Battling the Thief in Your Mind: How to Overcome Self-Doubt

 

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.  ~Vincent Van Gogh
It really doesn’t matter how successful you are or have been in the past, everybody has had to deal with “The Voice”.  Its that voice that tells you that you are not good enough.  The voice that tells you are not strong enough.  The voice that tells you things are not going to work out for you. The very same voice that may be keeping you from accomplishing the things you want.I recently ran my first half-marathon.  It was a huge accomplishment for me considering just a few years ago I hated long distance running.  My decision, training, and eventual crossing of the finish line taught me a lot about how we set goals and accomplish things in our lives.  I also learned a lot about the voice of self-doubt.
I Hear VoicesIt all started on a Friday afternoon when I decided to treat myself to a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. I pulled into the drive-thru and ordered one doughnut.  When I pulled up to the window and handed the lady a dollar, she handed me a box.  Sure that she had made a mistake I said, “Excuse me, I only ordered one doughnut”.She said, “The person in front of you canceled their order so I gave you a few extra”. 

I thanked her and drove home.  When I got home I realized that there were six doughnuts in the box.  “I only wanted one doughnut”. I thought to myself, “What am I going to do with six doughnuts?  There is no way I’m going to eat six doughnuts.”

 

So, after I ate the six doughnuts, and somewhere in between the sugar high and sugar crash, I decided to run an extra mile on top 3 miles I usually run on Saturday mornings.  The next day I woke up early and prepared myself for my morning run.  I drove to a nearby lake and began running with the intention of running 4 laps around it.  It was dark, cold, and quiet.  I really did not want to be out there but I made the commitment to run the 4 miles.  It may have been the weather or maybe the six doughnuts from the night before, but I began to feel sluggish.

 

As I was on my last lap around the lake, I could hear the voice of doubt loud and clear. I was alone in the cold, dark morning while the entire city was asleep in their warm beds.  I began to think about how tired I was while doing the extra mile.  I started to mentally complain about how my legs where feeling heavy and how I was out of breath.  I wanted to stop running and walk the rest of the way because I was convinced that it was too hard. “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are”-Malcom S. Forbes
Then I thought, “What’s my problem? It’s not like I’ve never run 4 miles before.  Why am I entertaining the thought of giving up? “I somehow allowed self doubt to creep into my thinking and it was about to influence my decision making.Once I realized what was going on, I knew that I had to fight the temptation of giving up.  I had to fight the voice that was telling me to quit.  I began to run faster and faster until I was in a full sprint.  The closer I got to finishing the lap, the louder the voice got, and the more I wanted to give up.I combated the voice by running as hard as a possibly could, determined to finish the lap strong.  When I finally finished the lap, I was exhausted and out of breath.  It was still cold and quiet.  The voice of doubt was gone and the feeling of inadequacy was replaced by a sense of accomplishment. It felt like I had just defeated a giant; and truthfully, I did.

I learned so many very important lessons about persistence that morning that have stuck with me. Now, whenever I come across a problem or an obstacle, I think about that morning.  I think about how hard it was to finish that last lap.  I think about how much I wanted to stop running.  I think about how close I came to giving up and how good it felt when I didn’t.  I learned that having a persistent mindset can be achieved, but first you must be able to silence the voice in your mind.

Self-doubt can rob and steal excitement from your life.  It is the thief in your mind.  When we entertain and allow doubt to overtake our lives, we are essentially choosing to miss opportunities for growth.  The little thief in the mind can have a big influence on our actions.  Your voice may be saying you are too young, too old, too inexperienced, or not good enough. Silencing that voice is essential to building a persistent mindset. Change Your Mental DietDuring my half-marathon training I had to watch what I put into my body. In order to keep doubt away, I also had to watch what I put in my mind. Going on a strict mental diet can help ensure that you are getting the proper mental “nutrition” you need to suppress the growth of doubtful thoughts.

I began reading running magazines and articles and also began to watch marathon videos on Youtube.  Then, I asked a friend to become my running partner.  She was in great shape and had already run a full marathon more than once.  It was great to have someone who has already been through the process there to remind me that it would get easier.

Seek out things that will feed your confidence instead of your insecurities and fears.  Find books, sermons, lectures, videos, people, and anything else that will engage you in a positive way.  Avoid doubters, negative thinkers, complainers, and anything else that will feed your doubt.  Just like doughnuts and burgers can slow down a runner, the negative things you feed your mind will slow down your ability to achieve your goals.

Your chances of success in any undertaking can be measured by your belief in yourself -Rober Collier

Confront and Tame the Self-Doubt

You’ve probably heard the saying “admitting it is the first step to recovery”.  This saying was first introduced by Alcoholics Anonymous as a part of their Twelve Step Program.  This same saying is a good place to start if you want to eliminate doubt.

Be honest with yourself about your doubt and what it is doing to you and your goals.  Once you’ve identified the self-doubt you begin to become more empowered to do something about it.  Recognize its presence but do not give it the power to affect you emotionally.

Once you’ve separated yourself emotionally, you can then decide how you want to react to the situation.  For example, if you get nervous every time you speak to someone you’re attracted to; do not give the nervousness power or meaning.  Instead, tame the feeling by recognizing it and then deciding not let it determine your actions.

Make the Impossible Possible

Most of us keep a mental list of things we are unable to do.  You may have told yourself that you are not a social person, aren’t athletic, or perhaps you told yourself that you cannot succeed in a certain profession.

Why do we allow ourselves to believe we are unable to do something just because it seems too difficult or because we were unable to do it in the past?  Perhaps it is because of the amount of work that is required to do that thing.  Or maybe it is because the sting of failing in the past is still fresh in our minds so trying again would just be too painful.  Whatever the reason may be, a great way to build a silence the voice of self-doubt is to resolve to conquer those challenges.

Create a list of things that you think you cannot do.  It can be something you have struggled with for years, or it can be something that you may have never even tried.  Challenge yourself to do just one thing on your list.  Commit to going the extra mile to accomplish that thing to your satisfaction.  You will find that doing the thing you cannot do will minimize doubt and strengthen your belief in yourself.

 

Keep a Victory Log

Whenever I enter a task or challenge that I think that I cannot get across, I think about what I have accomplished in the past.  A victory log is a place where you write down all of your accomplishments and how you accomplished them.  Whenever the temptation to give up comes around, you can refer to your log to see how you were able to overcome previous obstacles.

 

I’ve written down many things in my victory log.  I have even gone back to when I was a child and how I was able to learn how to tie my shoe laces. It may seem unnecessary to list something as simple as learning to tie my shoes but I recall the day that I learned how to do it.  I remember how much I wanted to learn and how good it felt when I finally got it. Remembering how good it felt helps me to persist towards my current goals and I think about how good it is going to feel when I accomplish them.

 

By keeping a victory log you will have written proof of how strong and capable you really are.  With every page that you turn, you may see that you have what it takes to conquer the new challenges.

We all have the ability to do amazing things if we are able to get out of our own way.  By silencing the voice of doubt, finding ways around obstacles, doing what is impossible to us, and staying focused you can have an unmovable mindset.

Do you hear the voice of doubt? How do you battle it?  Let us know in the comment section. Or start your victory log by telling us how you overcame doubt.

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