I have no doubt that you’ve had feelings of self-doubt at some point in your life. Whether you experience self-doubt every once in a while or are crippled with self-doubt at every turn, know that you are not alone.
My life has been filled with self-doubt. I doubted I knew the right answers in school. I doubted I would ever get over my parents’ deaths. I doubted I could give up drinking. I doubted my ability to find and sustain romantic love. I doubted I was focused enough to run a business. Heck, I’ve even doubted myself to the point of not speaking up when my boundaries were clearly being abused.
(Personal boundaries are so important! Here’s why.)
Does any of that sound familiar?
Doubt can do real harm to every aspect of your life. Take a second and ask yourself: Has self-doubt impacted your ability to make decisions? Take a risk? See how powerful and brilliant you are? If you answered yes, even a little bit, self-doubt is holding you back from living the life your soul intended.™
Good news! There’s something you can do about it. You have the power to break free from your self-doubt, and today, I’m going to let you in on my secret.
You’re not stupid or weak or crazy or damaged. Fear makes you doubt your own abilities and makes you wonder if you know as much as everyone else. It might make you feel like you’ll sound silly if you express your opinion in front of your friends. Or it might be making you feel like you’ll never be able to publish the book you’ve always dreamed of because why would anyone want to read what you have to say?
Let’s stop self-doubt in its tracks. Continue reading to learn why you’re feeling self-doubt and how you can use my breakthrough system called the Wheel of Fear to identify which core fear is holding you back and causing your self-doubt.
Before I explain your core fear, let’s look at the most common aspect of the Wheel of Fear: fear responses. When you can identify your fear responses, your core fear is way easier to identify and dismantle. And those little rascals are what you and I experience and blame each day for the state of our life. So let’s see them for what they are and quit the cycle of fear.
What Are the Causes of Self-Doubt?
Wonder what’s holding you back from succeeding? It’s one small word, but it’s doing so much damage to your life: FEAR.
Fear is what’s causing your self-doubt, and you may not even recognize it. Fear can manifest itself in so many forms. Your core fear might be fear of being seen as lazy, fear of being incompetent, or fear of being a loser (that’s mine!) Gulp!
But most of us, including myself, aren’t taught about our core fear. I mean, I was never called a loser, ever. Felt like it? Sure. So finding your core fear takes a little more effort because it’s so good at being elusive and hard to see.
Good news. What is easy to see are fear responses. Fear responses are the first place to start our journey to gain mastery over fear. Today, I will help you name yours and show you what to do instead. Once you name your fear responses, they can’t trick you anymore. So let’s take the first step to let fear know the jig is up.
At Fearless Living, we like to talk in terms of our emotional fear responses, the main ones being:
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Loss
- Fear of Change
- Fear of Intimacy
- Fear of Being Judged
- Fear of Success
- Fear of the Unknown
- Fear of Loneliness
- Fear of Rejection
- Fear of Not Being Good Enough
Do any of these sound familiar? We all have one or more of these common fear responses, so take a deep breath. You’re okay. And if you have all ten, you’re okay too. These ten are how fear commonly shows up in our lives, causing you and me to doubt ourselves.
Learn more about these common emotional fears in my article: 10 Common Types of Fear and Overcoming Them.
Here are a few examples of how self-doubt can sneak up on you.
I didn’t want to put up my hand in class; I thought I would look stupid. Not knowing the answer was akin to being called dumb in my family. I was able to make due in high school, but when I hit college, I didn’t know the answers. I needed help, but I was afraid of being rejected and looking like a big ol’ failure.
I was afraid that if I raised my hand and tried to answer a question the professor asked, I’d be laughed at, my attempt would be wrong, and everyone would see that I failed. From that moment, it would be as if I had a big tattoo on my forehead screaming “dumb failure.” It wasn’t worth the risk or the embarrassment. I didn’t want to be the girl that everyone thought would never amount to anything. Those negative thoughts gnawed at my confidence and left me doubting my ability to be who I prayed I could be.
