Let’s Talk About… Self Doubt

By Jeremy Godwin

Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health; I’m Jeremy Godwin and every week I look at one aspect of better mental health and I share practical and straightforward advice that you can apply immediately to improve your wellbeing. 

Today I’m talking about self doubt and I’m looking at healthy ways to manage it for better mental health — so get comfortable, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health…

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This podcast episode was originally released on 7 November, 2021.

Hello and welcome to Episode 104, and thanks so much for joining me!

This week I’m talking about self doubt and I’ll be covering what self doubt is, why understanding it matters and how to manage self doubt in a healthy way. So, let’s talk!

Introduction

I am often plagued with self doubt and insecurity, which I think quite often seems to go with the territory in terms of being a creative person… so creating a podcast and then putting myself on YouTube every week both took massive leaps of faith and a certain amount of determination because I needed to ignore those nagging little voices in my head that were telling me all the things that could possibly go wrong (which I actually talked about all the way back in Episode 5 of the podcast, about taking chances, when I realised I actually enjoyed doing this show and was going to stick with it for a while — that was around about the moment when sheer terror kicked in and all the “what if?!” questions reared their ugly heads in my mind, and it took a while to push through them… which might help you to understand why by Episode 10 I was talking about fear, because by that point I was terrified!). But I digress (although my ability to go off on a tangent this early in the episode should probably be rewarded, as it’s definitely a skill). 

I think that, no matter who you and what you do, it can be quite daunting to put yourself out there in a public way, whether that’s through a creative outlet or simply on social media, because we have to deal with the fear of potentially being criticised and judged by others while, at the same time, being tough on ourselves and being doubtful of our abilities. But if we allow self doubt to stop us from doing what we want to do or just simply being the best that we can be, it can do a lot of damage to our overall wellbeing — which is why something must be done to deal with self doubt head-on (and that’s what I’m exploring today!). Let’s begin with some definitions, and let’s talk about…

What is self doubt?

And self doubt can be defined as “a feeling of having no confidence in your abilities and decisions” (which comes from the Cambridge Dictionary), although personally I would expand the ‘no confidence’ bit to include ‘limited or diminished confidence in your abilities and decisions’ (and if you’re wondering why I say that, it’s because saying ‘no confidence’ is a very black-or-white thing to say and life is rarely ‘always’ or ‘never’). For example, I am generally confident in my abilities as a writer and creator… however there are days where I doubt myself and even my work, so while I do deal with self doubt I definitely wouldn’t say that I have no confidence in my abilities (otherwise I highly doubt that I’d be able to keep on producing episodes here and on YouTube each week!).

Self doubt is a form of self protection, and it can actually be a healthy thing (in small doses) because it forces us to stop and think about what we are (or are not) doing, but often it can go into overdrive and become almost crippling (or at least challenging to deal with), and that can sometimes make it seem easier to keep ourselves small or avoid taking risks in life. But if we let that happen then we hold ourselves back from trying new things and being the best that we can be, which in turn steals our happiness and life satisfaction… so that is why self doubt must be confronted, dealt with and squashed in order to help you to grow! 

I think that self doubt is a form of self harm, which is why it must be tackled. It’s self harm in the sense that if we buy into it then it can do a lot of damage to our self esteem (which I talked about back in Episode 43) and it can also bring many of our fears and insecurities to the surface (and I covered fear in Episode 10 and insecurity in Episode 35). In order to confront self doubt, process it and release it, we need to first understand it — which leads nicely into the next part of today’s topic…

Why understanding self doubt matters

And it matters because seeking to understand your doubts, so that you can identify it if and when it is happening, allows you to begin to strip away its power. Because the majority of what self doubt tells you — that you’re useless, that what you’re doing is pointless, that you’re going to fail — is actually just a whole bunch of fears and insecurities trying in a warped way to keep you safe. 

