It’s nagging at you again.
That thing you’ve been wanting to do. That thing that will bring you one step closer to a better you. A more courageous one. A happier one.
But you haven’t done that thing yet, because you’re not sure if you can.
You’d like a little support. Someone to give you that final push and say, “Yes, you can do it.” Someone to say you need to learn how to stop doubting yourself.
So you reach out. But instead of cheerleaders, you get raised eyebrows, shrugs, and “I’m not sure if that’s the best idea”s.
You feel defeated before you’ve even begun. Even hurt. Now, you’re not sure if you should move forward at all.
But deep down, you still want to.
So how do you get over the little voice in your head that says everyone is right about you?
Step 1: Get Into Your Nay-Sayers’ Heads
People don’t doubt you because you’re incapable of achieving what you want.
People who doubt you can’t know what you’re capable of. Because doubt is not knowledge.
Doubt is a feeling.
When someone doubts you, they have a feeling about you. That feeling stems from one or more of the following:
- They don’t know you.
- They don’t understand you.
- They don’t want you to succeed.
- They struggle with the concept of faith.
Understanding why people doubt you is the first step to taking away their power over you.
Because you deserve to live a life that’s not based on how others feel about you.
They’re Shooting in the Dark
Sometimes, people who doubt you don’t know you. Hello, internet trolls. Nice to (not) meet you, friends of friends.
It’s tough to hear people aren’t happy with who you are or what you want to do, especially if they don’t know you. What gives them the right?
Well, freedom of speech.
People can have opinions about things they haven’t experienced personally. They can dislike car accidents without having been in one. Disapprove of bullying without having been bullied. Support love without having found it themselves.
It’s easier to understand some opinions more than others. Strangers’ negative opinions are harder.
In any case, you must permit those opinions to exist. But you can’t permit them to define you. You can’t let them stop you from learning how to stop doubting yourself.
They Don’t Get You
Think about your doubters’ backgrounds. Do they come from where you do? Share the same dreams? Have the same fears?
Your doubters are like everyone else; they’re different from you. Sometimes, differences lead to a lack of understanding.
People don’t always support things they don’t understand. That’s life.
And if you want to lead an extraordinary one, you will face people who don’t get you. More than most will ever have to face.
The key is to keep your eyes open, even if you don’t always like what you see. Because you can’t lose sight of your goal.
They Want to Clip Your Wings
Sometimes, people suggest they doubt you to advance their own interests — even when they don’t doubt you at all. They just don’t want you to learn how to stop doubting yourself.
Some people aren’t where they want to be. Maybe their inhibitions have held them back. Maybe they’ve taken action, but they’re still at Ground 0. And they want you to stay on the ground with them.
Just like misery, feelings of inadequacy love company. Sometimes people will imply you’re inadequate to feel like they’re not alone. Or, worse — to feel they’re “better” than you.
But you’re better than that. The first step is to believe you are.
They Can’t Keep the Faith
It’s tough for some people to have faith in things — God, everlasting love, you.
Faith is not certainty. It’s often far from it. And it’s tough for some people to bridge the gap. That’s entirely okay.
Some people can’t have faith in you until you’ve achieved your goal. Because that’s certainty.
You don’t have that luxury. You must have faith in what you can do before you do it. Even if you’ve failed before, and even if the people in your life have watched. Even if you’re still learning how to stop doubting yourself.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said,
“[I]n this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Certainty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Step 2: Cast Nay-Sayers Out of Your Kingdom
People can doubt you for all kinds of reasons — most of which have nothing to do with you.
Nevertheless, doubters don’t belong in the kingdom you’re building for yourself.
So here’s how to handle each doubter you may encounter:
Don’t Take Candy (or Criticism) From Strangers
Don’t let people who don’t know you tell you who you are. They have no idea.
If strangers must express their opinions about you to friends, in forums, whatever — let them.
But don’t start a war over what strangers think of you.
Instead, focus on what you think of yourself. Invest less in those who doubt you and more in yourself. The more you do that, the faster you’ll learn how to stop doubting yourself.
Ironically, there’s no better way to prove strangers wrong.
Don’t Seek to Be Understood by Everyone
There’s no greater feeling than feeling understood. But we aren’t always.
