Do you ever feel overwhelmed by self-doubt and fear? If so, you are not alone. Many of us have experienced these feelings at one point or another, and it's important to recognize and address them in order to reclaim your confidence.
As someone who struggles with executive functioning, and especially if you received a later-in-life diagnosis, you’ve probably spent even more time doubting yourself. Overcoming self-doubt is part of the path toward a growth mindset, so let’s dive in.
Fear and self-doubt can cause us to be stuck in an emotional loop. They can make us feel like we are not capable of living our best life, or that we are not good enough, or that our dreams and goals are out of reach. Fear and self-doubt can be paralyzing, but they do not have to define us. By understanding and defining our fears and self-doubt, we can begin to recognize and address them in order to reclaim our confidence and take control of our lives.
What is Self-Doubt?
Self-doubt and fear are both normal human emotions. They are natural reactions to situations that make us feel anxious or uncomfortable. Self-doubt is an internal dialogue that occurs when we question our own abilities and worth. It can manifest in many forms such as procrastination, negative self-talk, and self-sabotage. Sound familiar?
So much of the patterns you live is defined by things like your confidence and mindset.
Types of Self-Doubt and Fear
Self-doubt and fear come in many forms and can vary from person to person. Some of the most common types of self-doubt and fear are:
- Fear of failure: This type of fear can manifest as a fear of making mistakes or not living up to expectations. If you struggle with perfectionism, this one is HUGE for you.
- Fear of success: This type of fear can manifest as a fear of success or of taking risks. It might seem weird to think of this as a fear, because logically, who doesn’t want to be successful? But for people who don’t think they are smart enough or that they don’t deserve success, this is a real fear. Imposter syndrome is often at the root.
- Fear of rejection: This type of fear can manifest as a fear of being judged or of not fitting in. Many of you have probably heard of RSD (rejection sensitivity dysphoria) which is common among people with ADHD. For them, any kind of rejection can be paralyzing.
- Fear of change: This type of fear can manifest as a fear of the unknown or of leaving the comfort zone. It’s natural to want to stay in your comfort zone. Stepping out is scary, but as I’ve said before, growth and learning can’t happen without struggle. You need to push outside your comfort zone.
Signs of Self-Doubt and Fear
Self-doubt and fear can be difficult to recognize and address, but it is important to be aware of the signs. Some common signs of self-doubt and fear include:
- Overthinking: This can be recognized as focusing on negative thoughts or an inability to make decisions. It’s a cycle that goes around, preventing you from moving forward. You might’ve heard this called decision paralysis or analysis paralysis.
- Procrastination: This can manifest as an inability to start or finish tasks. You put things off because you don’t think you can do them well, then you feel bad and rush to meet the deadline, possibly doing less than stellar work, which proves to yourself that you can’t do it. It’s another vicious cycle we put ourselves through.
- Perfectionism: This can manifest as an excessive need for approval or an inability to accept mistakes. Many people with executive dysfunction get stuck in a perfectionism-procrastination loop. They want things to be perfect, so they put them off until they have all of the “right” things, which puts them behind schedule, so they rush. Then the final product is nowhere near perfect enough.
- Self-criticism: This can manifest as constantly judging oneself or an inability to take risks. Negative, limiting thoughts often play a role in all of the above characteristics. It’s the nasty little voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough.
Recognizing Self-Doubt and Fear
It is important to recognize self-doubt and fear in order to address them. Here are some tips for recognizing self-doubt and fear:
- Be aware of your thoughts and emotions: This can help you identify patterns of negative thinking or recurring fears. Mindfulness is important in order to overcome self-doubt. You need to be aware of when it’s happening.
- Track your progress: This can help you identify areas where you are struggling.
- Keep a journal: This can help you recognize any patterns of negative thinking or self-sabotage. Use your journal to reflect on incidents of self-doubt. This can help you figure out what triggers you have.
- Talk to a friend or mentor: This can help you gain insight into how you are feeling and thinking.
Strategies for Overcoming Self-Doubt
Once you have identified your fears and self-doubt, it is important to implement strategies for overcoming them. Here are some strategies for overcoming self-doubt and fear:
Acknowledge the Self-Doubt
Acknowledge your feelings and thoughts: This can help you identify and address the root cause of your fear and self-doubt. You need to be aware of when it’s happening so that you can address it, but don’t dismiss your feelings. You can’t just will the self-doubt away.
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Reframing Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts can be a major source of self-doubt and fear. It is important to recognize and address negative thoughts in order to reclaim your confidence. Here are some tips for reframing negative thoughts:
- Recognize your negative thoughts: Keep a list of the negative thoughts you have.
- Challenge your negative thoughts: Look for evidence that proves your negative thoughts are wrong. Take a step back and look at the situation logically. If your best friend was having these thoughts, what would you say?
- Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones: Now it’s time to reframe your negative thoughts and build self-confidence. Turn those negative statements into something positive you can believe in.
- Practice positive self-talk: This can help you boost your self-esteem and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. If you’re not ready to create your own positive statements, start with affirmations.
Taking Action Despite Fear
Taking action despite fear can be challenging, but it is important to push through in order to reclaim your confidence. Here are some tips for taking action despite fear:
- Acknowledge and validate your fear: Again, you can’t pretend the feelings aren’t there. Acknowledging them can help you recognize and address the root cause of your fear.
- Break down your goal into manageable tasks: This can help you focus on the process and avoid feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to start small. Take that goal and break it into the smallest steps you can that don’t seem so scary.
- Reward yourself for progress: Celebrate accomplishing each step. It’s not just about achieving the goal; it’s also about you stepping out of your comfort zone. In addition, rewarding yourself for progress can help you stay motivated and build self-confidence.
- Practice positive self-talk: Cheer yourself on as you work on each step.
- Seek support and feedback: Look for people who can support you. Maybe it’s a trusted friend or loved one or maybe it’s someone like you who needs to work on similar skills. Having an accountability partner can help you stay on track and have someone in your corner to cheer you on.
Fear and self-doubt can be paralyzing, but by understanding and defining them, we can reclaim our confidence and take control of our lives. By recognizing and addressing our fears and self-doubt, we can implement strategies for overcoming them and build resilience. We can also practice self-compassion and seek support and feedback in order to stay motivated and on track. So, don't let fear and self-doubt define you. Take control of your life and reclaim your confidence. You got this!