I have seen many clients during my 20-year career as a psychologist struggle with the negative effects of holding onto self-doubt.
You can almost see it draining their energy and depleting them physically, cognitively, and emotionally.
There Is Nothing Healthy or Productive About Holding onto Doubt
Holding onto feelings of doubt affects your physical health. Dragging around doubt can physically wear you out and leave you fatigued and even exhausted.
This kind of negativity can make people sick more often. They may also experience physical ailments such as headaches, back and/or neck tension, or gastrointestinal problems.
In addition, not overcoming doubt can decrease your cognitive skills. These effects can include being more easily distracted, having a harder time concentrating, not remembering things as readily, having more difficulty making decisions. You will just not be as sharp and clear-minded as you once were.
Holding onto doubt also can cause emotional problems by eating away at your self-esteem and self-confidence. Chronic doubt can cause emotional distress in the form of anxiety, stress, fear, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, confusion, and/or feeling overwhelmed, etc.
As I have noted above, not overcoming doubt can be detrimental, often even debilitating. Suffering negative physical, cognitive, and/or emotional effects can wear down the person going through life like this. It is like being in a vicious cycle that goes on indefinitely without reaching a resolution or conclusion.
There is nothing healthy or productive about holding onto doubt. However, there are some healthy and productive actions you can take to make it work for you.
4 Action Steps To Overcoming Doubt
It is important to recognize that you don’t have to be at the mercy of your doubt—you can actually have it work positively for you. Following these four action steps, you can use your doubt wisely.
1. Recognize that your doubt is there for a reason and NOT to be ignored or held onto.
Be aware that your doubt is sticking around for a reason. Don’t suppress or over-think it. Instead, realize that it is trying to tell you something that needs to be faced. Then you can deal with it in order to reach some adequate resolution or conclusion.
Suppressing or over-thinking your doubt is an exercise in futility. It leads nowhere and can eventually cause harm to you (as described above).
2. Identify the facts behind your doubts so you know what you’re dealing with.
Be like a news reporter. Identify the facts behind your doubt by asking who, what, where, when, and why questions as applicable in order to understand what you are really dealing with. You need to understand the full nature of your doubt that is lingering, so you can truly resolve it.
For example, let’s say you have trouble overcoming doubt about replacing your car.
- The “who” of your doubt could be whether I can afford it.
- The “what” could be whether to lease a NEW car or keep the old one.
- The “where” is the place that would give me the best price for my current car, or the dealership that would offer the best deal for the car I want to buy or lease.
- The “when” could be the best time to buy or lease a new car.
- The “why” of your doubt could be that while you love your current car, it is costing you in repairs more than what it’s worth.
Once you’ve taken things apart, you’ll see that it’s easier to tackle your doubts—no matter what they are.
3. Deal with your doubt more logically than emotionally for a healthier resolution.
Once you’ve identified your doubts and understood them, find more logic-based ways than emotionally driven ones to resolve them. Too often, doubts originate and persist because a person’s emotions take over and override one’s logic.
For example, “thought distortions” (which are inaccurate perceptions) can affect how one sees and ultimately feels about things. Examples of these include magnification, which is where one’s doubts are made to be bigger than the situation really is.
Also, there is all-or-nothing thinking, in which there is no middle ground and things have to be exactly a certain way. Otherwise, they are ruined or bad. Then there’s catastrophizing, whereby the person feels something is a complete disaster when, in fact, it is nowhere close to that.
To combat these thought distortions and inflated emotions (which can lead to lingering doubt), it is necessary to use logic.
Some ways to do this include having your logic balance out both your cognitive and emotional overreactions by recognizing when these are happening. Next, decrease these instances to amounts that are in proportion and appropriate to the situation.
Also, it can be very helpful to write the pros and cons of pushing through plans despite your doubts. This way, you should be able to see the merits and deficits of the situation (or person) involved.
Writing things down will help you see the entire picture and can have a calming effect. This can make overcoming doubt easier as you stay more on the logical side of decision-making or come up with a suitable resolution.
4. Use self-care and your support system to ease excess negative energy that fuels and perpetuate doubt.
Besides directly facing and working through your doubt, use self-care activities to discharge excess negative energy that feeds and perpetuates doubt.
Self-care activities include doing cardio exercises several times a week, eating proper amounts and choices of food, sleeping enough, leaning on and venting to your loved ones, and having humor interspersed in your life. These can lighten up your thoughts and feelings, bringing more balance into your life.
Turn Your Doubt Into Something That Betters Your Self-Awareness and Your Life
Overcoming doubt is possible. You don’t have to hold on to it and have it drain your energy. Instead, you can turn your doubt into something that provides you with more insight, self-awareness, and healthy, productive resolutions, which can significantly improve the quality of your life.