Self-doubt is the first and most significant Dream Breaker; it’s significant because it is the opposing force that may challenge your self-belief. Self-doubt may be that critical inner voice in your head that makes you question everything you do. It can constantly tell you that you are not capable or deserving! It may gnaw away inside and challenge the very fabric of your being, influenced by your self-worth, self-esteem and how you truly feel about yourself.
If these core beliefs are lacking in any way it may set off a negative chain reaction. It’s like a domino effect! If your self-worth is not solid then it may overbalance and hit your self-esteem. In turn this may knock your self-belief and your self-confidence may also tumble. Before you know it your falling line of dominoes has led you to doubt yourself and your abilities.
Doubting yourself may manifest in your life in a number of ways. You may exhibit all the characteristics of a controlling perfectionist who overachieves! Someone who will always go that extra mile to get a job done! But who will rarely give themselves credit for what they accomplish. You may be telling yourself your efforts are just satisfactory. Someone else would have done it better.
Or perhaps your lack of confidence and self-doubt may stop you from taking a risk, starting or finishing what you set out to do. You may need to take yourself outside your comfort zone, but this just reinforces your self-doubt. You may have no belief in your own skills and ability to complete a task. Rather you stagnate in a state of inaction and paralysis.
These scenarios may send you into the bottom half of the rainbow. This may mean you don’t actually finish anything. Or you may make the task at hand far more difficult to complete than it needs to be.
Fear may be a key cause of self-doubt that fuels worry! Whether it’s fear of putting your hand up and being noticed. Fear of being laughed at and judged, fear of rejection, fear of change, and fear of failing or even fear of success. You know what I’m talking about! It’s that sick scared feeling in your tummy that won’t go away!
You may feel alone in dealing with your fears, but it’s important to realise that you are not. We all have our own doubts and fears to overcome!
Ryan Reynolds appears very self-confident and not someone you would associate with having self-doubt and fear! But earlier this year he opened up about his on-going struggle with anxiety during an interview with The New York Times. Reynolds said that he spent the early days of his career lying awake at night paralysed with fear about his future. He also described how he gets racked by dread and nausea before every talk-show appearance and becomes quite convinced he might die. He went on to say that when there's a built-in expectation, your brain always processes that as danger.
I had a fear of public speaking and when I say fear, I’m not just talking about being a tad nervous when talking in front of people. Whether it was a small or large group, I would be gripped by an overwhelming fear. It would sit as a tight clenching fist in the pit of my stomach. It would creep up days before I need to speak and changed the way I behaved. I was unable to concentrate on other things. I constantly worried and felt extremely anxious. I lost my appetite, I got irritable and it affected my sleep.
My default coping mechanism was to internalise my emotions. I may have looked calm from the outside. But inside I was experiencing emotional turmoil and I felt out of control. My stomach was doing cartwheels and I was in full self-doubt mode. My negative self-talk was telling me I’d fail and look stupid. I was going to get it wrong. I’ll get tongue-tied and I’d forget what to say!
To keep control I over prepared for the talk. This meant, I obsessively wrote and rehearsed my speech. On the day I got so nervous. I felt sick. I even looked for ways to postpone. I always had a bottle of water close by for my dry mouth and to help calm my nerves.
But guess what, the speech would go well. I may have forgotten certain things but it didn’t matter. The audience weren’t aware, but for me there was a huge feeling of relief when it was over. But the build up had sapped all my energy. I was usually so exhausted that it would take a couple of days to recover from the stress I put myself under.
My fear of public speaking profoundly affected me and I didn’t want it to continually impact my life. I asked myself, why was I so afraid, then I did some soul searching and realised a previous incident was the likely cause of my fear.
For 20 years I worked for a large American owned company, I worked my way up from being the most junior person in the Credit Analysis Department to being a departmental Manager.
On one occasion I received a call from the Managing Director’s office asking me to put together key statistics on some of our larger clients. A senior management meeting had already started and they needed the information urgently. I was under a great deal of pressure to deliver and I immediately went in to overdrive mode to get the job done.
The analysis took me much longer than anticipated. To deliver the data in person I needed to get from my office in a satellite building to our headquarters. This included going up 3 flights of stairs. So, I headed off running determined to get to the meeting quickly. I was excited about the opportunity and happy with what I had prepared. Quietly confident they would be pleased with my work. It was my time to impress!
