Self-doubt is pernicious. This is why it is, according to me, a deadly sin. Self-doubt can destroy everything that you have worked towards in a matter of moments or, it can be gradual, like a wave eroding a mountain, where eventually, you don’t feel good enough in any capacity.
What is self-doubt? Self-doubt is uncertainty. As everything, this uncertainty is on a spectrum. You can have self-doubt at the lower end of the spectrum where you are uncertain about one aspect of your life or, at the higher end of the spectrum where you doubt multiple dimensions e.g., your ability as a spouse, as a leader, as a parent etc.
Self-doubt is caused by a multitude of internal and external factors. In other words, it can be attributed to the former by how we think, feel and behave, or the latter, where we have limited control – how we were raised, how people treated us and how much feedback we were given, as well as how this feedback was given.
It is important to note that whilst we can’t control the external factors, we do have control of how we react to them. We have this control because of our, already mentioned, subjective reality (thoughts, feelings and behaviour). This is where the danger enters. If we allow what we can control i.e., our subjective reality, to go down a negative spiral, we can end up with Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is a destructive thought process that is utterly devoted to making us feel that we aren’t good enough in anything that we do. It doesn’t always manifest yet when it does, it is, yes – that word again, pernicious. For example, in work, we feel that we aren’t competent enough to fulfill our roles, and/or we feel we haven’t got any skills, talents or accomplishments. This destructive pattern can have a negative impact in the following polarised way:
- It can cause us to procrastinate as we don’t feel that we can ever achieve anything or,
- It can cause us to self-handicap where we strive to achieve absolutely anything (without meaningful intent) and everything that eventually, our bodies are exhausted, and our minds are confused
An organisation can be negatively impacted, if those with Imposter Syndrome, suffer from ‘pluralistic ignorance’ – where we feel that we are the only ones going through the destructive pattern and therefore keep existing in the negative spiral, along with others. In other words, it can create a false reality. Imagine the culture that culminates from this – where everyone is living an untruth. We would become dangerously competitive and/or fail to meet our targets and/or, most damaging, not believe in the values of the organisation. Can you imagine the carnage?
So, how do we address this? Well, firstly, we get rid of our self-doubt. This may take longer for some than others. We need to consciously work at it and, we need to recover from the internal betrayal to ourselves – believing we are not good enough. In some cases, this recovery process has taken 40 years. Self-doubt is pernicious.
If self-doubt, and the consequences of it, resonates with you, try this:
- Work toward getting your ‘whole self’ in balance – this means that your emotional, physical and psychological state is balanced in all roles that you play – from sibling to parent to spouse to friend.
- Develop resilience – if you have a passion, have practiced that passion, find purpose in that passion and have made an impact because of the said passion, you have absolutely no reason to doubt yourself. In fact, I would bet my money on this – if you are in this category, you most likely work for a toxic person or are in a toxic company. Leave. The time it takes to recover is not worth staying.
- Acknowledge your values – what you live for and would fight for; this makes you a, what I would describe, person of depth.
- Know this – you matter!
- Listen to those that matter – they will remind you of all that you have to offer.
I dedicate this to my best friend who, in January 2021, lost her battle against cancer. She was my go-to person who always reminded me not to doubt myself. I will always cherish our friendship. I will always cherish her wisdom.