At some point in our lives, we may all confront the challenge of overcoming self doubt while pursuing a goal or project. Doubt often manifests unexpectedly and slowly taints the excitement for our plans and as our passion begins to wane, the crippling fear of failure sets in. Wrestling with self doubt hinders our focus and direction, causing our confidence to steadily decline even if we have invested considerable effort and adequate preparation to ensure our competence. The helplessness from doubt may lead some of us to abandon our goals, while others can regain their motivation and persevere. I personally overcame many moments of doubt while preparing to launch my blog and I discovered first hand why the first step of any journey is often regarded as most difficult to take. Reflecting upon my own personal experience, I believe that doubt does not have to sabotage our efforts but can be a normal pathway to solidifying our passion to succeed.
What is doubt.
Doubt is rooted in our innate human drive for social belonging, which leads us to unconsciously appraise our actions according to socially endorsed values. Even as we possess unique individual motivations for pursuing various goals, the desired outcome of our aim is social acceptance and consumption of the products of our talents. Subsequently, we predict our success by the magnitude that others embrace and validate our endeavours, qualifying their approval and support as a condition of our achievement. Our inability to forecast how others will endorse our pursuits manifests in a fear that they may not embrace our talents, which we define as failure. Even if we are confident in our abilities, we may still doubt our potential success because we cannot predict if others will also perceive us as competent. My sentiments of self doubt manifested as my blog’s launch date drew closer and I began to anticipate the response from the public. As we start to visualize our desired outcome, we suddenly find ourselves wavering between the excitement that others will endorse our efforts and the fear that we may be rejected. I discovered that the following practices were useful in diminishing my sense of self doubt.
- Redefine success: passion is your best currency.
I believe that biggest trap for self doubt is defining our success by “measured outcomes” that depend on how others assess of our efforts due to it’s potential to undermine our passion. If others do not validate our performance in the ‘magnitude’ that we expect, we become doubtful, which may distract us from improving our craft. However, maintaining the intensity of our passion will gradually yield measured success because passion boosts confidence, determination and creativity. If anticipating the outcome of our endeavours causes doubt, we should deliberately refocus our thoughts on the positive ‘rationales’ for our pursuit. This is an exercise that rejuvenates the excitement for our goal, enhances our passion and motivates us to move forward. The impact of shifting our focus towards our desire is akin to the analogy of pouring a greater amount of clean water into a small amount of cloudy water, where the overall gradient changes in favour of the clean water. When I experienced doubt prior to launching my blog, I intentionally counteracted each fearful thought with three supporting sentiments for blogging; focusing on my motives shifted my attention in favour of my goal and mobilized me into action. I recommend continuously engaging in the details/art of your craft such that you remain focused on what is enjoyable and positive about your efforts, whereby joy is the best remedy for doubt. Depleting the excitement for our undertaking is a magnet for doubt and the absolute killer of success. Many people are pursuing endeavours with diminished passion and enjoyment because they are chasing measured success and remain perplexed that they aren’t achieving it. It is passion that enables us to invest the hard work necessary to succeed and helps us to remain possibility focused when we confront set backs.
I correlated the importance of passion with success because I blog through inspiration; my ideas are the only platform of my pursuit and passion is the source that my thoughts stem from. I do not utilize any numerical standards as a basis of my success because this could potentially undermine my ambition and subsequently my ability to generate the very substance of my blog. I define my success only by my continued creative potential and interestingly, as I become more passionate, I discover greater insight and awareness for my posts. Therefore, it’s beneficial to ‘initially’ focus less on traditional measurements of success to lessen doubt and boost our passion/performance.
- Success doesn’t imply perfection.
Our expectation is an important predictor of self doubt because it determines how we respond to the elements that are out of our control. One will experience greater sentiments of doubt if they expect their pursuit to proceed perfectly because they may prematurely misinterpret a setback as failure. Rather, if we expect that success is a growth process, we will remain hopeful of our potential and anticipate that we have room for improvement. The assumption that any task will unfold seamlessly leads us to become insecure if perfection does not manifest and our declining confidence incites doubtfulness. More so, it is the expectation of perfection that causes us to presume that unfavourable incidents will impede our overall outcome, an assumption that heightens our fear of failure. This is because perfection implies that there is only one potential outcome for each event, causing us to feel defeated if things do not go as we hoped. I personally fought the temptation of foreshadowing the worst-case scenario a few days before launching my blog, when an entire set of blog pictures were erased from my camera. It would have been easy to misinterpret this mishap as a reason to doubt the caliber of my scheduled posts, but I distracted myself by writing and completed another shoot the following day. Accepting that a given process will have peaks and valleys strengthens our resolve to persevere beyond the difficulties that we encounter along the way. More so, challenges typically offer insights and lessons that we can use to enhance our subsequent attempts.
A critical component of relinquishing perfection is recognizing that we will naturally have phases where we become doubtful and experience reduced passion. We must anticipate this as a normal aspect of our journey so it does not entirely discourage us to give up. If we shouldn’t expect the process to be perfect, then we cannot expect perfection of ourselves. However as my parents always cautioned “it’s not whether a bird lands on a tree but if it builds a nest”. I do not recommend lingering in a demotivated state, rather we should muster the drive to persevere by investing our energy in activities that deepen our passion. Another beneficial practice that lessened my moments of doubt was drawing on my support system for encouragement.
Success is not a one person show.
No one is an island, therefore we must draw on the assets of others who are rooting for our success, where in my case blogging has blossomed into a family affair. Our limited perspective about certain aspects of our goal contributes to self doubt and our support system can be a great litmus to gauge reservations that we are unable to independently rationalize. When I encounter uncertainties about any component of my blog, I have difficulty “thinking it out” on my own but I’m able to get a better grasp of the issue after discussing my ideas/thoughts with my family. I am constantly picking my family’s brain about topics, pictures and their personal experience, where their honest feedback helps to refine my clarity and confidence. If your reservations stem from a lack of expertise, then invest in research and learning opportunities and seek out positive and willing mentors that can guide you. Even the critical opinions of those we trust can also lessen our sense of doubt by allowing us to gain a broader perspective in a reassuring context. Hence, embrace vulnerability with your support system by being open and honest about the nature of your doubt, so they can offer the neutrality that you need to rationalize your worries. I am also grateful for my family’s support during those moments when I need motivation to believe in the value of my undertaking.
We often doubt our efforts because we are our own worst critics and it’s valuable to have people around us who strive to build you up when you’re knocking ourselves down. We can never get too many pep talks and the encouragement from my husband and children always seem to jolt my passion for blogging when I’m feeling demotivated. The encouraging words of others highlight the positive aspects of our efforts when we are erroneously too focused on what’s amiss. Ironically, my family typically conveys the same constructive sentiments to me that I have offered them on other occasions, proving that we can benefit from the perspective of others even if we already possess the same awareness. We must be grateful to those who love us enough to support us, reinforcing our faith in the good that we are doing. As we are lifted by the encouragement of others, it highlights the value of reciprocating this positivity to others in their time of demotivation.
I hope that these recommendations will be useful to you as you encounter inevitable moments of doubt while pursuing your goal. If you have committed the dedication to leap into your venture, then you must continually strive to believe in the beauty of your efforts/goal because this is the only worthy measurement of your success. Subsequently, the most decisive determinant of one’s success and deterrent of doubt is the rationale for pursuing your goals. I believe that we only succeed in those projects that we pursue out of passion and love. It is highly unlikely to prosper in an undertaking that you are doing solely to please others, for money or out of fear.
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Which other principles have helped you to overcome self doubt? What recommendation would you add to this list?
“Steeping joy, brewed with all that life has to offer”