Last week I talked about doubting a choice that you’ve made—specifically, how I doubted our decision to adopt a dog. (She’s passed out cuddled up next to me as I write this—she and I have both definitely relaxed in the two weeks since I wrote that!)
This week I want to talk about when the doubts you’re having are about you.
The last big attack of self-doubt I had came after I went out and bought myself some fancy new bras. For my male brethren reading this, bras are a crucial piece of your wardrobe—with a good one, you look great in everything else. I had gone out a couple years earlier and gotten fitted at Nordstrom for Wacoal bras. These are adult bras, $60+ each, not something you randomly grab off the rack at TJ Maxx, if you know what I’m sayin’. Oprah swears by them, if that gives you any indication of how legit they are!
After a year and a half of wearing these fancy bras, they were spent. So I took myself down to the mall to get a few new ones. Oh, I was so proud of myself! I was being so proactive. So grown up. I was going to feel so sexy in these new bras!
Except, I didn’t. I bought a different style, one that had a totally different shape. Once I got them home and tried them on with my actual clothes, they peeked out of all the many deep V-necks and scoop necks I own.
Have you ever seen a dog after a bad haircut, who wants to hide under the bed and not come out? That’s how I felt.
It kinda sounds silly to say now, but I felt so ashamed. Like I didn’t know how to dress myself. Like I had a mis-shapen body. Like I was some kind of dumb freak.
I realize this is very much a first world problem, but it’s also a great example of how the ego can take one little thing and turn it into a wallop of self-doubt.
The kind of doubt I’m talking about shows up in thoughts like:
Maybe I’m just not up to this.
What if nobody likes what I do/say?
There’s something wrong with me
I’m stupid/fat/ugly/lazy… (insert your own mean talk here).
It could also show up as feeling sorry for yourself, because why would you feel sorry for yourself if you didn’t somehow feel disadvantaged or flawed?
It could also show up as people pleasing—after all, why would you want people to like you so much if you didn’t secretly think there were some reason why you aren’t likeable?
Or wanting to be perfect. Because being perfect is about having nothing wrong with you. Which, on its flipside, is about trying to ward off the nagging sense that there is something wrong with you.
Here’s what self-doubt is:
- An attempt by your ego to keep you under its thumb
- A habitual thought pattern that has become familiar
- Electrical impulses traveling along neural pathways—in other words, impermanent blips
And here’s what it isn’t:
- Proof that you really do suck
- A sign that you’re messing up
And here are the four tools you can use when it strikes. (It’s what I did after the Bra Incident, and it totally alleviated that shitty feeling, fast.)
- (Always start with awareness!) Write down the hurtful thoughts you’re having about yourself. Getting them on paper gets them out of your head, but it also puts them in a form that the conscious mind can process better than when they’re simply running around in your mind.
- Once you’ve gotten them on paper, ask, are the thoughts empirically true? For example, was it true that I have a mis-shapen body? No. Was it true that I was stupid? No. I know that this won’t immediately dispel the thoughts, but it can help you see that they aren’t something you need to accept as truth. Just like the presidential debates, they need to be fact-checked.
- As you read the thoughts you’ve been having about yourself, let yourself feel all the feels you’d have for a friend who was being hard on herself—wish yourself well, send yourself love. You can do this by looking at a photo of yourself as a kid and sending the kid in that photo all your loving thoughts. Or you can do a loving kindness meditation where you sit quietly and silently repeat May I be happy, may I be free from suffering, may l find ease in a classic Buddhist practice.
- Finally, choose a statement you can believe in. I’m so lovable. I’m doing my best and get a little better every day. I have a big heart and a lot to give. When I show up with an open heart and mind, good things happen. Whatever you can wrap your brain around that is gentle and true, start telling yourself that whenever you remember.
Here’s the other thing I did—I talked to my coach, which really helped with each of the steps I just listed above, especially the awareness and the objectivity pieces. So if you’re going through a period of doubting yourself, consider scheduling a sample coaching session with me. The first call is always on me—all you have to do to make it happen is email me at kate[at]msmindbody.com and tell me “let’s talk.”