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5 steps to turn self doubt into courage

Updated: May 18, 2019

Doubt takes many forms, but express a sense of lack, a feeling of incompleteness. We doubt our abilities, we doubt our motives, we doubt we deserve success, we doubt we are good enough, we doubt others appreciate us, we doubt we are lovable, and so forth. Much self-doubt is the result of early conditioning by parents, teachers and whole communities, who may have sent repeated messages that we are unworthy, untalented, or even unwanted. All messages that reflect the fears and doubts of the messenger, by the way, not the truth of who we are.

What is important is that when we notice self-doubt,

we take immediate steps to correct it.

1. Acknowledgement and correction

When we recognise self-doubt we tend to heap more negativity upon ourselves in the form of judgements and self-criticism. We make the stress worse by punishing ourselves for our 'bad' thoughts. All negative thoughts are just the mistake of the intellect; they are the symptoms of a loss of wholeness - of fear. They arise from misperceptions due to our conditioning, and in the case of overwhelming or obsessive negative thoughts, from psychophysiological imbalance

+ Acknowledge the feeling or what it is - a learned response or a sign of stress and imbalance.

+ Feel it in the body - take a full breath, relax, and let your attention go to any physical sensations

+ Gently release the thought from your awareness

+ Correct the imbalance through diet, massage and meditation to ease the mind

2. Self-acceptance

Doubt always arises when we compare ourselves to others, a common habit in our competitive culture. Such comparisons indicate a lack of self-acceptance, a lack of a clear sense of one's own purpose, and a lack of trust in life.

It is always best to be yourself, because you only can be the second-best somebody else.

We cannot change our innate nature - our innate constitutional balance. The secret to absolute beauty and to success in general is to recognise and accept your innate strengths, as well as your vulnerabilities and shortcomings, and to work with them, not against them.

3. Self assessment and education

Self-doubt is not the same thing as honest self-questioning. Self-reflection is a necessary part of successful action. Take a long hard and honest look at yourself to access your level of abilities as well as your natural inclinations and true passions. Training and discipline brings right action. Again, do not beat yourself up for what you may have failed to do in the past. You can learn new skills.

4. Affirmation, visualisation and playing 'as if'

Many times we think negatively because we have developed a habit of self-defeating thought due to old conditioning. As we said, a simple technique to handle this kind of doubt and negativity is to recognise the particular thought and then release it gently, without self-judgment. Affirmation, visualisation and acting 'as if' are useful to restructure the thinking patterns. You introduce a constructive thought instead of a destructive thought. The purpose is to stimulate a genuine memory of success, because by that new thought we induce a completely different biochemical reaction in the body. The mind does not distinguish between the real taste of a lemon or the memory of the lemon taste - both create the response of salivation. To strengthen the affirmation accompany the thought with a constructive action. Change your activity as you change your thought. Your action reinforces your sense of purpose and accomplishment. It is a conscious decision to change the object of your attention in the present moment.

It is not necessary to force the mind to push away doubt and concentrate on a positive idea. Rather, whenever you notice doubts and then release them, your very shift of awareness is a sign that the emotion has begun to loosen its grip, and then you can interject a new thought easily. Keep in mind that it is the nature of thought to come and go.

Visualisation and 'as if' techniques are ways to preempt doubt, so to speak, by creating positive expectations Just as affirmations use memories of past accomplishments to induce a balancing biochemical response, visualisations and playing as if use imagination - the thought of future events and possibilities - to create a sense of well-being in the moment. Visualisation involves creating a positive mental picture of your desired action and outcome.

Here is a visualisation that is particularly meaningful for anyone plagued by self-doubt and self-criticism. Say to yourself: 'I love you. I think you are absolutely beautiful.', whenever you look into the mirror. That affirmation may seem ridiculous, but it is important, because you are not going to believe those words coming from anyone else until you believe them from yourself.

5. Success building

'Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross in two small steps.' This is inspiring advice on courage; however if you have never taken the leap before, you may want practice on something smaller with a safety net as well. After all, in order to visualise success, it helps to have had the experience at least once.

You can win mental fortitude and a 'winning' psychology in the same way that you build muscle - through regular progressive exercise.

Start with a 'lightweight' challenge, some simple task that you have never tried to do - learn to play poker or fix a flat tire; bake a cake or knit a scarf etc. If you are not athletic, take up a simple start - start walking every day, building up the distance you cover in an allotted time. Building physical endurance helps to build mental stamina. The point is to pick an activity totally unrelated to your work life or personal responsibilities - in other words, an activity where there is absolutely nothing at stake. Stay with the activity until you complete it, accepting no thought of failure. When you master the first challenge, go on to one step more difficult, and then another.

Eventually, your mind will develop a habit of success, so that your natural response to any new challenge will no longer be hesitation or doubt, but rather optimism and clear, focused action. In no time, you will be leaping chasms boldly.

Book recommendation: Absolute Beauty by Pratima Raichur

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