Why We Doubt

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

—Suzy Kassem

Doubt is uncertainty—about yourself, your path, or your goal. It pulls you back, slows you down, and dissipates your energy. You hesitate to move forward, or you move forward half-heartedly. No meaningful goal can be achieved this way. We need the whole of you to step forward, please.

Let’s look at five reasons we doubt, and let’s begin looking at solutions.

One: We over-rely on our analytical mind. We overuse our ability to question, compare and dissect things; thus, we fall in the shadow side of this virtue, trying to apply analysis to everything in life. We have a great hammer and treat everything as a nail—but not everything is a nail.

Two: We doubt due to our childhood conditioning. Many of us grew up with an overcritical parent, a dominating sibling, or a bully at school. Or we were constantly compared to another kid who just seemed “better” at everything. We came to believe that we were not good enough—doubting became second nature. 

Three: We might habe experienced a big failure, and internalized not only the lesson from the failure but a diminished self-image. Perhaps we had self-confidence and self-esteem, did well in life, and then fell and hit the ground hard. That could have been a traumatizing experience that shook your self-confidence. There may now be a new voice inside you, always asking you to play it safe, to protect you from perceived danger. 

Four: We are influenced by bad company. The people we spend our time with—or whose words we read (authors, bloggers, social media accounts) or listen to (friends, family, colleagues, podcasts)—influence us deeply. They impact our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. 

If we are surrounded by toxic people, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, get distracted from our goals, and feel unmotivated. When we start something new, some people may envy us and try to hinder us, perhaps covertly. Others might discourage us, supposedly helping us to “keep it real” so that we don’t experience disappointment. 

Fifth: We may lack perspective. We may compare ourselves, our process, and our results with other people’s apparently quicker or better results, and we feel discouraged. Or we may think that our momentary difficulties will last forever, and that we won’t ever be able to overcome them.

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What are the causes behind your habit of self-doubt? Take a moment to reflect on that.

If the cause is bad company, the solution is to get better company—phasing people out of your life who only bring you down, and seeking company with those who uplift you. Be willing to be alone rather than settling for poor companions. Doing this is a service to yourself, to others, and to all people who are waiting for you to bring to life whatever you are creating. 

What about the other causes of doubt—how do we overcome them? Through the following techniques:

  • The Not Now Technique
  • Remove Your Options
  • Get Perspective

To learn more, check out the Mindful Self-Discipline book.

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