6 Ways to Overcome Self Doubt and Follow Your Dreams

I once heard someone say something like “If you ever notice your preacher discussing the same topic often, it’s most likely because he/she struggles with that topic.” I’m certainly not a preacher, but the concept applies to me today.

Self doubt is definitely my greatest hurdle. As I mentioned in my “About Me”, I have always wanted to start a blog. I even made a feeble attempt once before. I had no idea what I was doing (still don’t) and was way too intimidated to actually share the URL with anyone (that still scares me). BUT ten years after that disastrous attempt…I am trying again. Self doubt is coursing hard through my veins. I don’t know if it ever really goes away altogether, but I have learned how to push it aside, set goals, and make an effort to overcome it! These are the six things I recommend doing when self-doubt tries to take over.

1) Forget about what everyone else thinks of you.

I started with the hardest one first. I say all the time that I don’t care what people think about me–and I mean it. There is no way I would have survived 8 years as a teacher if I worried about popularity.

But what I mean when I say that I don’t care what people think about me is that I don’t care if people like me or not, but I do care about how people perceive  me. It’s okay for people to disagree with me, but for someone to judge me or weigh my worth makes me a big ball of nerves.

The intersection at the end of our street is busy, and I often have to make a left turn. I stress out when someone pulls into the turn lane behind me. I squirm in my seat, my palms sweat, my heart races. What if I could have gone then? My brain says. What if they are getting frustrated because I am taking too long? Being perceived as a competent driver by these strangers suddenly becomes more important to me than driving safely.

I had to delete TimeHop from my phone because I was so embarrassed by the stupid things I posted on Facebook ten years ago. I was an embarrassingly pretentious teenager. And when I think about that, my mind starts racing. What if I am still obnoxiously pretentious and I just don’t realize it? What if no one tells me? Worse, what if someone DOES tell me? What if I accidentally embarrass someone else with something I write? What if I misrepresent myself to the entire world?  I just shouldn’t do it.

See how easily it gets out if hand? I allow my concern for how others think of me cripple my ambition. And here’s a truth: others are a lot less concerned with you than you think. When I let the opinions of others go, I am able to work toward my goals. It’s easier said than done, I know, but it is possible. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

2) Give others the benefit of the doubt.

This goes hand-in-hand with number 1, but when someone does give you positive feedback, believe it. When someone offers constructive criticism, accept it graciously and use it for growth, but don’t stew on it.

When I first met my wife, I assumed she had ulterior motives in everything she did. After all, that’s what many of my previous friendships and relationships had been like. I had built this huge wall around me and I was trying to keep everyone else out. Otherwise I was nothing more than someone who could be used.

One day she finally said to me, “Unless I give you evidence otherwise, assume I want what is best for you.” I remember the moment clearly. We were in her car and were on the brink of an argument because I had to do something for work, and I was stressed out and refusing help because why would she help me? How was helping me going to benefit her? It seemed completely counter-intuitive to just believe that she wanted what was best for me, but in rearranging my mindset to believe it, I have learned that she truly does want what is best for me. All the time.

And in learning to trust that my wife has good intentions, I have learned to give the benefit of doubt to others.

When strangers or acquaintances try to talk to me now, I don’t get shy am still super shy, but I make more of an effort to hold conversations. I assume they are genuinely being friendly and not targeting me. I’ve made more friends as a result. I’ve made quality friends as a result. In a few weeks, I am officially leaving the “real” work force to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. I am over-the-moon excited, but I am also very sad that I will not be seeing my friends every day. I have grown close to some incredible people.

Sometimes I am still not so great at this.

We only have our yard mowed every other week because 1) I’m not going to mow it and 2) we can only afford every other week. A man stopped outside our house the other day and rang our doorbell (he better be glad the babies weren’t sleeping!) to give us his business card for his lawn mowing service. My replies were something like, “So my yard looks bad? Your yard looks bad. Your MOM’s yard looks bad!” (Don’t worry. I was talking to the babysitter. The wifey answered the door).

There’s no way I would have ever found a way to actually attempt this blog thing if I still allowed myself to be paranoid about other people. To me, this is a lot of vulnerability and opening myself to a lot of judgement. Rearranging my mind to believe the best in others–and myself–made it possible.

3) Surround yourself with positive people.

Repeat after me, it is okay to be choosy about who you let in your inner circle.

My friend Kelly explained life to me like this: Imagine your life is a production, but YOU get to decide who attends the show. When someone buys a ticket to a show, the people in the front usually have more interaction and are more involved–they’re closer so they can see better and hear more. So, your life is a production. Not everyone gets a ticket. You’re in charge of who does and who doesn’t, and you decide where those guests sit. YOU decide who is in your front row and involved in your life, and you decide who observes from the back, and you decide who isn’t invited at all

It is okay to cut toxic people from your life. It is okay to cut people who are not necessarily toxic, but expect more from you than they are willing to give back to you, or who expect you to give more of yourself than is healthy for you. Your mental, emotional, and physical health are important and it is okay to value your health. And allowing self-doubt is not good for your emotional health or mental health. Anyone who is holding you back from believing in yourself needs to be moved to the nosebleed section or escorted out. (And did you notice I did not specify that you could/should only cut friends? Sometimes family can be the most toxic people. You are not a bad person if you limit them, too.)

Most productions are not a one show deal.

They sell tickets multiple times. You might have to show someone out for a while, but that doesn’t mean they can never get a seat again.

Surround yourself with positive people and a quality cheering section. When you’re feeling down, when self-doubt is sneaking in, call them and let them become your inner voice. My front row makes me feel like I can take on the world.

4) Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

You might not know this yet, but I am funny. Like, super funny. But I am also socially awkward and often lost in my own head and a little uncouth so sometimes people don’t understand that I am funny. Give it time. You’ll warm up to my humor.

I read others’ blogs and think Man, I wish I was funny like her/him! But if I was, I wouldn’t be me. I need to find and use my voice, and it’s okay if others don’t like who I am. (See number 1 above) 

5) Find some inspiration.

Find a quote, Bible verse, or mantra that you can repeat to yourself to motivate you to keep going. My personal favorite quote is one my middle school choir teacher made us all memorize:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

I’m not going to be an awesome mom or kick-ass wife or successful blogger if I allow myself to drown in self-doubt. Excellence is a habit. If I am going to succeed I have to strive for excellence until it comes naturally.

You can get ideas for a personal mantra in many places. Google inspirational quotes, do a Pinterest search, or, if you’re religious, look for Bible verses that encourage you.

Don’t overthink this and don’t overlook it.

Words are powerful. Albus Dumbledore says that words are “our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” Find words that remedy your self-doubt and cling to them.

6) To quote Nike, “Just Do It.”

Whatever it is you want to accomplish–just go for it. If you never try, you’ll never know. 

I have no idea right now if I will be a successful blogger, but it’s worth a shot, so I’m going to do it.

What are YOUR tried and true methods for battling self-doubt? Share them in the comments!

Knowing and following your dreams is not for the faint of heart. It is hard to honestly evaluate yourself and assess your possibilities Click below receive a download for this FREE 28 Day Inspirational Journal. Use it to take a few minutes each day to focus on YOU. Read the inspirational quote and the daily prompt to reflect on who you are and where you are headed.

Inspirational Dream Journal
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