And if you’re prone to anxiety or similar conditions, those thoughts can seem to take on a life of their own — and before you know it, you’re waking up wondering if this is the day that everything will go wrong or if people will find out that you’re a fraud; which, by the way, is known as ‘imposter syndrome’ and it’s a surprisingly-common form of self doubt, where some people might feel like their success is undeserved or that they don’t have the right to speak on a specific subject or whatever. In the interests of my usual open-sharing-of-all-my-worst-fears-and-insecurities that I do on this show (which I doubted when I first started doing it early on), even now I still have times where I question my own abilities or feel inadequate because I don’t have a doctorate in this stuff. I know they’re just thoughts and I know that thoughts are not facts, but I can tell you that there are days where it takes a lot of work to push past those doubts… so my point is that it’s OK to feel that way provided that you know that those thoughts are not facts, because they’re not.

You’re probably thinking, “well, that’s great but how do I deal with those thoughts?” and if so then, fantastic! Because it’s time to get into the how-to part of today’s topic; so, let’s talk about… 

How to manage self doubt in a healthy way

Alright, so my usual approach here is to provide you with a number of different ideas and I encourage you to pick a few that feel right for you and focus on them for a while, then come back and find more if and when you need them (rather than trying to do everything all at once). Remember that you can also find the full transcript for every episode for free at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes if you want to take notes or just refer to it later on.

OK, so let’s begin with…

Ground yourself — sometimes self doubt can be a response to challenges and difficulties we’re currently dealing with, like stress (and by the way, I just covered five healthy coping mechanisms for stress in the latest episode of Better Mental Health on YouTube; you’ll find that linked in the episode description as well as the transcript — find it here: https://youtu.be/b91nhbnigjk). So the thing I want to say here is that if and when self doubt happens, you can either choose to let it overwhelm you and hold you back or you can choose to ground yourself by reminding yourself that what is happening is simply an instinctive self-protection response (that may or may not actually be required, depending on the circumstances), and so even though it might be making you feel a bit terrible about yourself, that doesn’t mean that you have to choose to let it control you. Which leads into my next piece of advice…

Doubt your doubts — and this is closely related to the point that I make often in this show which is that thoughts are not facts; and when you think about it, doubts are just thoughts… which means that doubts are not facts, either. It can be really easy to let our doubts run riot around our mind and to give them more power than they deserve, and rather than beating yourself up for letting that happen (because that’s just part of being a human), instead I want to encourage you to stop and reflect on the doubt — you might even like to write it down and look at it while you’re doing this — and ask yourself whether it really is the truth or not. Because I will wager that it probably isn’t the truth; what it’s more likely to be is fear and insecurity manifesting itself. If you can cast doubt on your doubts, then it strips them of the power they hold over you. Aside from questioning it and then tearing the doubt to pieces mentally, writing it out is helpful because then you can also tear it to pieces physically in order to release it… which I find particularly satisfying. You might also like to burn it to really let it go, although if you’re going to do that then please practice fire safety because I’m not going to be held responsible if you burn the place down because you got a bit carried away with a stack of doubts and a box of matches! Alright, so let’s move on to the next point which is…

Develop your self awareness — you are, without a doubt, your own toughest critic in life… and I can almost guarantee you that most (and hopefully all) of the people you know and will meet will never treat you as harshly as you treat you (and if they do, get out of there; that’s not a red flag, that’s a ‘run like the wind’ flag!). One of the main ways to deal with that inner critic is to work on your self awareness (which I covered back in Episode 62) because that allows you to be more observant of when these types of self-doubting thoughts arise and, more importantly, why they arise (so that you can track patterns and address the root cause). This is a big part of personal development and growth, which I talked about in Episode 37, so check that out if you’d like more on the topic of growth. And continuing this point about your inner critic, my next tip is…

Cultivate positive self talk — and, again, this is a topic I have covered in its own episode (Episode 9, Let’s Talk About… Self Talk)   and the piece here is to be aware that how you talk to yourself or think about yourself has a direct impact on your self esteem (which I covered in Episode 43) and your sense of self worth (which was the subject of Episode 78). If you’re hyper-critical of yourself then it stands to reason that you might doubt yourself on a regular basis, just like it (hopefully!) makes sense that if you’re supportive and kind and understanding towards yourself then it will be more likely that you will be more confident in your abilities, which allows you to be more objective about doubts if and when they pop into your mind. At this point I’m sure nearly every client I have ever worked with, past and present, would be recalling the fact that I call people out who make comments like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m such an idiot” because that kind of negative self-talk does a huge amount of damage; you’re not stupid and you’re definitely not an idiot, so stop telling yourself that you are because you’re being your own bully. Stop bullying yourself and start treating yourself with kindness! Speaking of bullies, my next point is…

