My innings had just begun. I had scored 2. A new bowler came on and seemed to be bowling straight up and down. No swing, no turn. I played down the line of the next ball coming at me confident I had it under control. However, the ball spun quite sharply, missed my bat and pad, and clean bowled me. I did not enjoy being so outplayed by the bowler. In that game I also dropped 3 catches – none were easy, but all were catchable. And then in my bowling spell I took 1 for 51 off 7 overs – my worst figures for a long time. We lost the game to a team we should have beaten.
I have played cricket since I was 7 years old in the Coffs Harbour District Junior Competition. Last weekend playing 6th Grade in Nepean District Comp was the first time over all the years that I have wondered whether I was good enough to play anymore. Self-doubt kicked in in a huge way. I went home quite depressed and thinking this would be my last season.
Self-doubt is an enemy we all must conquer
More than a random thought that is easily dismissed, self-doubt hits with an emotional force that makes it seem overwhelming. The associated feelings make the negative thoughts appear to be the ‘absolute truth’. ‘Truth’ that in that moment cannot be argued against.
Everyone faces self-doubt. On the journey of life there are many moments of self-doubt as you are learning and growing on the way up. Even high achievers who are used to working things out successfully sooner or later come to moments where they are hit with self-doubt. The whole concept of ‘imposter syndrome’ speaks to the universality of self-doubt.
As you get towards the end of your career, there are even more self-doubt thoughts to face down. Like me with cricket, there are times when self-doubt wants to make you feel like you are no longer able to make a valuable contribution.
The goal of self-doubt is to get you to quit. Some part of your sub-conscious has become so uncomfortable, it is trying to tell you it would be much easier and safer to quit.
Self-doubt has hit me many times in my life
I remember in the early days of being a young pastor starting a new church. I was doing things every day that I had never done before. I was often out of my depth. The pressure was often intense. When I made mistakes that affected people adversely it would churn me up inside. I often doubted myself, but something kept me going.
Being a first-time parent, I had a lot of self-doubt. A baby that would not stop crying after we had done everything we knew to do, led to self-doubt for me and my wife. By baby number 3 everything was much easier.
Starting a coaching business, a couple of years after rebuilding my life from a major burnout experience, I was plagued with self-doubt. It was several years before I felt confident. I was always wondering if I could do better and if clients would be happy with my business coaching services. Gradually, I realised I was offering great value and the feedback was usually very positive.
Self-doubt is not always unhealthy
I have noticed that every time I start a new course or begin to develop a new skill it involves stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things I had not done before. I have learned this is the nature of learning and growth. It takes emotional energy and mental focus. Self-doubt is normal. It does not have to be unhealthy. If you are free enough to ask questions and take instruction it is part of the pathway to mastery.
Self-doubts left unchallenged that play on your mind and torment you can be very unhealthy.
Keys to overcome self-doubt
- Always doubt your doubts. I have learned over the years that my doubts are often wrong, especially if they are trying to minimise or limit me. They usually fade away after a few days. If they persist, I ask questions and test my doubts outside my own head.
- Make sure you have good support. One of the reasons I burned out was that I did not have trusted people close to me. People in whom I could confide. People who would challenge me when they thought I was wrong. I have found having good people who tell me the truth even if it is not what I want to hear is very helpful to me. They help me dispel self-doubt that is based in fake fears. They help me know what I do well and see where I need to grow and develop.
- Work on any insecurities. Do the work to make sure you are healthy and strong as a human being. Develop and keep building healthy self-respect. I constantly work on my personal growth and security as a man, a businessman, a friend, husband, and father. One way to measure security is your capacity to set healthy boundaries. In an insecure person self-doubt is magnified and can be hugely debilitating.
- Keep developing your skills. Invest in courses and coaching to help make sure you are a leader in what you do. So, if you have a bad day, and disappoint someone, you are grounded enough to reassess, make necessary adjustments, and keep moving forward. Make sure you are always stretching and learning new skills in your business.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. My cricket is meant to be relaxing. I love the afternoon with mates, testing my skills against mostly younger men. It is meant to be fun. When I take myself too seriously, I try too hard, and it ceases to be fun. It is nearly the end of the season, so it is time for a break. I need to play another sport, like golf, or go bushwalking, and do other things to relax. Cricket can be there again next year.
A Business Mentor can help.
The truth is we can struggle to do this alone. When you have a big vision, you face bigger challenges. The highs and the lows will be intense. Helping business owners and corporate executives to create a powerful vision for their lives and a strategic plan to implement is some of the most important work I do. If you find you are plagued with self-doubt for whatever reason, you need trusted experienced people around you. If you have become unsure of the way forward to achieve your goals, I’d love to help you. Please do not quit. It’s time to reach out for a conversation.
If you would like to have a free no obligation conversation about your situation and how I maybe able to help you, please click this link.