Another big area of my life that has been riddled with self-doubt: Love. I didn’t reach out to a romantic interest because I was afraid of rejection. My deep fear of rejection kept me from connecting with someone I really got along with and could have continued to get to know. Instead, I ignored their messages so that they never had the chance to reject me first.
My client Susan didn’t apply for a promotion she was perfect for because she doubted she was good enough. When we dug deeper and looked at her situation through the lens of the Wheel of Fear, she was able to understand that she didn’t apply for her dream position because of her lifelong fear that she would eventually disappoint everyone who believed in her. Better not to disappoint, her fear told her, so she rationalized she wasn’t quite ready. Not yet, she said to herself time and time again.
Note: Fear will allow you to keep dreaming; it will convince you there are really good “reasons” you shouldn’t do it YET. Oh, that YET ate up so much of my life. Years! I was waiting for the YES, the internal GO FOR IT. But because fear was pulling my strings, I never heard it. I just kept waiting for some magical permission. Sound familiar?
Understanding where your self-doubt comes from and being able to identify and name it will help you move past your feelings of self-doubt.
But that’s easier said than done. Let’s talk about how you can manage and set yourself free from the hidden (or not so hidden!) fear responses that perpetuate your self-doubt.
How to Overcome Self-Doubt?
It All Begins With Self-Compassion
How do you deal with crippling self-doubt? Your very first step in overcoming self-doubt is the practice of self-compassion.
It’s critical to embrace self-compassion through every step of your journey. Now, I bet you’re thinking, “Compassion? But Rhonda, that sounds weak. I’m a strong person. I don’t need to show compassion to myself.”
Yes, yes. I know. And here’s the truth: You will not get far in your journey to overcoming self-doubt if you do not learn to treat yourself with compassion.
Sign up for my 21 Days of Self-Love from the Fearless Living Institute.
Think of it this way. If your son or daughter forgets their backpack at home, do you ridicule them and tell them how stupid they are for forgetting it? Do you tell them they will never be successful if they keep forgetting important things? Absolutely not. You would never say things like that to people you truly care about, so why would you say it to yourself?
And I understand you probably learned that being critical of yourself is a way to reach perfection and insulate yourself from rejection, failure, and disappointment. It’s the “point out what’s wrong so you can fix it” mentality. It’s an argument I hear over and over again. Yet, has it worked? I bet not.
Those who use that argument do NOT have high self-confidence. Their self-doubt makes them reject the very parts of themselves that are required to become who they were born to be. Chasing perfection is for statues—not for human beings.
In fact, mistakes are OK. Welcomed even. I’d argue mistakes are good because they help you learn and grow. So, I invite you to show compassion to yourself as you learn about the fears that are holding you back.
Here’s a simple way to start. Think of compassion as being gentle with yourself. You are learning something new and deeply exploring your past and your fears. This is no small feat, so go easy on yourself. What matters is that you are showing up every day for yourself. What matters is that you are willing.
Set Intentions and Be Willing
Ask yourself: how willing you are to start this journey? Are you willing to support yourself and prioritize your own needs for a change? Are you willing to put in the work? On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being “not at all” and 10 being “I’m all in”), rate your “willingness.”
I can give you the tools you need to live the life your soul intended™, but I can’t make you willing to live that life. That is something you must claim for yourself. I encourage you to be willing to go through the process of prioritizing your needs, setting boundaries, and, ultimately, overcoming all of the subterranean fears that are behind your self-doubt. Because when you are willing, anything and everything becomes possible.
Now is the perfect time to add an Intention Statement to your willingness. Clear intentions will help you stop being seduced by the expectations that are crippling your movement forward. Intentions act as a pledge to yourself.
The key words in an Intention Statement are: WILLING and PRACTICE.
Let’s try it. Repeat after me:
I am willing to practice showing up for myself.
