6 mins read

The origin of doubt

And choosing belief

From the shadows into the light

Over the past few years I’ve been fascinated by the concept of doubt, mainly because at this stage of life I suffer doubt less and I want to know why I gave it so much time earlier.

Why did I afford doubt so much of my waking day, why did I allow it to accompany me to bed. Why did I let it rise with me in the morning, why did I let it last days and weeks?

  • Why did I pay so much attention to the sickness of it and not the strength it could offer me?
  • Why did I let it take away from my day and my decisions, when I could have explored its origin more deeply?
  • Why did I try to avoid it, or hide it or escape from it rather than attempt to understand it?

Now older, a little wiser and with a number of life challenges under my belt I suffer doubt less, a great deal less.

The cost of doubt

Doubt is not new to people, I’m sure we have all felt it. Questioning if we are capable, if we deserve a position or worrying if we have what it takes. Questioning ourselves, our decisions, our choices, our path!

Uncertainty appears and we let it take hold. Thing is there is not much we can really be certain of, so that’s one things we should stop doing. Yes stop seeking certainty, simply acknowledge every decision has an impact and we need to be ready for that. Invest your time here, rather than in questioning if we did the right thing. The decision has been made and the time has passed.

Doubting will just burn you. So STOP.

Some known causes of doubt

Our past experiences of getting stuff wrong – we can be transported back to these days and find ourselves sabotaging any good vibes we are feeling. Using this as a reference point without learning from it is just wasted energy..

The memories of being a kid – how we were nurtured (or not) during our formative years can have a massive impact. If you were overly told ‘you weren’t good enough’ then this is going to stick with you. There’s no easy fix here. You need to find a way to be at peace with the past and picture the future you desire.

The other person is always better – they are aren’t they (NOT). When we measure ourselves against others we are always going to fall short in some way. The only person we need to be better than is the person we were yesterday. Stop looking out, look in. Look into you!

The novice effect – sometimes, particularly when we enter into leadership roles we expect that we will and should be able to do all that’s asked of us in that role, first time. Not only that, but we expect ourselves to do it well. This is simply NOT realistic, everything we do from the perspective of a novice will take time to develop.

Success as a fear – yes it does happen, there are those of us whom fear failure so we just don’t try (or don’t try hard), then there are those of us who fear success. To fear success is to fear what may change if this works out. And to worry about people then having higher expectations of us!

Value of doubt

Doubt, more specifically self-doubt is good because it demonstrates that we care about this thing. If we were absent of doubt then maybe we don’t have the same personal resonance with our endeavour. If you find yourself doubting, don’t beat yourself up, know you care, know you have found something worthy of your time.

Switching to belief

Its important to know that we don’t have to stop doubting, at least in my eyes. What we have to do is stop beating ourselves up for doubting. To doubt yourself is fine as long as you can accept how it may make you feel and how it may hold you back. If you aren’t happy with that, then look to switch the doubt into belief.

I’m yet to find a magic method for this, there’s no pixie dust or magic wand. There’s just the choice to be more compassionate towards yourself. Accept where you are, decide where you would like to go and create small actionable steps to get you there. These will be very personal so I can’t list these and say they will work for you. However this next activity could help you find a way to navigate this for yourself.

Try this

First – write a letter to yourself describing who you desire to be.

Don’t say ‘you’ll be better at x or y’, you can do better than that. Anchor this in the language that best represents the things you would like to be awesome at, the things you want to have confidence with and how you would like to BE.

This is your point of reference now..

Second – Annotate the story of when doubt appears

It may be that you reflect back to an experience or you narrate in real time as it happens. 1.  Describe the incident/situation in enough detail that we get a sense of how or why doubt appeared. 2. Complete the sentence – this caused me to believe/feel…

Third – Create your doubt-belief continuums

Once you have collected a number of these ‘incident stories’ look for a theme. What common trigger is there fore the feeling of doubt. Is it ‘comparison against others’, is it related to a ‘knowledge area’ or a ‘leadership task’. For each of these areas draw a line with ‘doubt’ at one end (to the left) and ‘belief’ at the other (to the right). Put an X on the line to indicate where you are right now for each area.


Fourth – Accept or choose to change it

If you choose to accept where you are, stop here. There is no need to read further. Simply accept the impact of this. How it will make you feel and how it may hold you back. Although you’d do well to dig around a bit to understand where doubt for this is coming from. Just so you know.

If you want to switch to belief, then get detailed. List all the reasons which appear to be causing doubt. Is it self comparison, is it a lack of knowledge, is it a feeling of inferiority. Where are these feelings originating from. List these to the left, under the doubt end of the continuum you have created.

Now spend some time considering which of these you can practically act upon. If it’s a lack of experience that’s causing doubt then get some, if its about a knowledge gap then go learn. At the right hands side of the continuum under belief, create a list of all these practical things you can do to combat the doubt items.

Where doubt is driven by an act of internal self sabotage, then read on. As this is harder to work on. Why… because its down to you, its about reframing your current visions of you. Its about choosing to believe the future vision of you is possible, in reach and just a matter of steps away. This is a little harder to do than reading a book to fill a knowledge gap.

Dealing with self sabotage

Live Consciously – sounds simple but it requires you to be proactive. To live consciously is to be conscious of your actions and lack of action. Its to live in the moment, feeling emotions as they happen, acknowledging these and managing them.

Accept who you are – the good as well as the less than good. Accepting who you are is about accepting praise for the good that you do and believing in the gift of these words as well as accepting the areas that you may need to work on.

Take responsibility  – you are responsible for your position, your feeling, your reaction to the actions of others, your development and the lack of (if you chose to do nothing). Own this and invest in you.

Live with purpose – this is about making sure your time has/adds value and you feel that value. Every action must in some way contribute to the future you, the you which you desire. Answer these simple questions – what do you want and what must you do to achieve it.

In closing

I have taken a path where I choose belief, belief in what I know and with it the admission of what I don’t know, may never know but could learn/experience or develop. The sooner you are ok with doubt, the sooner you will be in a position to choose belief.

Now I focus on what is possible and what can be done. If this is something you would like to get to, drop me a line. Invest in YOU