Recently, I was chatting with a friend and the topic of self-doubt came up. I was a glass of wine in already so I launched into a probably too honest account of all the hateful things I tell myself at times. I have quite a few things I like to pick on myself about but probably my top three are: body image, intelligence and social skills. I find all sorts of creative ways to tell myself I’m too fat, too dumb, and that people don’t like me.
As I explained this, my friend was really shocked. She said that she couldn’t believe I thought things like that because I seem so confident. (Which I took as a compliment.) And the truth is, she’s right. I am confident, but I also struggle with self-doubt. For me, some days are better than others. Usually some kind of failure or painful event can cause me to really spiral. Trey and I call this "snowballing." Once I start that negative self-talk in my head, it’s hard to turn it off and it’s really, really easy to keep heaping it on.
And I have a feeling that most of us are in the same boat on this. I thought I’d share the best strategies I’ve found to combat self-doubt, but honestly I am not an expert and I still struggle with this a lot! So I’d love to hear any tips or strategies you might have too!
1. Talk to someone.
This one can help me a lot but it’s sometimes hard for me to do. I’m fiercely independent and I don’t love asking for help. But I also recognize that when I’m feeling really down, isolating myself into a cocoon of shame is not a great strategy (Obviously! But it still took me years to figure that out). So, just reaching out to friends, especially those I’m closest to (my sister and my husband) can help a lot. It brings perspective and can diffuse some of the pain if I actually let them in on how I’m feeling. It’s not their job to "fix things," but letting people love me when I’m hurting IS a good strategy.
2. Make positive self-talk a habit.
This is a simple truth but it’s powerful: Good habits can 100% change your life. If you (like me) constantly talk bad about yourself inside your head, then eventually that becomes a habit. And that habit will have a negative impact on your life. I would know. So I actively work to make positive self-talk a part of my day. For example, if I wake up early to go to the gym, as I’m driving home afterward I will tell myself how proud I am that I got up that morning. I hate waking up early, especially during the cold, dark winter months. So I acknowledge this little accomplishment.
And yes, I am that crazy lady who will talk to herself out loud in her car sometimes. Honestly, I do feel sort of cheesy telling you this, but I actually think it makes a big difference.
3. When possible, laugh at yourself.
I can’t always do this. When I’m really snowballing, this strategy is lost to me. BUT sometimes it works. I’ll admit that I am a fairly serious person. I crack plenty of (both good and bad) jokes and love to laugh. But I do take myself pretty serious in that I put really high standards on my work/achievements. So, I take it really hard when I ultimately don’t live up to those standards. Now, sometimes I should take things seriously, like if I’ve actually made a mistake that I need to acknowledge and work on (like snapping at my husband for no reason, or dropping the ball at work because I failed to prioritize). But more often I start to spiral into self-doubt over something that really, if I’m being honest, isn’t a big deal and doesn’t really matter.
For example, the other night I was making dinner with Trey. We were trying a recipe from a new cookbook I got. It was an epic fail. Like, completely inedible and looked disgusting. I could have started down my self-doubt path, thinking things like, "You have a cookbook out and you can’t even follow a recipe? How dumb are you?!" or "Wow, I guess you’ve really lost your touch. You’re just a washed up, used-to-be-talented person but you better not ever try to cook again because clearly you are an imposter." (Oh yes, I am vicious!) But instead, Trey and I laughed together and pretty much just said, "Well, that didn’t work!" and I promptly made a PB&J on sourdough and it was delicious. Haven’t lost my PB&J skills yet!
Maybe this one could be also be "give yourself as much grace as you would give a friend" because really, that’s what it is. I would never tell a friend that she was dumb, or washed up, or untalented. I might point out a mistake or failing with the goal of helping her grow or making our friendship stronger. But I would NEVER insult someone the way I do myself. So why do I think it’s OK to say those things to me when I would never allow them to be said to someone else? Hmmm. Good point.
Anyway, self-doubt. We probably all do it. We might not all talk about it. And geez, does it suck to deal with some days. We’re in this together, friends! Let me know if you have other ways you deal with self-doubt, I would love to hear! xo. Emma