Children don’t doubt their ability…until someone tells them they can’t or shouldn’t do something. Then, they suddenly doubt their capabilities. Before that, though, they have total confidence.
Like children, the most successful people in the world have little doubt about their ability. They are confident that they can do whatever they set their hearts, minds, and bodies to do.
You, too, will achieve success more quickly if you reduce your level of doubt and increase your level of confidence.
What Becomes Possible with No Doubt
Imagine what would become possible if you had no doubt… What challenge would you take on, or what goal would you move toward?
If you believed you could, you would, right?
That’s how babies learn to crawl or walk. But the minute doubt pops into their minds…or a parent says, “Be careful! “Don’t do that!” or “You’re too young to do that yet!”…they hesitate or fall.
The same goes for you. Even the tiniest bit of doubt holds you back or causes you to fall. I know this from personal experience.
What Happens When Doubt Creeps In
For the last few years, I’ve been highly aware of the impact doubt has on me. Specifically, I’ve noticed how doubt affects my ability to write.
Until about four years ago, I never doubted my ability to write and get published. Never.
Nor did I doubt my ability to get my books published traditionally. Never.
And…no surprise…I managed to write for numerous magazines and blogs and get my books published, too.
Until…a literary agent put doubt in my mind.
“That manuscript needs to be of higher quality to get published by a bigger publishing house.”
“Your proposal got rejected because that book is not one you are ready to get published for at least a few more years.”
Suddenly, I had doubt. It filled my mind and heart and left no room for me to joyously, passionately, and confidently pursue my writing projects.
So I stopped trying. And I’ve written only what I had to, like blog posts, and published almost nothing since.
Then Comes Fear
With doubt comes fear. In fact, fear is almost inherent to the experience of doubt.
Just read any definition of doubt, and you’ll understand why. For instance, according to Miriam-Webster Dictionary, doubt means: “to call into question the truth of, be uncertain about, lack confidence in, distrust, or fear.”
And fear is “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Before you have doubt, you have no fear. Once you have it, though, you begin to anticipate the so-called danger. Even if it is just a possibly unwanted future result, fear stops you in your tracks.
Where Doubt Comes From
Typically, doubt comes from external sources. For example, you are told to be careful or that you can’t do something, and, suddenly, you have doubt.
Prior to a parent telling a young child to be careful as he rises to his feet and attempts to step forward for the first time, he has no doubt…and no fear. At that moment, when his mother gasps and looks afraid, however, he becomes acutely aware that what he is doing is dangerous.
As a result, he becomes afraid. And he doubts that he can walk forward safely. So he wobbles in place and then promptly sits down. And, more than likely, he also begins to cry.
Fear and doubt threw a wrench in his attempt to achieve his goal. And now he’s too afraid to try.
The same was true of my writing. I was made aware that I might not have the ability to succeed. Thus, I began to anticipate danger in the form of failure. And I started avoiding these results at all costs.
Doubt Creates What You Don’t Want
Doubt is a thought niggling away at you. It whispers in your ear, “You might not be able to do what you want to do.”
And then, doubt grows bigger…into a full-blown story about how you can’t do it. You anticipate the future, arguing that you won’t be able to do it and, ultimately, will fail. And you visualize the story, like watching the same movie repeatedly, seeing all the reasons you should doubt your ability.
And that’s what you create. After all, your thoughts are creative. And you’ve trained them on a futuristic vision of what you fear and don’t want.
If that’s not enough, when you manifest what you fear most, you create proof that what you were told is true—you aren’t capable. Therefore, you should doubt yourself. And so your doubt grows even greater.
So how do you eliminate doubt and become confident again? Here are five strategies I’m currently using.
1. Change the meaning or story that causes doubt.
Recall a time when something happened that caused you to feel doubt. Realize that you gave the event—the words you were told—meaning. In fact, you give everything meaning. Therefore, You can reframe the event and give it a different meaning.
In my case, I could decide that my agent’s words were just his way of pushing me to become a better writer or his attempt to manage my career. That’s a more positive story than the one I have told myself.
And if I’d given his words that meaning from the get-go, I might not have lost so much confidence in my writing ability.
But here’s the thing: I can decide right now to change the meaning of that story I’ve told myself—and let hold me back—for so many years. And if I do, I regain my confidence.
So take time to find a new meaning to the events or words that caused you to feel doubt (or fear). Then tell yourself that story repeatedly.
2. Recall a time when you had no doubt.
When did you want to do something in your life and have no doubt? When was your confidence level so high that you just took action toward a goal or dream? Maybe you even can recall a time you acted confidently doing something you want to do now in the past. But currently, you doubt you have the capability to do it.
Let the memory or memories inform your story about taking similar action. Make that the meaning you assign to the past and the present. Then, believe in that result and see it as proof that you are capable enough, worthy enough, good enough.
I recall precisely how I felt when I began my journey as a writer…and later as an author. I knew deep in my heart and soul I could sell the articles and books…I knew it. Despite realizing I might get rejected by editors, agents, and publishers, my overarching belief was that I could get published.
And what was the result of having no doubt? I landed an agent and a publisher. I became an author.
3. Act boldly to reinforce your confidence.
Doubt stops you from acting courageously. And bold action counteracts your doubt.
But keep this in mind: You can’t wait to feel courageous; you have to take bold action. In fact, courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” It’s the advice from Susan Jeffers to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
When you lose confidence and doubt yourself, you don’t try. But if you take action, you will immediately feel better about yourself. As your self-esteem increases, so does your self-confidence.
You don’t need to make a giant leap. Start with baby steps. Then, each little success increases your level of confidence.
And keep in mind that success initially might look like simply taking a step. For me, it could be sending out a query letter to a magazine. Even if that article idea is rejected, at least I tried. That, in and of itself, is a success.
If I continue submitting ideas to publications, eventually, I will sell an article. Then my confidence will skyrocket. But if I never even try, my self-doubt will continue to increase as my confidence plummets.
4. Dance like no one is watching.
Follow Mark Twain’s advice: “Dance like nobody’s watching…Sing like nobody’s listening.” Whatever you want to do, do it for yourself…and do it with great abandon, joy, and passion.
If no one ever saw you take action—write, sing, apply for your dream job, ask the guy for a date, run the marathon—how would you behave? What would you attempt?
As soon as you remove the possibility of external judgment or criticism from the equations, you feel more courageous and confident. Doubt disappears.
What if it didn’t matter if you fall or fail? What would you do then?
You would drop the doubt and take up confidence. And you would act boldly.
Without external input, internally, you know…with certainty…that you are able to do whatever you want to do.
5. Decide to be a confident person.
You are not stuck with your current identity. So you don’t have to continue being a person who doubts your ability.
Instead, you can decide to be a confident person. You can choose to have confidence, know you are able, and act courageously.
In every moment, you can choose who you want to be—create a new identity. So, who do you want to be?
Describe that person in detail—call it “your confident self” or “Confident Caroline” (or whatever your name is).
Then, when you wake up tomorrow, be that person. Or, when you stand up from reading this post, be that person.
Identity is a choice. And if you choose to be a confident person, you will do the things a confident person would do. You will not doubt yourself in any way, and you will take bold action.
I’m still working with all five strategies as I pursue my goal of once again writing and publishing confidently. But, so far, these strategies are working well. I feel less doubt and more confidence.
Do you have your own strategies for removing doubt and developing more confidence? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with a friend.
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