Three Ways I Healed Deep Self-Doubt

Self doubt, man at window in rain
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Throughout my life, I have struggled, and I mean struggled, with self-doubt. It was pernicious and undermining because I didn’t even know it was there. However, I’ve learned strategies to deal with this self-doubt through meditation, and by being trained and coached while working with others in mindful service at Clear Sky (the practice of Karma Yoga).

What prompted me to work on self-doubt?

At first, though I had a lot of self-doubt, I didn’t even notice it. It was simply part of “me.” With meditation and some skillful coaching that pointed it out in many different ways, I have become much more aware and of it.

What did I find out?

Well, the biggest thing is that self-doubt is useless. Worse than useless, it is in fact a draining experience that wastes time and energy while getting me nowhere. What it does do well, unfortunately, is keep in place the pain of having to maintain a self image that was created, as it were, out of nothing.

So it’s useless and painful. Newsflash, though – since it is created by thinking a certain way, the good news is that it be changed. In other words:

It’s not necessary and can be transformed

How did I transform my self-doubt? Through the wisdom and compassion of those who helped me see it, and gave me new strategies to master.

I’ll tell you a little about my old self. Picture a track meet. You know, where the track is an endless oval. (Some days, I still feel like I’m on this, but less and less.)

Well, I’ve lived much of my life as though I were running an endless race.

As a runner, I found that the goal was always somewhere ahead, yet never attained – the goal of being good enough. You see with self doubt, for me at least, nothing is ever seen as good enough. Hence, the endless track meet running in circles.

Then one day, after much coaching and much meditation practice, things crystallized and I saw a solution. All this coaching had made me more independent and at the same time, I was better at working as part of a team, moving along with those in my life instead of running alone. Suddenly, I could see the solution ahead. All I had to do was run off the end of the track and trust…

And what did I find? I found that the types of things I’d been taught, and practiced, gave me more freedom. They are:

1) Positive re-framing

I’m a high-school teacher. When I was running a negative internal dialogue such as, “There’s no way I can create a new lesson plan for this,” I would be making it true.

Positive re-framing taught me to state things in a new way and to ask questions that would empower me.

For example, “I can create the best lesson plan for this unit that will engage my students.” Isn’t this an empowering statement?

Conscious questions help too, because we’re running questions in our heads all the time that are not so conscious. So instead of, “Am I good enough to create a new lesson plan?” (the unexpressed question that I had finally become conscious of) I asked, “How will I create a new lesson plan?” and it really worked to shift my energy.

“I don’t have enough time” can be re-framed as, “This is important for me.”

“Where can I fit this new task in?” becomes, “What are my priorities?”

I thank my trainers at Clear Sky for this new doubt-busting skill.

2) Think, “What would I say to someone else who is not me?”

It was pointed out to me by my teachers and trainers at Clear Sky that I tend to be hard on myself in many different ways. I admit that I wouldn’t be as hard on someone else as I am on myself, for sure. So, to be kinder to myself, what would I say to a friend or someone else who has the same situation or problem that I have?

Since I am thoughtful about how I talk to colleagues and friends, I can surely do this with myself, too. If I acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes, it is important to include me in “everyone.”

3) Check in with myself daily

In the morning, evening or both I check in and ask myself, “What is my state of mind?”

This can help me to notice the content of my thoughts, whether I am having self-doubt or otherwise. Also I might ask, “Am I practicing self-care and pro-activity, or self-doubt?” No judgment allowed, it’s only a kindly check in. The good thing about this is that if I recognize the self-doubt, it heals itself over time. I don’t have to do anything. Our brains are that smart!

You can set these three times or so a day using alarms or a timer, on a cell phone or other device.

So you see, having stepped out of the endless track, I am free to keep running across the wide-open field in front of me. It’s spacious, green, filled with prairie grass, sunshine, and best yet, with no track, I can prioritize where I run next. With less self-doubt, the field beyond is wide open…

Edited by Andrew Rogers