“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
Vincent van Gogh (Post-Impressionist Painter)
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
William Shakespeare (Poet and Playwright, Measure for Measure)
“If you doubt yourself, then indeed you stand on shaky ground.
Henrik Ibsen (Playwright and Founder of Modernism)
“Don’t give the egg to Isaiah, he’ll break it.”
What? I won’t break the egg.
I was in the third grade.
(Brace yourself—if I remember it from the third grade it can’t be good.)
It was show-and-tell day.
Everyone was supposed to bring in something interesting from home to show the class.
We’d pass the interesting object around, talk about it for a few minutes, and then move on to the next interesting object.
It was usually pretty boring.
Most kids would bring in things like a shoe, a paper airplane, or a glue stick.
But today someone brought in a small blue egg from an abandoned bird’s nest in her yard.
It was amazing. I’d never seen anything like it.
My ADHD brain came to life and I started squirming in my seat.
I wanted it!
The problem was the girl who brought the egg didn’t like me very much.
She must have seen my eyes light up because she took one look at me and told the rest of the class to keep the egg away from me.
I was really embarrassed but determined to see it.
“I won’t break it, I promise.” I said.
The teacher came to my rescue and said, “Don’t worry, Isaiah will be very careful.”
I will! I will be so careful!
That’s what played over and over in my brain.
I’m going to be really careful and show everyone that I’m not some kind of clumsy outcast.
This is my chance to prove everyone wrong.
But then the egg started getting closer to me.
As it made its way around the circle of students I started thinking…
What if I do break it?
I better not break it. Everyone will be so mad. Everyone will hate me.
But I really want to touch the egg!
The egg was finally passed to me and I marveled at it.
It was just sitting there in the little bird’s nest.
We were NOT supposed to touch the actual egg.
Without thinking, I picked up the egg and held it carefully between my thumb and index finger.
They were third graders so the gasps were tiny.
“Look, see, I didn’t break it.”
Right then the egg cracked in my hand.
I wanted to die.
I carefully put the egg back in the nest just as the teacher stormed over to me and took the nest out of my hands.
The girl whose egg it was glared at me furiously. I can still feel her eyes on me.
Prevent Self-Doubt By Choosing Your Best Self
Self-doubt is an infection.
If you surround yourself with people who don’t believe in themselves, you will stop believing in yourself.
If you hang out with people who don’t believe in you, you will stop believing in yourself too.
The only way to stay confident in your abilities is to surround yourself with mentally tough people.
At the same time, you have to stay mentally strong.
You have to stay focused on your best self and on the best possible outcome of what you’re trying to achieve.
You can’t allow yourself to meditate on your worst self and worst-case scenarios.
This is how the self-doubt infection starts. This is how failure starts.
Studies published in Experimental and Cognitive Psychology show that people with high levels of self-doubt have less confidence and are slower to achieve their goals.
These same studies show that imagining your worst self will make you perform worse on any task whether or not you have high levels of self-doubt.
This means the best strategy for achieving your goals is to have low levels of self-doubt and to imagine your best self.
In other words, believe in yourself and see yourself being successful.
How To Build Self-Confidence And Overcome Self-Doubt
People with high levels of self-doubt are easy to manipulate.
These people will hold onto anything other people tell them because they’re never sure what to believe.
They can’t believe themselves because they don’t believe in themselves.
So they follow others.
They get super interested in other people’s hobbies and daily lives, changing their goals and pursuits constantly.
When challenged, these same people question everything.
They fear the worst and imagine each and every possible worst-case scenario.
As a result, they never do anything significant.
Instead, they float through life without any direction, rotating between feeling stuck, lost, frustrated, and hopeless.
The only way to avoid this fate is to improve your confidence and actively fight against self-doubt. Here’s how…
1. Avoid people who second-guess everything you do.
It’s impossible to believe in yourself 100% when you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe in you.
On a long enough timeline, your confidence will give in to the constant bombardment of self-doubt around you.
Your brain is wired to copy the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of other people.
You can fight this herd mentality for a while, but not forever.
The only way to win the battle for your own mind is to actively decide who you let into your life.
If you want to increase confidence and avoid feeling of self-doubt, you must eliminate people who second-guess everything you do.
Second-guessers are those people who are always predicting all the bad things that will happen to you if you take on some new challenge.
When you tell these people about a new idea, they’ll give you a list of reasons why the idea is flawed.
When you show them something you’ve created, like a business plan, a chapter of your new book, or the early stages of a new project, the first thing they’ll do is tell you everything they don’t like about it.
Second-guessers never offer solutions and they never ask productive questions.
They just predict failure—doom and gloom.
Stop listening to these people. Their predictions are based on nothing but fear.
Instead, surround yourself with people who are going to ask you constructive and instructive questions, people who are going to first congratulate you on your new idea and project, people who are going to help you look for solutions.
2. Raise the stakes on what you’re doing.
You can’t overcome self-doubt by fighting it with more self-doubt.
Too many people make the mistake of combating their temporary feelings of doubt by purposefully lowering the bar for themselves.
You know these types.
They’re the ones who say things like, “Oh, I’m not that good” or “I’ll probably mess up” right before performing a task.
Some will even go as far as sabotaging their own performance in order to meet these lower expectations.
The problem is that trying to take pressure off of yourself by pretending to be more of a failure than you are will actually make you more of a failure.
You’ll have to set the bar lower and lower each time until what you do doesn’t matter at all.
People who hedge don’t get ahead.
A better strategy is to raise the bar and add pressure to the life goals you’re working to achieve.
Make what you do unbelievably important and take it seriously.
Give your everything to it.
If you fail, it won’t fill you with more self-doubt because you were striving for something great.
If you succeed, you’ll be forced to increase your confidence levels because you made it a big part of your life.
3. Take action as your best self, not your worst self.
Many people lose the battle with self-doubt because they wait too long to take action.
These people get their nerve up to do something, then they hesitate.
That’s when the infection starts.
That initial moment of hesitation plants a seed of doubt that grows with each passing second.
Eventually, their doubt has grown into an oak tree that they can’t see past.
Thinking without acting is a breeding ground for self-doubt.
Most often, people who hesitate know what they want and who they want to be but they never move towards it.
Instead of visualizing what their best self would do and just doing it, they imagine what their worst self would do and hesitate out of fear.
They see their worst self failing and suffering a major loss.
They see their worst self looking like a fool and getting laughed at.
As a result, their brain power suffers and they do nothing.
When the majority of the population sees an opportunity, they take a step back and look at the opportunity realistically.
They evaluate whether or not the goal is completely safe.
They mentally catalog all of the things that they need to learn and practice before they can seize the opportunity.
The problem is that learning about an opportunity or determining how safe an opportunity is does not take you any closer to seizing it.
If you wait until you’re no longer intimidated by an opportunity, or if you wait until you know everything there is to know about an opportunity, you’ve waited too long to seize it.
Big opportunities go to those who act before they are ready.
Acting before you are ready will help you start believing in yourself no matter what you’re up against. You’ll develop a growth mindset and see yourself as continually improving and moving forward. You’ll start living like your best self and put your worst self behind you forever. The key is to first avoid second-guessers and other negative people who question everything you do and to take your goals seriously. Do this and you’ll live a more confident and focused life.
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