Every one of us knows self-doubt, even if we don't always want to admit it. Every day we are exposed to various comparisons and challenges. Perhaps you are currently facing difficulties in your professional life, or you feel inadequate because all your friends lead seemingly perfect lives.
It is perfectly normal to doubt one's own abilities from time to time and to question one's personal (life) path. However, if self-doubt gets out of hand or even dominates everyday life, it becomes problematic. In the worst case, the feeling of inadequacy even leads to serious clinical depression.
What is self-doubt anyway?
Before we get into how you can overcome your self-doubt, it makes sense to first take a closer look at the term. In psychology, self-doubt is defined as doubts about oneself. This deeply felt Uncertainty, often combined with self-deprecation, can relate to different areas of life:
Doubts about one's own abilities (cognitive, practical and interpersonal)
Doubt about own knowledge
you doubt your own kindness
Doubts about the attractiveness
Doubts about the whole identity (Who am I? Who do I (not) want to be?)
Self-doubt is often experienced as very agonizing by those affected. The high level of suffering is not surprising: after all, no one can leave their own skin. If you feel permanently uncomfortable in it, a happy and successful life is practically impossible.
Examples of self-doubt
Self-doubters often feel blocked in their actions in everyday life due to their inner insecurity. The following scenarios are typical:
You don't dare to socialize with your peers because you don't think of yourself as worthy of love and attention.
You are stuck in an unloved job because you don't trust yourself to start something new.
You shun responsibility in any form for fear of failure.
You remain passive in group conversations because you are believethat no one is interested in your opinion anyway.
You don't leave your partner even though he treats you badly. Because you believe that otherwise you will never find someone who wants to be with you again.
You don't dare to go out without elaborate makeup because you think you're unattractive. Sometimes you are even late for appointments because of this.
What are the causes of self-doubt?
It is not uncommon for self-doubt to be based on traumatic events in the past. Anyone who repeatedly has bad interpersonal experiences or is constantly told that he or she cannot do a certain thing will eventually believe this himself or herself. Particularly formative are such negative beliefsThis is the case when they are given to us in early childhood.
But also changes in the present can trigger self-doubt. Let's say you've ventured into self-employment and suddenly you start to doubt: Was this the right decision? Will I really make it? What happens if I fail? So you see, self-doubt does not necessarily have to be caused by negative impulses.
Self-doubt and the desire to belong to a group
Another role in the development of self-doubt is played by the fear of exclusion and loneliness. The strong inner desire to be accepted and liked by the group dates back to the Stone Age. A person who was excluded had no chance of survival back then.
In the modern world, the anchored Stone Age mechanism leads us to take (insensitive) comments from our fellow human beings too much to heart. If someone verbally hits your sore spot, depending on your personal mentality, you immediately start pondering: What's wrong with me? Is the other person right in their assertion? How can I change in order to be accepted?
If the self-doubt is strongly pronounced, some people attribute to themselves the ability of "mind reading". This means that in every interpersonal encounter you think you already know what the other person thinks (badly) about you, without them having to say it.
Is self-doubt always negative?
There is certainly no question that self-doubt does not feel pleasant. However, to condemn them across the board as something bad that you should get rid of at all costs is too short-sighted. To a healthy extent, self-doubt offers you the chance for inner growth.
If you were completely indifferent to your success, reputation, and the respect of others, you would never feel a need to personal development see. Besides, at the same time you would gain the ability to empathy get lost. So your goal should not be to eliminate all self-doubt, but to deal with it constructively.
How do you know if you are affected by pathological self-doubt?
It is quite easy to find out whether your self-doubt is a disease. The only thing that matters is how you feel about yourself. If your thoughts constantly revolve around your supposed inadequacies and you feel inhibited and impaired in everyday life as a result, it's time to take active action against your self-doubt.
Pathological self-doubters are also frequently plagued by agonizing trains of thought that repeat themselves in a kind of continuous loop. The following questions are typical for constant ruminations:
How do I affect others?
Do others think I am incapable? Am I good enough?
Am I pretty enough?
Am I going to make a fool of myself? Have I embarrassed myself (again)?
Am I lovable?
Can I do anything at all?
Can I do it?
Am I competent?
The impostor syndrome
Remarkably, perfectionistically inclined people are particularly often afflicted by self-doubt. The demand to always want to do one's best can inspire psychologically stable people enormously. However, those who are prone to self-doubt are further unsettled by the additional pressure that builds up. No matter what you achieve, it never seems to be enough. You can't even be happy about successes.
Does this feeling sound familiar? Then it is possible that you suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome). If sufferers achieve success, they are convinced that it was merely luck or coincidence. One's own achievements are basically devalued. In the truest sense of the word, one feels like an impostor who does not deserve the recognition that has been bestowed upon him.
Experts: Cause lies in childhood
Affected persons are also accompanied by the constant fear that other people might discover that they - according to their own conviction - are basically incapable. Of course, this does not correspond to the truth, but is an expression of the disorder.
Experts such as the well-known psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance believe that the cause of impostor syndrome can be found in childhood. If parents have linked their affection to achievements and punished poor grades with withdrawal of love, this imprints a Child for life. As an adult, you think you're only lovable if you perform perfectly.
Typical of impostor syndrome are the following three features:
Affected people are very afraid of negative criticism.
They set themselves high (sometimes unrealistic) performance targets.
There is an incorrect definition of competence.
In the long term, the Impostor Syndrome actually impair performance, which reinforces the negative spiral of thoughts.
8 tips to overcome self-doubt
Severe self-doubt, which has already led to other psychological disorders such as depression, requires psychotherapeutic treatment. But it doesn't have to come to that! If your self-doubt is weighing heavily on you, you should take active countermeasures today. The following tips can help you:
1. keep a success diary
What difficult situations have you already mastered in your life? What were you most proud of today? Realize that you have the resources to repeat successes.
2. detach yourself from perfectionist demands
No question: That's easier said than done. Nevertheless, it is possible. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes and no one always has to know the answer to every question. No one expects you to. Why should you expect it yourself?
3. talk to a trusted person
Talking to a trusted person about stressful feelings can ease your mind tremendously. Your confidant may even be able to encourage you and take away a self-doubt or two.
4. distinguish between fact and fantasy
Just because you feel inadequate or even stupid right now doesn't mean it's true. Feelings are snapshots. They come and go. Instead, focus your thoughts on all the situations that you have successfully mastered.
5. imagine your successes
You have a difficult exam or a presentation in front of an audience coming up? Instead of dwelling on the possibility of embarrassment, visualize your success. Imagine your audience applauding or you ace the exam.
6. question your circumstances and your environment
Analyze where your self-doubt comes from: Do you surround yourself with people who deliberately want to keep you down? Are you doing a job that doesn't fulfill you? Try to gradually change the stressful circumstances of your life. Certainly, this is not possible from one day to the next, but it will be worth it.
7. face new challenges
From Fear to fail, many self-doubters avoid new challenges in their lives. But how do you want to have empowering experiences and feel competent if you deprive yourself of opportunities to do so?
8. do not identify with your doubts
Self-doubt is not a part of your personality. They are merely thoughts. You alone decide how much attention you want to pay to them. How about imagining your self-doubt in the person of a little forest gnome who constantly wants to tell you tall tales? Don't believe whatever mean things he wants to whisper to you.