Have you ever doubted your self doubt?

I wonder what would happen if you did?

Doubt and self doubt are frequently topics of conversation on, well I’d say every course that I run; presentations, running effective meetings, guiding your career, the imposter syndrome, leading with belief and of course all the confidence courses.

And when doubt does raise it’s head, I ask the delegate if they have ever stopped to doubt that self doubt. The faces people pull at this point is brilliant. A look of confusion and incredulity. “How can I doubt the self doubt Jules?”

Doubtful thinking can happen at anytime. It’s happening in my head right now! “is this the right topic for this week’s blog?’ “Is there something else that I need to be sharing?” And if I was to give this thinking attention then I suspect that I would stop typing, down tools and make an excuse to either start another piece of work, or go for an early lunch break!

But when I do not give this thinking my attention something shifts. Calmer thinking happens. I pause, breathe and focus on the purpose of this post – to challenge the self doubting that controls our lives. And I ask myself, how can I do that? What do I need to share? And the thinking heads in a different direction.

Doubt can be helpful, a check in as to whether we are safe before we walk that route, enter that room, speak with that person. It’s part of the brain that wants to check. But for the majority of us, most of the time, we are safe; walking into that room, giving that presentation, going on that date, applying for the job. We well be uncomfortable, but we are safe.

And that’s what we have to challenge. Because often that doubt convinces us that it is unsafe to do something, when it’s not. It is just uncomfortable. But are we truly in danger…my guess the majority of the time is no.

So how can you doubt that doubt?

Ask for true evidence, not assumption.

A client of mine was leaving a very high profile job. She had been head hunted and was doubting whether she had made the right decision because of how her ‘big boss’ would react. She listed all the things she thought he would do.

“When people have left before has he ever done any of those things? Even when people have left to work in direct competition?”

“Nope, he has actually been honest, talked about his sadness of the person leaving but wished them all the best.” She realised the false claims that her thinking was making. So deviated…

“What if I am making a big mistake though and should stay where I am?”

Now this is common when making change; in a job, relationships, home. The list is endless. And the doubt creeps in, I think, because we are looking for certainty of outcome, often where there is none. Our minds play out different outcomes. It places us in two minds. Which of course only reinforces uncertainty and then more doubt.

Depending on the circumstances (and needs of a client) there are a number of exercises that I use to help someone move out of doubt into clarity. The most common I use is the worst case scenario.

Often when people think of the worst case scenario they create a full movie with sounds, characters and special effects. Dramatising the worst thing that could possibly happen. It may seem counterintuitive, but my invitation is to fully imagine that scenario, yep go for it, play it full out! But then ask yourself, ‘OK, well if that happened, how would I deal with it? What would I do?’ And keep listing all the possibilities of what you would do if that worst case happened.

This exercise helps your brain realise that if this did happen, it has options, choices, resources that it could use. And whilst it still have no certainty of the outcome, at least it is reassured to know that it has ways of dealing with it. If it happened.

The second part of the exercise, which often gets missed, is to look a the best case scenario too! Fully dramatise that and ask ‘if that happened, how would I deal with it? What would I do?’ Again looking for those resources.

This process helps your thinking brain to realise that no matter what the outcome, you can now trust yourself to find a way through the situation. You are helping your thinking to focus on self trust rather than self doubt.

And if you had the choice (which you do!) which would be the most helpful focus for you?

Self trust or self doubt?

Trust is an antonym of doubt.

Trust is also linked to confidence. It is in the root derivation of the word.

And it’s important to remember that trust and self trust, do not mean that you will get things right or never be wrong. It means that you will trust yourself to have a go. To learn and grow from whatever experience you have.

Doubt that self doubt and explore a world of self trust and see what happens!