I am willing to practice being honest with myself.
I am willing to practice self-compassion with every step I take.
If you’re on the fence about your level of willingness, repeat after me: I am willing to be willing. Memorize that phrase and repeat it again and again when you find yourself hitting a wall and unable to make yourself a priority. It works like a salve against your doubts, worries, and anxieties.
Repeat after me:
I am willing to be willing to practice showing up for myself.
I am willing to be willing to practice being kind with myself.
I am willing to be willing to practice self-compassion with every step I take.
And if THAT still seems hard, use this: I am willing to be willing someday in the future…
That will loosen up any resistance. Promise.
What do your own intentions look like? Make sure your Intention Statements are proactive and rooted in the present moment. Frame them in a positive light, and begin with “I am willing to practice…”
What do I mean by positive light? There’s a big difference between saying “I am willing to practice not complaining” versus “I am willing to practice seeing the best in every situation.”
When you are trying to stop something, how exactly do you stop? You have to practice something else, right? Well, the thing you want to do more of is what you want to practice.
When you write your Intention Statement, focus on what you WANT more of rather than what you want to stop. This also has the added benefit of creating new neural pathways in that lovely brain of yours so that the changes can become permanent.
Bottom line: if we don’t frame our intentions positively, we will once again get caught up in negative self-talk.
Stop Negative Self-Talk in Its Tracks
Self-compassion and positive intentions are so, so, SO critical to overcoming self-doubt because, without them, negative self-talk will keep rearing its ugly head. This voice is what many call your inner critic or monkey mind, which you know now is a fear response. That voice loves to put you down and make you feel small.
It’s the voice that always says no, putting you in a box, and seems to cause your low self-esteem. That lovely voice says things like: “You could never be a writer; your business could never be number one; your kids will never listen to you. You’re not smart, brave, or talented enough, no matter how many accolades you get.”
My friend, please, please, please stop saying these things to yourself. In fact, at Fearless Living, we have a rule: No Beating Yourself Up. You are enough just as you are RIGHT NOW. Self-doubt becomes toxic when it turns into negative self-talk. And you know exactly where that negative self-talk is coming from: FEAR.
Fear wants to keep you doubting yourself. When you’re about to tell yourself you can’t do something, remember that’s not really you speaking—that’s fear. Don’t listen to that voice!
The next time that voice wakes up, simply say, “Thank you, fear. I see you.” Instead of saying, “You can’t,” I want you to say, “I am willing to….” Then, take that first step.
Sure, sometimes things won’t work out. But it’s that willingness to try – make an effort – that matters most. It’s that willingness to say yes to yourself. Doubt is perfectly natural—no one can be certain of what life is going to throw at you next. But you know what is certain? That negative self-talk isn’t helping anyone, not your friends, not your family members, not your clients, and certainly not yourself.
Shut the door in the face of fear by breaking the cycle and getting off the Wheel of Fear.
Get Off of Your Wheel of Fear
In the Fearless Living Training Program (FLTP), we talk about the four stages of the Wheel of Fear—Trigger, Fear Response, Core Negative Feeling, Self-Destructive Behaviors, and repeat.
The Wheel of Fear keeps you stuck in a cycle of self-doubt, and until you intentionally get yourself off of this Wheel, you will never live the life your soul intended.™
So, what does this Wheel look like?
- Trigger. Your trigger is your core fear. What is your core fear? What triggers your fear response? For example, if your core fear is a fear of being a loser, you might be triggered by not getting that promotion you applied for. On the other hand, if your core fear is a fear of being incompetent, you might be triggered by your partner stepping in and helping you pack for an upcoming vacation since you see any need for help as proof you aren’t doing it perfectly. (I will let you know in a bit how you can identify your core fear.)
