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Posted 8 months ago

Overcoming self-doubt

Have you ever experienced self-doubt when it comes to your ability to achieve a goal?

Yes, me too. In fact, we all have.

As a competitor (beginner or experienced!) and/or as someone who is currently transforming and elevating their physique, you WILL question yourself and your ability to accomplish whatever you set out to do. Dieting over a prolonged period of time, going into an extended off-season, and setting yourself long-term goals will push you out of your comfort zone. It will challenge you to dig deep in order to persevere; that process of going deep into your thoughts will be incredibly messy. Most of us find incredible ways to talk ourselves out of pursuing things that currently seem impossible to achieve.

However, you shouldn’t let that put you off or stop you from taking steps towards where you want to be – you’ll get IN the way of your goals, rather than moving forward ON the path to accomplishing them. As Dr Sarah Lewis said, “To reach an audacious goal, we sometimes benefit from having it lie just beyond our grasp”.

As such, here are some of my top-tips to help you overcome paralysing self-doubt and keep you moving towards whatever physique and/or life goals you have set for yourself.

(1) Stamp on the ANT

ANTs, better known as automatic negative thoughts, are our brain’s knee-jerk reaction to anything that seems a bit too threatening to our current comfort zone levels. ANTs come in marching and can very quickly take hold of our minds. “Who do you think you are?”, “No chance you can accomplish that”, “There’s no point in starting because you’ll never be good enough”.

Most of us are familiar with some cousin of the ANT family and the best thing we can do is just STAMP on the ant:

  • Stop for a moment (rather than joining the colony)
  • Think about what those voices are saying
  • Acknowledge them and remind yourself of the fact our thoughts do not represent reality
  • Move past the thoughts
  • Persist with your endeavour

(2) Question your self-doubt

I always say that awareness is the critical first step for creating change and overcoming challenges. When it comes to self-doubt, we do need to ask ourselves some difficult questions:

  • What is making you feel that way?
  • If your own arguments for “proof” of self-doubt were to be presented in court, how would they hold up?
  • Are these thoughts based on reality or are they in your head? What’s the proof?
  • If you expressed them out loud, what would a friend say? What would your coach say?

The origins of underestimating our capabilities without even trying are deep rooted in our brains that just want to keep us safe – our brain cannot tell the difference between fear of hunting in case a tiger kills you, or fear of competing for the first time. By extension, our brain has absolutely no clue as to whether we are capable of pushing those boundaries (yet). As such, the best thing we can do is demonstrate to ourselves that through daily action, we are more than equipped to achieve what we set out to achieve.

Plus, if you give it your best shot, what’s the worst that could happen? 

(3) Identify the source

You won’t be surprised to know that – other than our brain detecting a threat and convincing us it’s a bad move – the main source of self-doubt is rooted in how we see ourselves in relation to others. Personally, I think this is incredibly empowering because it suggests that if we can modify that relationship to our advantage, that self-doubt will inevitably change and become more supportive of our own goals.

If you find that you’re having a great day, you have smashed your check-in, you scroll through Instagram for 5mins and suddenly feel awful, I’m afraid you need to put your “following” list through a cull. “Does this person/account inspire me to be better?” YES/NO, in, out. Simple as that. Kim Kardashian really doesn’t give a f*ck about losing you as a follower, and neither does Kayla Itsines, but if it improves your mental health then get them in the bin.

More often than not, you’ll find that:

  • Your self-doubt is based on a story you’re telling yourself and not on what is really going on, and that’s okay!
  • Voicing your thoughts to others will help find more helpful ways of managing self-doubt
  • Your self-doubt is influenced by your inner circle and the people you’re paying attention to, so make sure that your timeline inspires you to be better, rather than making you feel like a failure!

I know that self-doubt can leave us feeling trapped in a cycle of negative thinking, but take it from the queen of self-doubt herself: you can control how you respond to those thoughts, and you can learn to leverage them into helping you achieve things you didn’t feel were possible or attainable for you.

If you’re ready to put self-doubt behind you and achieve something epic, be sure to enquire.

Clara Swedlund MSc MBPsS