Some of the greatest visionaries of all time were misunderstood. Had they focused on that instead of their dream, their vision may have become blurred.
So don’t worry too much about those who don’t understand you. Keep your vision sharp.
And, should you have people who understand you, keep them in your corner.
There’s no better (constructive) critic than a person who understands you. That’s why the pianist consults her teacher before a performance; the winemaker pours his wine into the sommelier’s glass; and the athlete consults her coach before a game.
Critique is a good thing when it comes from those who understand you — from those who support your dream. In fact, their critique can help you learn how to stop doubting yourself. They don’t doubt you’re capable of greatness, so why should you?
Commit to Flying High
People sometimes say they doubt you to hold you back.
If you feel someone like this is in your life, it’s natural to feel angry. Hurt. Even betrayed. It’s toughest if you trusted that person’s judgment, only to realize he or she didn’t have your best interests at heart.
But it’s best to not take this personally. Often, people who express doubt don’t realize they’re trying to hold you back. Even if they do, your energy is best spent elsewhere.
Feel free to constructively express your thoughts to the person who hurt you, but don’t linger. You’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Learn What Your Rear-View Mirror Is Meant For
Your rear-view mirror is there for a reason: so you can look back.
Look back too much, and you’ll crash. But look back too little, and you’ll forget where you came from. You’ll forget who you left behind: those who lacked faith in you.
To forget would be a shame. Because you’d forget how much you overcame.
Learning to trust yourself to overcome obstacles is a sure-fire way to courage. It’s essential to achieving your dreams.
Doubters will always be on the road. You’ll see them in your rear-view mirror, and ultimately on the road ahead. You must know you can face them in order to keep driving.
3: Get After It
You’ve said nay to the nay-sayers. Now it’s time to go after what you want.
Take Ownership of Your Emotions (and Realize You Don’t Own Anyone Else’s)
You’re about to do something courageous: go after what you want, come hell or high water.
You’re allowed to be afraid. You’re allowed to feel nervous. You’re allowed to wonder if you’ll crash and burn. Your emotions are yours.
But allow your emotions to consume you, and doubt will rear its ugly head. It’ll put you right back where it thinks you belong.
To keep your emotions at bay, remember: doubt is an emotional reaction to something that hasn’t happened. So put it back where it belongs: in your rear-view mirror, with all the doubters.
As far as other peoples’ emotions go? You can’t control them. You must let them go, because you never had them to begin with.
You also can’t let others’ emotions — especially doubt — control you. It’s okay to want validation from others, but it’s not okay to need it. Validation needs to come from within.
Put Your Oars in the Water
Jane Fonda said it best:
“To live a really good life, you have to live intentionally. You can’t just be like a leaf in a river sort of going wherever the current takes you. You have to put oars in the water. Where do I want to go?”
So put ’em in the water.
Remember Your Mindset Drives the Result
How do you define success?
It’s tempting to define it as achieving your goal. But, as many high-achieving people know, you don’t always reach your goal on the first try. Or on the first several tries.
Consider defining success as the ability to take charge and go after what you want. To know that you can handle setbacks along the way. Because that’s an achievement in and of itself.
Be Damn Proud
Not everyone can face fear head-on.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said,
“Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them!”
Not everyone can hop onto life’s stage, face an audience, and belt it out. So be proud that you’ve set out to do just that.
Will everyone like your song? Of course not.
But you’ll get to sing.
Play to Win — Because One Day, You Will
Everyone deserves a cheerleader. But sometimes, the sidelines are devoid of them.
Instead, the sidelines are lined with people who think you’ll lose. Some quietly watching, hoping you don’t learn how to stop doubting yourself. Some shouting so loud that it reaches your ears on the field.
But the crowd can’t change the rules of the game.
You know how to bring it back to the basics now. To tell the nay-sayers to pipe down. To tell the little voice in your head that believes them, “Wait a second. Have you seen me play?”
Because you’re about to play the game of your life.
So take the first step. And then the next. And then the next. Celebrate each one you take, and don’t let the stumbles hold you back.
Because those steps will lead you to the end of the game. And you may damn well win it.
If you don’t?
Play again, or play a different game. The world isn’t short on opportunity.
Keep showing up, and one day, you’ll win.