Is self-doubt the biggest challenge you face?

Below is an exploration into what self-doubt is, how to recognise it and the article provides a simple tool for navigating your way beyond its limitations.

Self-doubt is something we all experience to one degree or another. However, could it be that we have learned to listen to self-doubt much more than we need to and have actually confused it with the important self-questioning mechanism we all need to navigate our way through life?

An important element in distinguishing this internal questioning is the distinction between self-doubt and self-regulation. The first thing is to identify the sort of internal dialogues you're experiencing. Self-doubt is a critical eye turned in towards ourselves with beliefs such as - I'm not good enough, I will be rejected or disliked, there's something wrong with me, I'm going to fail, I can't survive, I need to be quiet etc. Meanwhile, self-regulation is self-supporting with queries such as - what needs to happen? What are my resources and abilities? What do I need to learn? What is the best thing for myself or for the other? Here the internal questioning takes me forward into my life through support and empowerment. Self-doubt, on the other hand, takes me away from life and into withdrawal through criticism and disempowerment.

As such a useful way of knowing which one is guiding your life is simply to notice which direction you're moving in. Either towards life with curiosity and empowerment as a result of self-regulation or away from life and into withdrawal and depression as a result of self-doubt.

This internal navigation system is part of our moral compass or self-assessment system. Because it is so linked with our innate ability to understand right from wrong we often cite self-doubt as vital and important and that without it one might become arrogant or be out of control. This is because we confuse it with self-regulation. Therefore next time you find yourself diminished by self-doubt notice which direction you are going in and ask yourself what it would take to shift into self-regulation.

Self-regulation is like the wise elder who believes in us and our ability to both cope and to thrive. As we shift into this mode we naturally move forward into our lives and begin to reclaim our power. Meanwhile self-doubt is like an anxious and angry parent whose drive is to keep us out of harms way at all costs but inadvertently does the opposite and keeps us feeling vulnerable. We just haven't told it we don't need it anymore.

In conclusion, self-doubt lurks behind most difficulties and challenges. Noticing which direction you are moving in - either towards your life or away from it - is a simple way of assessing your relationship with self-doubt. Also, asking yourself "what do I doubt about myself?" in any stressful or challenging situation may take you to the heart of the issue. Asking yourself "what needs to happen?" shifts you into self-regulation and the opportunity to empower yourself. Finally, the opposite of self-doubt is not arrogance or inflated sense of importance but rather - gentle trust in our innate goodness and a quiet confidence.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, WC1A 1LQ
Written by Neil Turner, MA LGBTQ+
London, WC1A 1LQ

Having worked in the design industry for many years I now work as a psychotherapist with individuals and couples. I have recently completed a research MA in psychotherapy through which I explored the nature self-doubt and how to move beyond it.

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