those behind, and feel how far you have come.
  • But don’t compare the beginning of your process with the end of someone else’s. 

Are you holding on to any disempowering comparisons? If so, it’s time to replace them with more empowering ones.

This article is a summary of key ideas taken from Chapter 6 of Mindful Self-Discipline. To dive deeper, get the book or audiobook.

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