Doubt is the mental habit of questioning your own judgement or worth.
For example: Suppose a new position opened up at work that you had your eye on for a while. You quickly sent an email to your manager letting him know you would like to apply. But almost immediately after sending the email, your mind is flooded with doubts and insecurities.
- I’m probably not as qualified as Susan from marketing.
- It’s a lot more work and I don’t do very good under pressure.
- What it I bomb the interview? Then my boss and all the other managers are going to know how insecure I am.
So, later that evening, you send another email retracting the first. You feel a quick sense of relief, but once a course of the next few weeks and months, you’re disappointed in yourself and ashamed that you weren’t brave enough to go for it.
Let’s walk through how to understand what doubt is, where it comes from, and then see some practical tools to help us overcome doubt.
Where Does Doubt Come From?
Like all habits, doubt can come from a variety of sources. And in fact, no two people’s struggles are the same.
For example: My doubt came from my childhood. I had a mother who would always doubted everything I did, it did matter whether I received A’s in school, I was still stupid, if I scrubbed the kitchen floor on my hands and knees, it wasn’t done good enough, she would say I was worth anything.
Childhood doubt can become an issue later in adulthood, in response to an unexpected crisis or stressor like divorce or job loss. Or even from wanting to have friends. “I would love to have friends, but they would just think I’m a piece of trash.” Doubt: So I’m not even going to try and just live as I am.
The factors that cause your doubt in the first place are not always the same the same ones that are maintaining it now. Perhaps bullying as a child caused you habit of doubting initially, but as an adult, your mental habit of asking other people for reassurance is what’s maintaining it.
Common Causes Of Doubt.
While it’s important to acknowledge that many things can both cause and maintain the habit of doubt, there are three causes that show up over and over again.
1. Narcissistic Parents. It’s often said that we tend to repeat the same mistakes as our parents. But it’s just as common that we’re so terrified of repeating our parents’ mistakes that we swing to the other extreme. Often children of narcissistic parents are so afraid of being narcissistic themselves that they go to the other extreme and refuse to give themselves any form of praise, Credit, or congratulations.
2. The Drill Sergeant Theory Of Motivation.
From a young age, many children learn that the best way to motivate themselves is to ‘get tough’ with yourself. Like the stereotypical drill sergeant hurling insults at his new recruits- because then they will make men out of them. (I just had a thought maybe that’s the reason my mother said all those things to me. I don’t really know the reason.) Children learn to be overly critical of themselves as a motivation strategy. What’s more they often develop a fear that without their constant criticism and harshness toward themselves, they’ll become lazy and soft and won’t be able to achieve anything anymore.
3. Learned Deference.
Many children unfortunately are raised by emotionally immature adults who don’t have healthy ways of feeling good about themselves. As a result, these adults praise and reward their children with attention when the children go to them for reassurance. When taken to an extreme, this cycle creates a savior complex in parents and unhealthy dependence in children. Because the children learn that they can get immediate relief from anxiety by asking their parents for reassurance, they never learn to manage their own anxiety and make decisions in the face of uncertainty.
What Are The Different Types Of Doubt?
According to Nick Wignall, a professional Psychologist there are three types:
Imposter Syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the irrational fear of being a fraud or not deserving of your accomplishments.
For example, no matter how far you climb up the work ladder, you constantly feel like you’re not as good as your peers and you’re only one mistake away from being exposed and humiliated. Imposter Swiss a form of doubt because it’s generated by the habit of doubting your own accomplishments.
If you constantly doubt yourself, why would you believe that you’re worthy of what you have achieved?
In its simplest form, self-sabotage is the tendency to undermine your own goals and values. For example, after working successfully sticking to your new diet program for two months, you binge on junk food three nights in a row.
When you habitually self-sabotage yourself you make yourself an easy target for self criticism and doubt.
This is when you consistently struggle to make even small, decisions for fear of making the wrong decision and whatever consequences may result.
When you decide on a restaurant for dinner that doubt your choice you can worry about potential negative consequences, you can produce a burst of anxiety, then after you defer the decision to someone else which relieves you of the responsibility for the outcome and lessons your anxiety.
In the long run indecisiveness only erodes your self-esteem and confidence and makes your habit of doubting even stronger.
Signs That You Struggle With Doubt
Difficulty taking compliments. If you constantly get anxious or ashamed whenever someone gives you a compliment, it could be a sign that you don’t value yourself enough as a result of chronic self doubt. Of course, compliments can sometimes be uncomfortable for anyone, but if you regularly struggle to take compliments and frequently avoid situations where you might be complimented, this could be a sign of a problem with self-doubt.
Reassurance-Seeking. A habitual pattern of asking for reassurance when you’re upset or having a hard time making decisions is frequently a sign about doubt issues. When you doubt you own abilities, it naturally produces anxiety. And the quickest way to alleviate anxiety is to often ask other’s to make a decision or tell you things are going to be okay. The problem is, this teaches your mind that your judgement is not to be trusted, and in the long run intensifies your habit of self doubt.
Feeling Like You’re Never Good Enough. In some ways, this should be obvious, but if you consistently feel bad about yourself your own abilities and achievements, maybe there’s a correlation there. The trouble is self doubt like many habits can become so automatic and ingrained it can be invisible. But if your doubting yourself becomes simply the water you swim in, it’s hard to imagine how you could hope to feel good about yourself.
I lived my life in a ocean of not feeling good enough for many many years. I tell you it was difficult to climb out of that water. But it is possible, I told myself I loved me and that I was a beautiful human being. Every day, plus every time I looked it the mirror, if I seen the ugly person I feel I was I would tell myself “I am beautifully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
One thing about doubting yourself is to always strive to be a better person than you were yesterday. You are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are here for a purpose. Have the guts to find that purpose and you’ll never be sorry. And above all don’t give up.