Defeating Our Most Elusive Enemy: Self-Doubt

Author: August Clarke

While there is not currently the technology to verify the numbers, many studies will tell you that the average person has anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts in a day. These thoughts dictate the decisions we make, the way we approach relationships, and – perhaps most importantly – our emotional response to the hurdles life throws at us.

Imagine the effect it might have on a person’s emotional and mental well-being if 50% of those thoughts were focused on his or her shortcomings? Or even 10%.

That is thousands of discouraging and negative statements being bounced back and forth in your head every day, repeatedly informing your actions and determining what you can and “cannot” do.  Subconsciously or not, the nature of our self talk can have a significant impact on the way we perform in school, extra-curriculars, and basically every aspect of our life. If you consistently shoot yourself down and tell yourself you can’t do something, that you failed last time and – therefore – will never achieve success, odds are you won’t even try.

If you consistently shoot yourself down and tell yourself you can’t do something, that you failed last time and – therefore – will never achieve success, odds are you won’t even try.”

What may seem to you like an insurmountable obstacle could simply be your self-inflicted negativity talking. Perhaps the most elusive enemy of all is the voice inside our heads.

Even the most confident of us have dealt with self-doubt and discouragement at some point. The good news is that flipping those words of self-deprecation into words of self-love is a process that can be practiced with three basic steps:

1. Look to the future rather than linger in the past.

How many times have you gotten into an argument with a friend or a family member, only to replay the conversation over and over again in your head afterward as you think of all the points you wish you’d thought of in the moment? It’s easy to get hung-up on events of the past but beating yourself up over things you can’t change will drive you mad long before it helps you. In the end it’s best to make peace with your past and instead focus on the years that still lay ahead.

2. Don’t focus on your failures. Focus on how you can improve.

Sometimes, the key to mastering positive self-talk can be the difference between “I lost this race” and “I’m going to focus extra hard on my form so that I succeed in the next one.” Focusing on our mistakes is all too easy to do but – in the end – ultimately ineffective. Next time you find yourself moping about what you feel was a failure, try looking for adjustments you can make to do better in the future, rather than the ones you can’t.

3. Don’t forget to remind yourself of the things you take pride in.

No matter how down on yourself you may feel, there is always something out there to be happy about. It can be simple, such as liking how your hair looks one morning, or taking pride in your public-speaking skills, or mastering a lay-up in basketball. Whatever it may be, if you are proud of something or there is something that you like about yourself, don’t forget to remind yourself of it. There is no shame in being proud of your achievements – own them! Even if you have to make a habit of writing down three things you like about yourself every day. Your future self will thank you.

Learning how to turn hindering thoughts into useful ones is a difficult process but, with these three steps, mastering positive self talk is not only achievable but worthwhile. When it comes down to it, you can change friend groups, and avoid certain people, or tune out what they’re saying, but – at the end of the day – you can never escape yourself.

We only have one mind. Take care of it, and see where it takes you.