Yes, I'm back from vacation and I've decided it's time to talk about the dreaded Bermuda Triangle of negativity: Doubt, fear and worry. Wait, maybe that's kind of heavy all at once. Maybe this week we will just stick to the first one. Doubt. Wikipedia defines doubt as a status between belief and disbelief that involves uncertainty, distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, action, motive, or decision.
We all experience doubt at some point in our lives. The first time we ride a bicycle without training wheels. The first time we drive a car without an instructor present. The first time we jump off a diving board. It's natural to question our abilities sometimes, to ask ourselves whether we can really accomplish something. Will I make it? Will I succeed? Can I really do this??
Unfortunately, doubt can easily and often does take on a much bigger role in our lives. Every time we stumble just a tiny bit, there it is, storing that misstep in its memory banks for the next opportunity to drag us down. Doubt lurks around every corner, waiting for us to fall so that it can step in and speak up to make us feel unworthy.
Of course, my own personal version of doubt has her own voice in my head AND her own name: Doubting Donna. She is closely related to and aligned with my old nemesis, Negative Self-Talk Nellie. And she really is a drag.
Let's take a closer look at this first cornerstone of the negative triumvirate.
What are you doubting?
If you have not recently paid attention to your own downer doubter voice, it is possible that you don't even recognize its dull, lackluster timbre. The next time you feel doubt creeping up behind you, just stop for a moment and listen. What does it sound like? What is it doubting? Does it say boring stuff like this:
- I can't possibly keep running for another minute
- There is no way I am going to finish this report on time
- This house will never get clean
- I can't seem to lose those last 10 pounds no matter what I do
- I don't think I can pass that exam
- My voice / acting / dancing is not good enough to land me that part
- I'm not smart enough to run my own business / get that promotion / win that award
- You're crazy if you think I'll look good in that dress / those jeans / that hairstyle
- I might as well just give up now
These are just a few examples, but I'm willing to guess they sound familiar. Just slightly more depressing than your garden variety negative thoughts. Just faintly less confidence-inspiring than your worst naked-on-the-street nightmare. Am I right? You know I KNOW I'm right, because my Doubting Donna is a total master of this stuff. I mean, if I let her, she would just go on for HOURS throwing up defensive walls of doubt all over the place. Jeez, you'd think she'd get bored or tired or something...
Well, I am here to tell you that the best way to kick your dull, annoying doubter voice to the curb is to just tell it to ZIP IT! You heard me. Doubt has no business living rent-free inside your head. It's eviction notice time!!!
Zip it and KICK it!
How to get it done is the question, right? Here are some ideas:
1) Call it out First things first. See doubt for what it is. Call it by name. Make it visible, don't let it hide behind excuses. Doubt can be a sneaky little thing. Shine a big bad light on it and watch it squirm!
2) Figure it out Where did this doubt come from in the first place? Can you follow it to the source? When was the first time you felt like you couldn't do this particular thing? Put that first event under your microscope for a minute and feel where it all began. No need to overthink it, just look at it for a minute or so. Face it down. Watch it squirm.
3) Read the signs Is there a pattern here? Do you often or always doubt yourself in this particular situation? Does someone else? Look for a pattern. If there is a pattern, remember -- you do not have to wear that pattern anymore! You can always decide to wear a totally different pattern. Maybe paisley suits you better than plaid... You'll never know unless you try.
4) Draw a map Make yourself a plan. Decide to conquer those doubts. Then research ways to kick them, with details. Once you choose your route, write it down. We've talked about this before, but it always bears repeating: the writing-it-down part makes it real. Get real.
5) Prepare for turbulence Might happen. What will you do? Take a close look at your plan and check for weak areas. Doubting that you can ace an exam or an interview? Afraid that your plan full of affirmations and positive self-talk might not stick? Ask a friend to practice with you. Ask your Mom to be your cheerleader every day for the week leading up to the big day. Ask me to coach you through a rough patch! Asking for help is sometimes hard, but you'll be glad you're wearing a seat belt when the turbulence hits.
6) Go for it! It's eviction time! Taking action is the final step. Now that you are armed with a plan that even includes contingencies, you are ready to face that sneaky doubter voice. But now, before it even opens its mouth, you will be able to tell it to just ZIP it. Your planned (written) strategy will keep your positive momentum going and help you kick that doubt to the curb. Why not keep your written plan in your pocket for important situations? Can't hurt, right?
Done and done
Dealing with doubt won't be easy at first, but like anything, will get easier with practice. Just remember to be nice to your Self. And ask for help! It takes a strong person to realize and admit weakness. You can totally do this!