Make friends with that doubting voice — alright, so this one might make some of your heads explode (and I’m OK with that) because it’s a bit of head trip, but instead of resisting that nagging and critical little voice in your head, make friends with it… because it just might offer you clues about how to grow (and if you try to resist it then it usually just gets louder and louder)… I talked about resistance being futile back in Episode 65 and its antidote is acceptance, which was the focus of Episode 36, and personally I look at my own self-doubting voice this way: it wants me to be safe, sure, but it also wants me to succeed. Now it goes a pretty weird way about it in terms of the unkind things it says to me, but if I take away the delivery and sift through what it’s actually trying to tell me, it’s focused on doing the best I can in order to create the outcomes I’m trying to create — and great, I can work with that! Just because the message is delivered in an unkind way, that doesn’t mean that the doubt is completely invalid; you just have to work through it to remove the emotions so you can focus on the core message. When you do that, you can stop reacting to self doubt when it pipes up and, instead, take your time to process what it’s really trying to tell you so that you can respond in a more thoughtful way. Which leads to my next point…

Redefine what success means to you — and I say this because so often success is measured in external factors (such as likes, comments, followers and downloads) and yet the things that bring us genuine, lasting happiness and life satisfaction are rarely related to likes, comments, followers and downloads (or whatever the metric is for what you do). The late, great Maya Angelou put it best when she said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” For the past few months I have found myself falling back into the trap of being focused on the numbers (which I think has happened because growing my YouTube channel has been a long and slow process that is still ongoing!) and I’ve had to remind myself (with the help of my therapist and my business coach) that I get to choose how I measure my success. Look, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t want to see my numbers keep on growing for both the podcast and my YouTube channel (because I do) but the reason for that is that the more it grows, the more the show is picked up and recommended to other users on those platforms which means I get to help more people. So it’s not actually about the numbers, it’s about having a platform to share my content with more people because, for me, the satisfaction and fulfilment I get from doing that is what drives me to keep on doing the work I do… with all of that said, if you aren’t already subscribed to my YouTube channel I would really appreciate it if you did because it will help me to be recommended to more people on that platform (and there’s a link in the episode description to subscribe! Find it here: https://www.youtube.com/c/BetterMentalHealthwithJeremyGodwin. So, anyway, think about how you can apply that to your own situation and reconsider what success means to you (or at least refocus). I covered success back in Episode 74, and there is a whole conversation to be had here about quantity versus quality in terms of how you measure success (and, personally, I am #TeamQuality all the way!). Which leads to my next tip…

Celebrate your successes — and to do this you need to be clear on what success means to you (so refer to my previous point) but whatever it looks and feels like for you, celebrate it… and celebrate it often. My primary measure of success for my work is ‘have I helped people?’, and to celebrate that what I do is this: every time one of you lovely people sends me a message on Instagram or leaves a comment on YouTube or whatever, I take a screenshot and I put it in a folder on my phone called ‘Nice Feedback’. Then, if I am being too focused on the numbers or if my self-doubt is kicking in, I sit down with a tea or coffee and read through my nice feedback folder so that I can see the positive effect that my podcast and videos are having in peoples’ lives (which is also a wonderful way to ground me and it makes that nagging little voice in my head go back into its box). Whatever success looks like to you, celebrate your wins on a regular basis because it serves to reinforce that you are capable and that you are on the right track. OK, so my next point is…

Stop comparing yourself to others — because it does far more harm than good. You can absolutely study success and look for lessons to learn from others, but there is no point in ever comparing yourself to someone else because (a) their life journey will have been different to yours, because we’re all unique, and (b) their skills and attributes are different to yours. No two human beings are 100% identical, not even identical twins, and so it stands to reason that comparison is wasted effort, but guess what self doubt loves to do? Compare you to others! What a pain in the backside self doubt is. That’s why I don’t watch mental health videos on YouTube and I don’t listen to any other mental health podcasts, because I don’t want to compare myself to what other people do or don’t do — actually, I tell a lie there, I listen to one called Unwell with Erica which is by my friend, Erica, however hers is an interview show and her focus is quite different to mine, so I don’t see it as a comparison… but I am not going to sit down and start working my way through the top 20 mental health podcasts out there because it will probably make my head explode, and that won’t be helpful. Instead of allowing doubt and comparison to distract you, focus on you and being the best that you can be.

