Have you ever asked yourself “why am I hard on myself but not so hard on other people?”
Here are two facts that seem to contradict but coexist:
Because you’re a high achiever, it’s hard to accept self doubt as a close friend.
I struggle with this when self doubt drops in. It’s an unwanted arrival on a busy day, messing with my plans.
Here’s an idea to help us break free: we spend time with this friend because we accept them, and then choose mindsets to improve how we see ourselves.
Self doubt drops in but you can boot it out when it bothers you
Here i’m talking about realistic and manageable self doubt. This is the doubt we have in challenges and problems.
I’m not talking about low self esteem, although this article will help today. For this, I suggest counseling as a way to discover solutions to help you understand the worth and value you already own.
To boost your self-esteem, try a values exercise to build your foundation of who you are and what you believe in. This is a set of beliefs you live by. I’ll post an article about this next week so you make a start. Values are so powerful for living a great life and I now feel an urgency to discuss them.
To make a start, write a list of strong beliefs you have to guide you life. Here are three examples:
Self doubt, to a manageable level, is a sign of humility and awareness of what you’re doing and how you’re interacting.
Self doubt is a strength in your character. How?
And at the same time you don’t want self doubt to slow you down or create fears that are hard to battle.
There’s a spectrum of confidence ranging from full self criticism with crippling doubts to super confidence that can’t be cracked.
Sometimes I think i’d like the unshakable end but at the same time, i’m thinking this could be unrealistic.
For you and me, we likely sit along the spectrum somewhere and not at either end.
But there’s always room to improve the view you hold of yourself. In times of difficulty or suffering, we really need this skill to kick in without much effort.
You can do this…. taking action to kick the inner critic when you need it most.
Seeing yourself in a healthy, balanced and positive way is a value you can choose to live by, rather than a feeling or emotion.
When you choose a value, it becomes an anchor and a way of living to come back to and evaluate.
When you choose to see yourself as worthy and acceptable, you change your identity in new and different contexts. For example, you take up a new position at work and a stressful task hits you. Now you make the choice:
In article by George Musser in Nautilus, he writes about the shifting of the Earth’s tectonic plates and how this relates to Google Maps. He explains a dilemma:
Nothing on the ground has fixed coordinates because the landscape is ever-shiftinghttp://m.nautil.us/issue/81/maps/what-happens-to-google-maps-when-tectonic-plates-move?
So he asks, how do our GPS systems stay up to date with where we are located?
Musser tested this position change. He states:
When I go to Google Earth and compare images taken on different dates, I find that my house jumps around by as much as 20 metershttp://m.nautil.us/issue/81/maps/what-happens-to-google-maps-when-tectonic-plates-move?
Musser’s article goes into much detail about the way latitude and longitude are measured and how changes are dealt with.
The science of this goes beyond my expertise and beyond the topic of my writing today but, essentially, he describes how scientists acknowledge the changes as a moving reality, measure them, and update the system.
I liked this example to illustrate an important point in our psychology:
In the the nature versus nurture debate within developmental psychology, the question is asked: are we formed by our experiences or our biology and genetics?. When we see development as fixed based on genetics and predetermined biological characteristics, we feel we can’t change.
Carol Dweck describes a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. In a Harvard Business Review article, she describes people with a fixed mindset as:
those who believe their talents are innate giftshttps://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
This may seem appealing, but what if we say “I’m naturally good at dealing with clients” and then a client gives you negative feedback? With a fixed mindset the risk is our sense of innate talent has been shaken.
Our mind feels fixed like the location of our home on google earth, but the truth is we are changeable and subject to change due to natural forces.
The appearance of fixedness causes you to think you’re stuck in one place.
In opposition to a static view of ourselves, we can choose a growth mindset. In the same Harvard Business Review article, Dweck describes people with a growth mindset as:
Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others)https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
She explains, this view of ourselves leads us to focus on learning and growing rather than appearing successful to ourselves and others.
In the nature versus nurture debate, the nurture argument states we become ourselves through experiences and outside influences such as family and mentors. We are malleable.
With this view, our brains and minds are subject to change, which is exciting because we have agency to choose some of the inputs we accept. For example:
Your self view is changeable and you have agency to change it with practice. You begin to see to see yourself moving from:
Here are four ways:
People are able to become self-determined when their needs for competence, connection, and autonomy are fulfilled”https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-determination-theory-2795387
To improve the way you see yourself, look back to your successes and skills you have achieved, how you’ve achieved them, and the people you’ve connected with who gave you joy.
2. Learn to recognise the inner critical voice
In a recent video from the National institute for the clinical application of behavioral medicine, the presenter discussed the inner critical voice we all have to different degrees.
One psychologist asks the question of his clients to combat this: “when do you choose to listen to this inner critic?” .
This is excellent because of it distances the inner voice away from yourself and also allows you to choose when to pay attention and when not to. We have that power. Not all words we say about ourselves are accepted as true.
3. Understand you choose to keep moving even when self doubt visits. You have the ability to drive this movement in a forward direction. The opposite to this is mentally rehearsing the past such as mistakes and failures. It’s ok to glance back but then try turning your head forward.
4. Believe in self actualisation as an ongoing desire and right. This means we seek ongoing learning and growth. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or the number of your successes and failures, you have the innate desire to improve and achieve meaning and contribution. Self actualization is described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a natural inclination we all have to progress, achieve, and improve our lives. It’s a process of growing, maturing and becoming. This theory fits nicely into the growth mindset I described earlier defined by Carol Dweck.
Imagine you’re walking along a forest path. You hear a crack of a twig behind you that startles you so you glance back expecting danger. You notice this broken branch dropped from a tree. The danger briefly appeared but it wasn’t dangerous at all.
You turn back to your map and look ahead to the next bend in the track. The air is fresh, the pine is sweet and the sun is bright through the canopy. You keep walking. Self doubt is the branch behind you. The path ahead, and the steps you take, are the solution to seeing yourself with a clear and positive evaluation.
Pitch your tent, grab a drink and meet us by the campfire as we catch up on what it means to explore the wilderness of our wellness challenges.
When you join, you’ll receive the Campfire self-care ebook for free. Then each month you’ll get a love letter and exclusive field notes on living with hope, resilience and purpose.
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I’m the creator of Minutes to Happy and your go-to counsellor and wellness coaching companion.
I’m here to guide you in becoming your bravest self (no matter what wellness worries and chronic health challenges are plonked in your path).