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You know it all too well: that sinking feeling that you’re not good enough, that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, or that you won’t be able to navigate this next chapter. Even for the most confident people in the world, there are inevitable times when doubt and uncertainty creep in and seem to take over your mind, body, and spirit.
This negative way of thinking can result from both external and internal forces. Perhaps you got passed up for a promotion or your group of “friends” didn’t invite you to a weekend getaway they shared on social media. Maybe you’re watching the state of the world change in ways that bring up fear for what’s next. It might be deeper than that, too. Perhaps you’ve held a life-long belief about yourself that you are stupid, ugly, or a bad person—undeserving of love or respect.
Regardless of how it shows up, doubt and uncertainty can be debilitating if not addressed head-on and swiftly. It can lead to additional feelings of:
Don’t let negativity win. Here are five ways to combat doubt and uncertainty so that you can claim a life of strength and resiliency.
Ground Yourself in Reality
Thoughts that lead to self-doubt and uncertainty are most likely not rooted in the reality of where you actually are. Thoughts like that come from places of insecurity, stories, and lies, not honoring who you are and how far you’ve come. In the moment though, it can be difficult to remember what is the truth.
Prepare for those moments by creating a Self I.D. Card that can remind you of your true identity and core competencies. Take a 3x5 index card and complete the follow sentences:
- My name is…
- I grew up in…
- I am gifted at…
- I am loved by…
- I am uniquely me and have nothing to fear.
You can refer to your I.D. card anytime you feel doubt and uncertainty creep in.
Recognize That You’re Not Alone
Trust in the fact that you are not the first person to experience doubt and uncertainty, and that you will certainly not be the last. Everyone experiences feelings of uncertainty and fear of “not being good enough” at times—even the most successful people in the world. The simple fact of knowing that you are not alone can help those feelings dissipate.
Take a moment to step back and breathe. Calm your nerves by recognizing that this is a temporary state of being. The anxiety you feel cannot harm you, and you are not destined to feel confused, bewildered, and insecure for the rest of your life.
Practicing pranayama—deep, mindful breathing—can help center your being and has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and decrease feelings of stress and overwhelm. You can find instructions for simple breathing techniques here.
Write Down Your Doubts
Instead of letting thoughts of uncertainty swirl around in your head and hijack your mind, take time to write down each one of your doubts on a small slip of paper. Then, read each one aloud and ask yourself if that doubt serves you. If the answer is no, crumple up the piece of paper and throw it into the recycle bin or burn it (safely, of course). In the off chance that the answer is yes, spend time journaling about why you think that doubt serves you.
This practice can also be done in the presence of a trusted loved one if you need extra support. They can give you the honest truth and help you ground your self-judgments in reality.
Access Your Confidence
The truth is, you have inner confidence, whether it seems obvious right now or not. Somewhere deep inside is the knowledge that you are worth it and that you have immense value just by being you. In times of doubt, learn how to channel the confidence that’s already inside you. This is a powerful practice that may not come naturally, especially if you’re prone to negative self-talk.
One way to do this is by practicing power poses, which have been proven to boost your levels of confidence. This approach was made famous by social psychologist Amy Cuddy in her TED Talk from 2012. While it might sound strange—and feel even stranger doing it—standing in a position that exudes confidence can affect the testosterone and cortisol levels in your brain, which may impact your chances for success. Try this:
- Stand up tall, with your feet slightly wider than hips-distance apart
- Put your hands on your hips (or your arms open wide) and stand with your chest open and lifted
- Lift your chin and both corners of your lips (yes, that means smile wide)
Next time you’re feeling a little lost, find a quiet space and strike this wonder woman pose for about 90 seconds. Take note of how you feel before and after practicing the pose.
While finding the inner strength to battle doubt and uncertainty is necessary to build a personal sense of resiliency, no one is meant to journey through hard times alone. There is power in surrounding yourself with people who will love and support you, even when you don’t have a strong sense of who you are or what’s happening around you.
Being vulnerable with others during times like these can build trust, deepen connection, and make way for acceptance. Opening up about the confusion, doubt, and second guessing helps release the power of those negative beliefs. By speaking them out loud, they cannot fester in the shadows.
And the beauty is, by sharing in your weakness, you invite others to look at themselves in a new way also. They may open up in the ways they didn’t realize they needed to.