To me, the beginning stages of childhood are fascinating to observe; they reveal the intrinsic nature of humans. Whether it’s trying again to walk after falling to the ground a dozen times, crawling with brave intention towards a fascinating toy at the daycare, or trying (sometimes fruitlessly)  to communicate through hand gestures, children certainly are not afraid to do whatever their heart desires.

They are innately grown into a character saturated with courage. But what happens when these fearless children reach adolescence? They start to receive feedback (that’s not always positive) and become heavily influenced by the people and environment they are surrounded by in their day to day life. Parents tell them that becoming a police officer is too dangerous, teachers show them that intelligence is tied to good grades, and the media shows them a great deal of idealism, especially with respect to people’s bodies. Kids receive the message that these “ideal”, and in many cases unrealistic, bodies are representations of the body that they should have in order to be considered beautiful. Soon, the same children that were so full of courage in their childhood start to question themselves. Commonly, they would find themselves thinking,  “Maybe this isn’t for me,” before trying something new, or asking themselves, “Am I not good enough?” when dealing with rejection. At these exact moments, a newly molded, extrinsic character starts to develop, and it can paralyze, cripple, and destroy one’s motivation all at the same time. This character’s name? Self-doubt.

We have three organs that are primarily responsible for the way in which we perceive and interact with the world around us: the brain, the heart, and the gut. The brain rationalizes our ideas and motives based on information it has stored such as logic, history, and current societal values/norms. On the other hand, the heart creates more sporadic, irrational, illogical, and unrealistic ideas and motives because “it feels right”. The ideas created by the heart often hold a scarier path than the ideas created by the brain– which is why one might have some trouble living solely following their heart.

For example, the brain might tell you that becoming a painter wouldn’t make you any money and you should go after an occupation which guarantees financial stability. But your heart desires to become the next Van Gogh, since painting allows you to express your inner feelings. Your heart tells you that it uses painting to dismantle you from the chains of captivity it feels in society. The brain’s path is viewed as the safer path of course, since it ensures acceptance from your parents and peers. Alternatively, the heart’s path is a dark maze that you can only travel through blindfolded, but hopeful– because that is what your heart desires.

Finally, the ideas and motives created by the gut are the ones that unfold based on instincts. The gut is that thing that tells you, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this investment,” or, “I don’t think that I should trust this person.” All three of these organs (brain, heart, and gut) need to work cooperatively when making decisions and taking steps forward in life. However, when self-doubt manifests itself into one’s life, the heart and the gut become plagued. This leads to only the brain being responsible for all of your decision making. This can be very self-destructive. It can hold you back from your true potential.

I want to help you avoid that kind of life. I want to help you live a life where self-doubt doesn’t get in your way, where you live life bravely like a child, but with all the wealth of knowledge you have in adulthood.

Here are 5 guides you can use to overcome self-doubt:

Develop courage.

There is no better way to defeat self-doubt than to rebuild that essence you lost when transiting from childhood to adolescence: courage. Courage is doing things you want to regardless of the fact that you don’t know what the outcome would ultimately be, whether that involves starting the business you always wanted to, going back to school to get a degree, or even something as simple as learning to dance. Courage comes from unchaining your mind,pursuing your hobbies or dreams, and not worrying about what others might think of your pursuit.

Surround yourself with positivity.

Many of us have friends who don’t believe in us or in our dreams. These are the friends that you find constantly remind you or make you think that you’re wasting your time or that your goals are not realistic. Then when you experience failure, no matter how small, you start to think that these “friends” are right; self-doubt starts to creep into your mind. Drop these type of friends immediately and find new friends who support your vision and motivate you during times of failure. That way, during difficult times you are able to bounce back up more quickly and continue pursuing your goals.

What is your why?

When facing self-doubt, you need to concentrate on why you are doing what you are doing. Eric Thomas, a renowned motivational speaker, stressed the importance of knowing your “why.” He said that “your why” is what wakes you up every morning; it’s what pushes you forward when you can’t find the motivation to push yourself. When you begin to doubt yourself, think about your why. If it’s not a reason that genuinely comes from your heart, self-doubt might take over your actions, and feel like it’s swallowing you whole.  

Recollect your past accomplishments.

There’s no better way to defeat self-doubt than to remember that you have defeated it in the past. Think back to the times when you doubted yourself but triumphed through it anyways. We often forget that self-doubt happens throughout our lives. By remembering our past accomplishments over self-doubt, we are able to look at it from a different perspective. As the saying goes, “If you did it once, you can do it again.”  

Don’t compare yourself with others.

When we see others accomplishing big things that we’d like to have accomplished ourselves, we might start comparing our own accomplishments to theirs. Questions like “Why am I not succeeding like they are?” or thoughts like “If he/she did this to succeed, then I must have to do the same,” start to arise when you compare your accomplishments to those of others. What’s important to understand is that not everyone’s path to achieving a goal is a straight road ahead. Paths for some may be bumpy with lots of roadblocks, while paths for others might run smooth (or appear to do so). However, the destination for both pathways is what’s important: this is what guarantees success, as long as you resiliently continue to travel the path, not letting self-doubt turn you in the opposite direction.  

Without self-doubt, you are able to make decisions more wisely. Your decisions would stem from your mind, heart, and gut, instead of just your mind. Through consciously overcoming your fears, continuing in the face of self-doubt, and resolving to make wiser decisions, you come that much closer in unchaining your true potential.    

About The Author

Mustufa is a sophomore at Stony Brook University where he is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Biology and Chemistry. He is aspiring to become either a pediatrician or an orthopedic. Mustufa has used bodybuilding and lifting weights to help him reach his academic goals since such activities develop mental strength, discipline, confidence, consistency, and self-motivation.

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