August brings with it a lot of mixed emotions; there’s one month left until September when schools and universities start again, and we have a sense of re-affirming our goals. At the same time, we’re in the height of summer and want to allow ourselves a bit of rest and time away from our stressors. Both of these sensations can bring about a lot of self-doubt.
Self-doubt manifests itself in a number of ways, and like most emotions and thoughts, it will feel unique to the individual. So, what actually is self-doubt?
“Self-doubt is the lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities” simply put by the Oxford Languages dictionary.
This seems obvious enough, so the next big questions are what causes self-doubt? How does it manifest day to day and how can we fight these feelings and feel more confident in our actions and abilities?
Childhood and adult self-doubt
Like most things in life, maybe it’s due to the way you were raised and the lessons you were taught. As a child, were you always striving to be the best and pushed to achieve? If or when, you didn’t achieve the top scores, were you left feeling useless and un-talented? Think about the implications this would have on us, you, as adults. Even if it is subconsciously, always aspiring to be the best places major stress on our shoulders, and one that we cannot always deal well with. I don’t think there is anything to criticise in wanting to be your best, but YOUR best, and not always to be THE best. At the same time, feeling satisfied with our efforts even when we feel like we’ve fallen short. We’ve still taken part and should feel proud and confident.
Later in life, feelings of self-doubt can stem from events at work, issues in relationships, and events going on in the wider world. When we have nourishing, loving connections in our lives, even when we don’t feel the most confident, we have the support of those closest to us to encourage our confidence. We cannot always control what goes on in our lives, but we can control our reaction to it, and, in turn, how that knocks our confidence or does not.
Meaningful, supported work
Self-doubt at work is such a common stressor and can be caused by so many things. In my opinion, it can often be very closely linked with feelings of Imposter Syndrome (read more about that in my earlier post). Even though we have secured this job, often we don’t feel confident and we doubt our abilities to carry out the tasks, and even when we do “succeed” we think it’s a fluke.
Having a good support network in the workplace can also help to limit feelings of self-doubt. If you work in a team with a huge lack of understanding, you may feel as though your purpose is not fulling appreciated, which can worsen your own self-doubt. On the flip side, when you do feel supported and understood, you can share ideas and feel validated by what you bring to the table.
Self-doubt can also be nuanced by the type of work you do. If you love what you do, do you feel as though you add more value to others? If so, how can you best leverage your value to help more people, be a better team player and show more confidence in your skillset? However, if you love what you do, but there are areas in which you feel more self-doubt creeping in, how can you upskill to gain more clarity in those areas? Talk to colleagues, do some online research, and really focus on what makes you feel less confident. Aim for a “mastery” of skills over a “success’” of achieving those skills. A mastery will last a life-time, but the feeling of success is short-lived.
Personally, I feel a lot of self-doubt about my abilities and my work, but doing something I am so passionate about makes my work feel meaningful. When I see you make a recipe of mine, the feeling of gratification, appreciation, and joy lessens my self-doubt temporarily and I think “maybe I did do a good job here”. When I see the positive impact I have made in my friends and families lives by encouraging them to eat more plants and less animal products, this makes me feel more confident. I can see the change and I feel supported in my message and my work.
Final thoughts on self-doubt
There is so much to explore when thinking about notions of self-doubt and although we have discussed the realm of work above, it also applies to every aspect of our lives. Whether it is at home or in the workplace, a lack of confidence in your abilities, albeit fairly normal, can have detrimental impacts to our mental health in the long-term. Having a supportive and understanding network around you can make your efforts and contributions feel validated and meaningful. Moreover, doing something you love (outside of, or at, work) can boost your confidence as you see your purpose day-to-day as you can track your progression and your wider, positive impact on others. Next time you have a wave of self-doubt, I’d encourage you to take a step back, think about your support network and ask for their advice. Maybe you’ll be surprised at how grateful they are and how confident they are in your abilities.
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