I covered the distance in good time and got to the top of the stairs. I confidently entered the double wooden doors. As I rushed into the office, the managers sitting around the imposing boardroom table turned to face me. I slowed my pace in readiness to deliver the important information. I opened my mouth to talk. But in that split second, I suddenly realised I was out of breath, panting heavily and I was knackered. I was not feeling particularly well. My mouth and tongue were dry. In fact, they were so dry when I went to speak nothing came out except a little squeak.
Their eyes were on me! I suddenly panicked and I froze to the spot. I felt my cheeks flaming red with embarrassment. I waited a few agonising seconds trying to compose myself. My breathing was laboured and I spoke again. This time something came out of my mouth. But the tone of my voice fluctuated in time with my breathing. One second, I was high pitched like my trousers were too tight. The next my voice was deep and gravelly. I managed to awkwardly say what I needed to say and handed over the data. I then turned and without waiting for any response I exited the office as quick as I could.
At the time I was mortified! I felt humiliated and ashamed! I thought it would ruin my career with the company. It didn’t! But it did create doubts in my mind and impacted the way I saw myself. I would dread any situation where I had to talk in front of people. It took me a long time to summon up the courage to speak in public again.
This fear continues to affect me to a lesser extent today. That inner voice telling me I’m going to muck up and not be able to talk. You can hear a slight nervous quiver in my voice sometimes that can give it away. But I push through the fear and self-doubt. I don’t want it to rule my life and it does get easier every time! I still over prepare but I realise this is part of how I’m wired. It’s just my nerves and anyone could feel the same.
Part of the healing process for me was to acknowledge the negative impact the incident at the company had on me. It knocked my self-confidence. But I decided to accept that experience as a learning curve. When I look back now I just laugh at the whole scenario. I’m sure it would have been a good conversation piece at the next board meeting. The lesson learnt! Don’t be late for meetings and if you are, definitely don’t run to get there if you’re out of shape.
Don’t give nagging negative self-doubt a voice in your head. Don’t let this Dream Breaker win! Don’t allow it to keep you stuck unable to move forward! Instead, make the conscious liberating decision to put that voice on mute! Turn that self-doubt around. Channel the energy into taking positive action using the strategies below. Do that and you may begin to line up your dominoes once again.
1. Acknowledge your fear
Fear may not always be bad! It may keep us safe and stop us from putting ourselves in danger. But it may also stifle our ability to enjoy life! That’s why it may be important to acknowledge what you fear. Understand the triggers and accept the fear as your personal protector. It may be there to help guide you rather than ruling your decisions. Look around you! There may be people that matter to you and believe in you and your abilities! So trust them, trust yourself don’t let fear hold you back!
2. Use self-doubt to your advantage
Everyone may suffer self-doubt at some point, but for some it may linger! Instead of viewing this Dream Breaker as a negative, change your thinking around and view it as a positive. It may be your body’s way of telling you something to keep you grounded! So, why not use it as your opportunity to question whether you are on the right track. It may be the doubt is fuelled by a mis-match between your values and goals. It may not be the direction you want to be heading in or you are not passionate about.
3. Challenge your comfort zone
Don’t be afraid to take a step outside your comfort zone. It’s a natural feeling to be apprehensive. So, take it easy! Just go one step at a time. Think about what you want to do and come up with just 3 steps to get you started. Stephen Covey suggests making a promise to yourself about what you want to achieve then start slow and in small ways. He suggests your conscience will be your guide and little by little you will feel a sense of achievement. (3)
4. Talking can make a difference
Remember that you are never alone! Self-doubt has the ability to knock your confidence and belief system. Talk with someone you trust. Share your thoughts and frustrations with them. Sharing with another person may help put things in to perspective. It may help you acknowledge where you are and what you may need to do to regain focus.
Are you interested in talking with a professional? You may like to engage the services of one of my partners to help. They share my values and provide services that may help you on your way - Health & Wellness Partners
Sreeram Sreenivasan recognised that the greatest threat to his business was his own self-doubt. He realised this, only after he had spent an entire year trying to decide if he had the right idea or not before he launched his business. Then he spent another year building it going back and forth with development and design issues. He realised he doubted himself and now suggests it’s essential to overcome your self-doubt to ensure you don’t lose sight of your goals. (4) Here are Sreeram’s 5 tips to conquer your self-doubt!
Fear and self-doubt may be debilitating but don’t let that stop you. Turn it around and use this Dream Breaker to your advantage. If you haven’t done so already, use the tools and strategies in Manage My Rainbow to set your goals and make them happen. Activate your Success Generator and tackle nagging self-doubt head on. Begin to make a positive difference to YOU! Your life may just be all the better for it.