As I already said. The first thing to realise is we all have doubts. We are not broken, or a loser, or a failure, or damaged goods because we have doubts. We are human. We all have doubts sometimes. It is when we have too much doubt, for too long, which paralyses or stresses us, that it is time to do something about it.
My recent experience with doubt was before I delivered the presentation the other day. It is normal to feel some nerves before a talk. I always do. But those I can breathe through. This was doubt with a capital D. I started second guessing my ability to make an impact, to connect with the audience, to keep the energy going in the room, to teach and to entertain. And this doubt followed me for 30 mins into the presentation. The doubt I experienced left me when I did some of the following:
1. I focused on serving the audience, rather than worrying about what I looked and sounded like. This got rid of most of the inner dialogue.
2. I got feedback from a colleague as soon as practicable (so often we miss what is really going on).
3. I got out of my head and connected with my heart (which tends to yap a whole lot less). This allowed me to connect much more closely with the people I was there to serve. Another word for this is becoming ‘present’. When we are present in the now, there are no thoughts about the past or future. There is just the now.
4. I reminded myself that I knew what I was talking about. That I had been studying, researching, teaching and writing about this stuff for well over 5 years. So I got ‘perspective’.
5. I got on with it. I moved through and beyond my doubts. I left them behind.
That is what I did and it worked for me in the end. It was not like I flicked a switch, but it also did not debilitate me or stop me presenting a great workshop. All good in the end and the feedback was that people loved the content and the way that I authentically connected with them. So it seems the ‘doubts’ were completely unfounded, as they are 99% of the time.
So let me share some other tools and strategies which I know also benefit…
1. What the?
We often feel the way we do because we are telling ourselves a story. Generally a story without a happy theme. In my case I was telling myself that I could not let down the client, and my colleague who had organised the event for me. So I loaded myself up with pressure – which was not going to serve any of us.
So when you have doubts, get clear about the story you are telling yourself. What are you telling yourself that makes you feel this way? Are you telling yourself you are not good enough, or can’t do this, or are going to stuff it up, or people will laugh at you?
Get clear of the story, so you can start debunking it. Pull the story to pieces. Think of all the reasons why it is not true. Connect to past examples where you faced a similar thing and succeeded. This gives you (realistic) perspective. And a new and more empowering story to hang your hat on.
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to wind down the stress response. Just close your eyes, and focus 100% on the breath. Feel it going into your nose. Feel your stomach rising and falling. Feel your lungs expanding. Do this until you wind down emotionally and then you can see a clearer picture.
3. Get a different (external) perspective
In one of the Beatles songs, there is a line which goes ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’. Sometimes we need some external perspective – because someone outside sees what we cannot (maybe we are too busy looking inwards and arm wrestling the gremlins).
Often we exaggerate things. Miss the point. Misinterpret what is really going on. Look at things from just one angle.
So having a good friend, colleague, coach, therapist, etc. offer a different perspective can bring things into the light much quicker for us. We do not need to suffer alone. Suffering is a choice and quite often, not the best one. 😉
Yes, you read right. Tap your doubts away.
One of the best and most effective tools I use (and 100,000’s of other people) is called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or Tapping. It is very effective at deactivating and recalibrating the stress response in relation to specific emotions or even physical symptoms like feeling sick in the stomach. Effectively you tap on acupuncture points on the body as you focus on the specific issue and then the stress and often physical symptoms leave your body.
I won’t go into all the details here. The best way to learn this simple but powerful technique is to read the book called ‘The Tapping Solution’ by Nick Ortner.
It really is a powerful and effective tool and is being shown to be effective in even extreme conditions, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
5. Take baby steps
Sometimes we doubt ourselves so much it can paralyze us. We are scared to make any move. So what I recommend to my clients is to take baby steps. Small, simple steps. It might be to start doing something known to reduce stress – like meditation or exercise or walking in nature.
Just adding 2 mins of meditation each day can make a shift. It breaks your inertia and starts momentum in the right direction. Going for a 10 min walk in a part can break the inertia too. Both of these also start internal physiological shifts as well – in the right direction.
Doing the small stuff also builds up your confidence in your ability to get stuff done, which builds your self esteem and self worth, and crowds out doubt and worry. You don’t have to surgically remove doubts. You just need to move through them, or over them or around them, and eventually you leave them behind.
6. The work
Is there work to be done?
Sometimes we might have doubts because we haven’t done the work or preparation or practice. So it is a message to us to get off our butts and show up in a bigger way. With competence comes confidence. Therefore, sometimes we might just need to dig deeper and put in more effort, so the doubts are again left behind.
Remember we all have doubts. It is how we deal with them that counts. When we stop feeding our doubts they wither up. When we consciously move forward we often leave them behind. When we get perspective they are most often a whole lot smaller than we made them out to be.
Have a super awesome day!