- Fear Response. Your core fear will trigger a fear response. You feel threatened, and that forces you to react. You might act like you don’t care about the promotion when your colleagues or friends ask about it (fear of rejection is showing up). Or you might lash out at your partner when the topic of packing is brought up. (Does fear of being judged sound familiar?) Think of fear responses as HOW you respond to your trigger—what you think, say, feel, act, and so on when you’re triggered.
- Core Negative Feeling. Your fear responses activate your core negative feeling, which you do not want to feel. When life sucks me dry and I don’t want to face the day, my Core Negative Feeling – worthless – tries to convince me to give up or act out. Self-doubt goes into hyperdrive. It could convince you that you’ll always be alone, are not good enough, or won’t ever be successful. It’s different for everyone, and likely, this feeling has been with you for decades. These are the agonizing feelings you experience every time life doesn’t work out for you, and you may believe those feelings are you. They are not! And unfortunately, the more you try to avoid or deny these feelings, the more stuck you become and the more you worry that things will never change.
- Self-Destructive Behaviors. No one wants to feel their core negative feeling because it usually leads to self-destructive behavior. You want to run away from these feelings, distract yourself, cover them up, and avoid them at all costs. You’ll engage in self-sabotage. You might start drinking more, gossip about your friends, endlessly scroll other people’s lives on social media, snap at your family, etc. You’ll look for some form of instant gratification to keep you from feeling your core negative feeling.
This cycle will continue to repeat itself. Since you ran from your feelings and covered them up with self-destructive behavior instead of facing them and identifying their root cause, the next time you encounter a trigger, the cycle will repeat. Your fear response will cause you to continue to dig yourself deeper and deeper into self-destructive behavior.
Get yourself out of this endless cycle by recognizing your trigger (that’s your core fear). Pay close attention to your relationships with friends and family—it’s often the people we are closest to who set off our trigger. When you allow yourself to feel those negative feelings—while giving yourself a whole bunch of self-compassion at the same time—you will understand what is causing your self-doubt and how you can move through your fear.
The next time you start to doubt yourself, stop and ask: What would you do if you weren’t doubting yourself? Practice seeing yourself as who you wish you could be (because who you wish you could be is who you are on the Wheel of Freedom.)
Let me give you one more tool, the superpower question that will help you see yourself clearly and stop doubt in its tracks.
Here it is: Am I making it up, or is it fact?
When I’m experiencing self-doubt, I ask myself that question. And 99.9% of the time, if I’m truthful, I will admit I am making it up. I’m making up that my sister doesn’t love me, my boss sabotaged me, or my partner thinks I’m stupid. And then, I ask myself, what are the facts? And 99.9% of the time, the facts lead me to have more confidence in my abilities, feel more secure to take action, and experience the freedom I crave.
I can see that it’s not that she doesn’t love me; she is calling out my behavior. Your boss isn’t sabotaging you; he is indecisive and insecure, impacting his ability to lead. Your partner doesn’t think you’re stupid because she’s jumping in to help you pack; she just wants to help. Those are the facts, yet it’s difficult to see them when fear is in control because fear jumps in. After all, our brain is wired for fear.
If all of that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. I built my Fearless Living program based on years of cracking the code to fear. Remember that it’s a journey, and it will take time. Your core fear, fear responses and core negative feelings have probably been with you since childhood, but you can break free from them and overcome your self-doubt if you are willing.
Say Goodbye to Self-Doubt and Start Being Your Fearless Self
Overcoming self-doubt is no small feat, but you don’t have to do it alone. My 10-week Fearless Living Training Program is based on decades of learning how to crack the secret code to fear—the fears that are at the root of your self-doubt.
With Fearless Living, you’ll learn how to treat yourself with compassion, set clear intentions, stop negative self-talk, prioritize your mental health, and ultimately, move yourself off the Wheel of Fear. Join us! Your future self will thank you!
If you like this article, you’re sure to like some of my other online resources.
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📚 Learning how to say no to the people you love can feel impossible, especially if you’re used to being the person who always says yes. Learn How to Say No to the People You Love.