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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Twist and Doubt

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 27, 2016

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Like pooping our pants, biting our enemies, and enjoying Disney Channel shows, self-doubt is a regrettable aspect of childhood we’re supposed to grow out of. If, however, years of learning, practicing, and getting older don’t keep persistent self-doubt from pestering you on into adulthood, it’s usually taken as a sign of low self-esteem and possible failure in normal maturation. In actuality, it can also be a trait that, for reasons we don’t understand, afflicts mature people who have worked hard, gained skills, and deserve much more confidence than they ever experience. We don’t think these traits can be changed by treatment, prayer, or, as always, anything short of lobotomy, but we have many ideas on how you can manage self-doubt almost as well as you do your bowels.

-Dr. Lastname

I am constantly plagued by negative self-talk. Most days I lack confidence in nearly everything I do. No matter what it never seems to be enough for me. How can I let go of the constant self-judgment and self-criticism? These mental habits sabotage my day–stirring anxiety, panic, and impulsiveness. My goal is to change this internal negativity into something positive, nourishing, and/or helpful.

When self-doubt’s bad enough to be self-torture, it also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it multiplies itself by causing you to slow down, seek reassurance, alter your performance and then question yourself for making those changes by slowing down and doing it all over again. You doubt, therefore you aren’t.

Everyone expects to erase self-doubt by practicing, learning, growing, gaining experience, and performing better and, to some degree; after all, that’s the way we all build confidence in ourselves as we grow older. Some people, however, continue to be prone to self-doubt, and intense efforts to erase it with how-do- you-feel- and-why- do-you- feel-that- way therapy seldom seem that successful. Yes, you can always find reasons for your problem and, if you need it, someone to blame, but none of that will silence your nagging to change the how-can- I-do- this-better impulse. Then the failed therapy will give you one more reason to judge yourself a loser.

Besides, self-doubt isn’t all bad; it helps you to work harder, think better, and find mistakes and problems that would otherwise have escaped your attention. It gets you to ask questions instead of thinking you know all the answers. While it might seem better to be someone who’s eternally confident, has the constant security of knowing he’s right, and avoids any self-flagellation, the perfect example of such a someone is Donald Trump. So sure, it might make you feel good—nay, the best—to be someone like that, but it would make at least half the country hate your guts.

So accept the fact that you’re stuck with self-doubt and whatever anxiety or depression goes with it. Then skip the urge to doubt and sulk and instead develop your own rational, experience-based judgments and learn to impose them on the irrational, perfectionistic thoughts that spew from your brain. Learn also to distract yourself from the negative thoughts and refrain from any activities that provide them with more power, like seeking reassurance from others or asking them to join you in obsessing over any possible mistake.

If non-medical methods aren’t enough, try treatment with medications like antidepressants, which can sometimes reduce the intensity of self-critical thoughts, self-doubt, and anxiety while carrying a very low risk of serious, permanent harm. Unfortunately, it’s always very uncertain (50:50) whether they’ll work, and it often takes four weeks of taking them every day before you know whether they’ll help, but at least, for most of these medications, it’s very easy to stop taking them if you see no improvements.

So avoid trying to change your brain and/or channel Trump and learn how to manage your inner critic. Take pride in your learned ability to tell good criticism from bad and to oppose your inner doubter when he’s trying to blackmail you into accepting criticism you don’t deserve.

Ultimately, if you work hard on managing your doubts and are still able to live a full live in spite of (and occasionally with the help of) a painful condition, you may find that your self-doubt, or your efforts against it, is actually a source of confidence after all.


“I hate the way self-doubt steals away my confidence, happiness, and any feelings of security and achievement, but it hasn’t stopped me from working, having friends, and building a life. I’ll continue to limit its influence, challenge its logic and refuse to comply with its impulses and directions. I will get stronger and better at fighting back, even if I can’t get better at feeling happy.”

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