Overcoming Self-Doubt

How we can face ourselves with greater equanimity, and cultivate self-acceptance.

What is self-doubt?

Self-doubt is incredibly common. People often describe it as a feeling of being judgemental, uncertain, insecure, or lacking in self-esteem, confidence and self-expression.

Self-doubt results from the way you judgementally think about yourself and your life situation.

This sort of self-non-acceptance can be thought of as a disconnection from some aspect of yourself, in order to avoid the psychological pain, distress, or discomfort of judgement.

How can you work to overcome it?

Although self-doubt can be paralyzing at times, if you can reduce the stress caused by self-doubt to a degree that's manageable, your mind has the natural intelligence to begin learning a new way of thinking about yourself, as well as finding productive solutions to improve your situation.

You are then able to face yourself with a calm state of mind, as opposed to reactively judging your situation, and turning away.

This is called observation. It is the opposite of judgement.

How to get the most from this exercise

The following self-reflective exercise is designed to help you explore, in a productive manner, the aspects of yourself that you are most critical of.

There are two steps to the exercise. In the first step you will be asked to choose the habits or aspects of your personality that you currently struggle with.

In the second step, you will be asked to examine your PERCEPTION of yourself across these various traits, as well as your IDEALS for how you would like to be (see the Mood Balance for more insights on how the relationship between your perceptions and your ideals can impact your state of mind). You will also have the opportunity to explore practical ways to improve your situation.

Step 1: Select the habits you would like to explore

We are going to use the OCEAN (Big Five) model of personality for this exercise. You can read more about personality theory here, if you would like.

In this first step, review the habits that fall within each of the five personality traits. Select 3-5 habits from each personality trait and write them down on a separate piece of paper or digital notepad.

Don't worry if you are not sure about some of your choices. Try to be over-inclusive, as you will have the opportunity later to review and narrow down your choices to a smaller group of habits to analyse.

Extraversion / Introversion

Select 3-5 habits from the list below and write them down in your notebook.

Openness / Traditionalism

Select 3-5 habits from the list below and write them down in your notebook.

Conscientiousness / Carelessness

Select 3-5 habits from the list below and write them down in your notebook.

Emotional Stability / Low Stress Tolerance

Select 3-5 habits from the list below and write them down in your notebook.

Agreeableness / Assertiveness

Select 3-5 habits from the list below and write them down in your notebook.

Once you have completed this, you should have approximately 15-25 habits on your list.

Review your list and filter it down to the 5-10 most important habits you feel you are struggling with and would like to improve.

You are now ready to continue with your exploration.

Step 2: Explore your habits for insight

With each of the 5-10 habits you have selected, you can now systematically analyse them and explore opportunities to make improvement.

Use the following four prompts to reflect on each of the habits you have chosen, one at a time. Again, it is best to write down your thoughts in a journal, or some sort of digital notepad for future review and ongoing exploration.

1. Describe the impact through an experience

Write a short story or summary about a time when this habit led to a situation that had a negative impact on your life.

2. Exploring potential alternative outcomes

Write about what you might have done differently in that past situation, to minimize the effect of this habit.

3. Exploring potential positive impacts

Even aspects of ourself that we find difficult can be positive sometimes. Are there any positive impacts, however small they may be, of the habit you have just described?

4. Opportunities for improvement

Now step back and think about this habit more broadly. What could you start to do to help improve this habit in general, so that the experience you described earlier is less likely to repeat itself in the future?

Continue learning and growing

Congratulations on completing this exercise. It takes energy, curiosity and commitment to do this sort of self-reflection.

Changing these habits is possible, and we have found that through setting clear goals, as well as discipline and practice, you can make meaningful progress.

If you'd like to discuss your own personal situation as it relates self-doubt and self-acceptance, you can do so here, with Open Dialogue.

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