So, with all of that in mind I’m now going to do a more rapid-fire list of suggestions here, starting with:

  • Identify and focus on your values — which for me are do no harm, be kind, and give more than you take… when you know who you are and what you stand for, it makes it easier to tell that doubting little voice in your head to shut up! Next…
  • Be kind to yourself — because, seriously, if you won’t then who will? I say that a lot, I know, and I do so because I think most (if not all) of us would benefit from proactively treating ourselves with much more kindness on a regular basis (and I covered kindness back in Episode 41). Next…
  • Self respect — which was the subject of Episode 96 and is all about being respectful towards yourself (as is self-worth, which I talked about in Episode 78); the way you treat yourself matters, because it will determine how confident you feel in your own abilities… so make choices every day that are focused on being respectful towards yourself. Speaking of, my next tip is…
  • Focus on positivity — because whether you look for the negative or look for the positive, what you look for is what you will find. Positive thinking is a skill that can be learned (even though it will definitely take time, daily effort and a lot of perseverance), but frankly it’s preferable to being miserable and negative all the time (because that tends to be quite damaging to your self confidence and self esteem, since negativity is a breeding ground for self doubt). I talked about positivity in Episode 90 if you’d like to explore it in more detail. Next…
  • Practice daily reflection and gratitude — because these practices help you to focus more on the positives by looking for the lessons that each day can teach you (so that you can grow) and by showing you what truly matters most in your life in terms of the things you are grateful for (because that grounds you and gives you a greater sense of satisfaction). I covered gratitude in Episode 46 and reflection back in Episode 12, plus I just did a video on the art of reflection for Episode 41 over on YouTube.

And that leads me to my biggest point before I begin to wrap up today… 

Get support — and this is about recognising that if you are plagued by self doubt (especially if you find it tough to deal with), then you don’t need to go through it alone and nor should you; work with a professional. That might be a therapist, counsellor or coach, depending on your needs and your situation, but don’t just let the situation drag on if you’re finding that the do-it-yourself approach isn’t working for you; get the support you need to tackle it head-on.

Summary and Close-Out

Because when it comes to self doubt and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: Your thoughts are not facts, even though they may have a tendency to shout really loudly and try to convince you that they are the truth… but they’re not. They are thoughts, and self doubt is just a thought, and so dealing with it requires you to confront your doubts, process them so that you can understand what they are trying to tell you, and then to take a leap of faith and release them. Because if you let self doubt hold you back then all you are doing is robbing yourself of your own happiness, today and tomorrow.

The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today? 

Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:

“Doubt is an invitation to think.”

Unknown

Alright… that’s nearly it for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about no. The word ‘no’ is, in my opinion, the second-greatest word in the English language (and I’ll tell you the week after next what the greatest word is!), because finding the strength and confidence to say ‘no’ (with kindness) means that you are able to recognise that you have to prioritise your basic wellbeing needs before you are in a position to take care of or help other people… and that all begins with learning how and when to say no. So next time I’ll be talking about what ‘no’ is (and what it isn’t), why saying no matters, and how to say no in a kind and fair way.

I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 14th of November, 2021. You’ll also find another brand-new episode of Better Mental Health landing on YouTube on Wednesday (so take a moment to subscribe to my channel using the link in the episode description) or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you can also join my free mailing list for my weekly newsletter (and my website is also linked in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on).

Plus, find me on Instagram at @ltamentalhealth where I post extra content daily.

Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.

Jeremy 🙂

Did you like what you just read? Then please share this with someone who might appreciate it, like a friend, family member, or coworkerbecause word of mouth helps other people to find Let’s Talk About Mental Health! Thank you 🙂

Find more content at www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au

Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2021 Jeremy Godwin.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About… Self Doubt

  1. I have always struggled with self doubt my whole life. It is hard to overcome self doubt a lot of times, but I have been trying to figure out how to handle it. This particular topic has actually helped me understand, from someone else’s point of view and knowledge, how to understand self doubt and some ways on how to go about handling and understanding self doubt. I appreciate what you do.

    Like

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