Crippled by doubt? 6 tips to help you get back on track
Self doubt..... hm.... the house is quiet (everyone's gone off to school and work) and I am sitting down to write this blog and here she is. Turning up. Making me wonder whether there is any point in this. Whether anyone will actually read it. And whether anyone will find it useful. I do get cross about this doubt. Why does it keep happening? I didn't have any doubt 20mins ago. My way of handling it is to face it. Like all fears once you face it, it gets smaller, you feel you have more agency and you learn from it.
Sadly however for me self doubt feels rather familiar and my relationship with this is this - WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH IT. My ATTITUDE towards it is my choice. I can let it derail me or I can work through it. So here goes.
Self doubt feels really quite ridiculous. I am a highly trained, really experienced and actually fairly confident Psychologist working for hours and hours every week helping distressed clients recover and get back on track with their lives. So what is this crippling self doubt doing for me?
I actually believe that what I say and write about is worthwhile but here's an interesting question. Do I FEEL it is ok for me to be heard and validated by you? That feeling is one I personally have to work on. Being judged is actually quiet terrifying. I have not yet met a woman who isn't judged for the choices she makes. I am not writing an anti-men piece. I like men. I am married to one. He's my rock. I have given birth to a future man and love raising one. My father is a beacon of wisdom and some of my closest friends over the years have been men. So I am writing about what it's like for women to emerge in all their different selves in today's society.
I feel that we are all being judged on all fronts. What do I mean? We are being judged for what we do and not for who we are. Eg. for our looks (well I'm working on accepting that I don't look 20 anymore and cellulite is just normal), on how we run our households (yes I do have a cleaner and a gardener and I hate baking and sewing and if I could I'd have an army of people helping me - does that mean I'm less of a woman than a lot of the perfect mother earth types I meet at the school gates? Don't get me wrong. I celebrate these awesome women too and accept that all are equal and all are doing the best they can in their devoted loving mum way). The point I make is that judgement is painful and self acceptance (in all our versions of womanhood) is key. I love my children but I don't think my primary role in their life is to be their entertainer or their PR agent, I am married but don't think we need to be joined at the hip to establish a happy marriage, I do work and will negotiate a fee equal to my male counterparts and I am sorry if you find that this makes me difficult or disagreeable.
Life is complex and tough for women - I personally feel that having to account for my choices repeatedly to bias and judgement blindspots - has a knock on effect on what I quietly tell myself about myself. The fear of judgement fools me into imagining that actually I'd feel safer if I didn't put myself in the public platforms of the 21st century. But this is the point. It is imaginary and self-sabotaging. The risk is real - some people will be really mean - but in the end the purpose in attempting to live authentically, to share my wisdom (and I think I am unapologetic about this - I have loads of wisdom and I want to share it to help others) and to contribute something meaningful to the world is important. More than anything I want to feel valid. Don't you?
And that's the problem with self doubt. You can't logic your way out of it. You have to FEEL your way out of it. It's a bit of a bother but I have learned throughout my work that this is true for almost all our difficulties that make their home in our hearts.
So I am taking charge of this feeling and reflecting on it and in doing so I hope that I help you with your own self doubt.
Step 1 - Ask yourself Chloe are you being realistic?
Step 2 - How about optimistic?
These two reflective questions are big. Because unless we (You and I dear reader) embrace a positive outlook about ourselves we have no chance in hell of conquering self doubt. It's a simple as. Committing to being realistic and optimistic is a mindset that we can train our brain to practice.
I can hear you say - how? This is how.
1. Practice noticing what you are grateful for. When we do so - no matter what is happening in our week - we can press that pause button and help our heart feel some positive feelings. Evidence shows that when we practice feeling gratitude we then activate those areas of the brain that help us produce happy hormones and this leads to more happy feelings like hope, joy,love, happiness and positivity. It is a skill we can practice.
2. Practice mindful meditation. One exercise I really like to practice everyday is this - (and you can fit it in as even 3 mins a day makes a difference) is imagining that you can feel your breath slowly heading into the ground - rooting you in place, connecting you to the earth and allowing you to become un-shakeable. Each breath goes deeper and deeper into the earth and no wind of doubt can knock you off your feet. You are woman. You are strong!
3. Reach out to 3 trusted friends and ask them to tell you what they feel about you. Positive views of ourselves from loved ones are so validating and important but something I never ever do. I certainly haven't. Dear best friends be ready. I want your thoughts on me. I hope I'll like what I hear. Write down their comments and speak them out loud to yourself. In a world where judgement and negativity are rife, let those who protect you from that with their love be close to you. Don't go it alone.
4. Practice doing something you love every day and tell yourself "thank you me". This matters perhaps more than you realise. Self doubt feeds off negative energy. And so battling it with enjoying yourself is quite a big deal and in my view - when negative gets in a bit of a bustle with positive - positive has greatness on it's side.
5. Write down what your inner critic is saying. Let her speak. Get it out. Give her 20 mins of your day. Befriend her. Say ok I'm listening. What you gotta say? Write it down and give it your full attention. Is she actually trying to tell you something important? If so, acknowledge it. See it's value and try and apply some realistic optimism to it. Then tell her that you are grateful for the message and that she does not need to worry anymore. This may all sound crazy and you will probably feel a little bananas talking to yourself but trust me. You have many versions of yourself and this is probably one that once heard and treated with kindness will start to quieten down.
6. Slow down and make time to visualise. Whatever gives you doubt - turn it into a personality that you consider has been born to make your life a misery. Then ask yourself whether you will let her. If you can, give her a name. Visualise her in your minds eye, make her very very small and flick her out the window. This always make me laugh.
That's enough to keep you going. If you've loved this post please say. If you want to share it, please do! I am grateful for you taking the time to read it. I am grateful for your support.
Have a really wonderful day!
PS. I am listing some books and some wonderful women I think you'll find really inspiring, helpful and beacons of wisdom
1. Mumboss - Vicky Psarias @honestmum - Wonderful advice for mum's returning to work . I loved it!
2. Grit School - Tish Hakwen - Practical advice to help you overcome obstacles
3. Rise - Sian Williams - Inspirational and real life stories to help you overcome trauma.
If you want to follow me on instagram my handle is @dr_chloe_psychology
Wonderful women helping women all over
@_drsoph - Remote therapist
@mamas_scrapbook - Psychotherapist and MH expert
@womanreadyblog - Women's community
@the_positive_planner - MH campaigners
@drrebeccamoore - birth trauma professional
@thepsychologymum - MH advice
@godiva - a nonprofit offering support to women in hardship
@marybadassmeadowns - Lifecoach & PND survivor
@bowelbabe - YoumeBigC
@honestmum - Guide to