All of us struggle with feelings of self-doubt, especially when we are about to launch into new territory like start a business, get a new job that’s “bigger” than any we’ve had before, pursue a new opportunity. That’s pretty normal because breaking out of the norm is scary. In a good way usually. But when doubt keeps us from embracing these new opportunities then that’s dangerous.
Feelings of inadequacy usually sound like this: “I am not ……… Enough” (jaza pengo). Not good enough, not qualified enough, not attractive enough, not sophisticated enough, not tall enough, not capable enough, not old enough, not smart enough…. not enough basically. Some of us feel like this about work or our relationships whilst some of us feel it as the general reality of our lives. So we find ourselves stuck in a job(s) that we don’t really like, where we feel underutilized and underpaid but we can’t move because we feel grossly under qualified or inexperienced for the job we want. Or we tell ourselves that the job market is so bad we should be grateful we even have a job. One of the Bible heroes, Moses, when called by God to go and rescue the Israelites from Egypt told God “Who am I that you should send me? Suppose they don’t believe me. I have never been eloquent; I am slow of speech and tongue. Please send someone else.”
We hop from one bad relationship into another or stay in an unhealthy one where we are abused (verbally, physically, emotionally or even sexually) because we think we are the problem and no one else will love us. After all it took so long to get this guy/girl to even be with you. Plus there are no good (wo)men left in the world, we convince ourselves. We shy away from networking, socializing, group activity because we don’t fit in; we’re not smart enough, funny enough, rich enough, connected enough… We keep to ourselves because we don’t think we have much to offer others even in form of good conversation.
Just like habits are developed over our lifetime (read my blog entry “Achieve what you want”) self esteem is similarly molded daily. By our experiences and our response to them. Our self deprecation, the reason we have such little faith in our abilities and what we have to offer the world, stems from various sources. Perhaps as children we received constant negative criticism from our parents or teachers that led us to believe that we can’t get anything right, we’re so clumsy or that our heads (brains) are too thick to get math. We may have grown up or spent most of our adult life feeling unloved and therefore figured it’s because we are unlovable. Being in abusive relationships can also up the gauge of self-doubt quite high. Eventually we get to a point where we don’t do or give our best then when we fail we attribute it to our not being good enough. Thus begins the vicious cycle of self-sabotage.
In 2010 I quit my job to start my own business. Scary and difficult are two words that quickly come to mind. I constantly oscillated between being convinced that it was the best decision I had ever made and at the same time that I had no clue what I was doing. As everyone who has started a business will tell you it takes a while for your business to get into full throttle. Usually years. Some days business is good and other days not so much. It is even more difficult if you’re introducing a new concept. I faced quite a number of disappointments and two years late despite encouragement from friends and family I decided to throw in the towel and wrap up that chapter. You can imagine the disappointment and feeling of failure that racked me. One of the greatest lessons I have learnt from my mentor (herself an entrepreneur) is that I’ve got to be patient with myself. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you believe in it you’ve got to stick with it until it comes to fruition. Adapting, changing and putting in the work, reinventing until you’re meeting the needs of your target market. Now I know. Next time – yes there will be a next time, and soon – I shall not let self doubt stop me from pushing forward.
So, what can you do to conquer self doubt?
1. Develop unconditional positive self-regard – like, accept and love yourself as you are. God created you that way for a reason and it wasn’t to play a joke on you or the world. Embrace you and learn to love you. 1Corinthians 13 describes this love: patient, kind, doesn’t keep record of wrongs, protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Be all those things with yourself first.
2. Don’t compare yourself with others – there will always be those who are better and others who are in a worse state. You should only compare yourself with yourself. Strive to do better, be better, aim higher, achieve greater. Live to your fullest potential.
3. Put yourself out there – you’ve got to take risks. The door won’t open if you just sit there and stare at it. Go out, meet people, socialize, contribute to the conversation, share your idea no matter how stupid or ridiculous you think it is, apply for that job, start that business.. Do that which you fear even though you’re scared – that’s courage. Waiting won’t make the fear go away.
4. Build your esteem with positive self-talk – stop feeding yourself the negative statements. Instead replace those by telling yourself positive things. As man thinks in his heart so he becomes. You also need to start speaking with pride about where you are (since it’s on the way to where you are going) so no more “I’m JUST a messenger/secretary/bottom of food chain”. None of that “You know, I’m surviving/struggling…kung’ang’ana tu”.
5. Start with what you’ve got, where you are. And yes you have something – talent, passion, skills, experience, an idea.. Find that something and work with it. Don’t get stuck in the pursuit of more experience, more education, more…. Before you can launch out. I’ll write more about this soon.
6. Make a list – read this somewhere and thought it was a great idea. Write 5 things you like about yourself and keep them in a visible place or carry them in your wallet/purse. It’ll come in handy on the days you feel unlovable and undesirable. Then write 3 practical things you would like to change about yourself (preferably without surgery) and then start to slowly work on those.
Remember to cut yourself some slack when you’re starting something new because it takes time to build or develop, whether a habit, competence or a business. Be patient with yourself. Love yourself as you are and yet enough to improve yourself. But I’m too fat, too skinny, stuck in a dead end job, an old single maiden who nobody wants….blah blah blah. Thankfully you can change those things because you are CAPABLE.
So this week (and for as long as you live) remember not to settle for less because you deserve better. You are WORTHY of love, you are COMPETENT, you are BEAUTIFUL, you are SMART, you are ENOUGH. The creator of the Universe certainly thinks you’re worth dying for so who are you to think you’re not lovable or that you don’t deserve better.