5 Reasons Why Self-Doubt Is a Waste of Time (and how to change your mentality)

Tom-Crusie-in-mission-impossbile-ghost-protocol
We’re a species of doubters, cynics and self-deprecators – forever searching for that one elusive reason as to why something won’t work, why we shouldn’t do it or why we’re just plain useless.

Animals don’t care. Neither do kids. The concept of embarrassment and failure is alien to these quirky life forms. They tend to exist in the present moment – you know, the only time when stuff actually happens.

Both cats and children will scream at you if they want something. They don’t worry about what we think of them. They will happily steal food from your plate if you turn your back for even a second.

They don’t give a damn. But we do…

We give all the damns.

“Oh, I don’t know if I can do that…”

“What if someone doesn’t agree with me?”

“If only I was different… I’d do something… different…”

Stop it. There’s no need. Here’s why…

1. If one person agrees with you – a million others will

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Do you ever feel ashamed when you catch yourself caressing your laptops mouse pad a little too affectionately? How about that nagging curiosity as to why visiting McDonald’s always seems to involve the happiest meal of the week? And who can forget the time you realised the rush of Nicolas Cage punching a woman in the face wasn’t due to The Wicker Man’s tight storytelling and brilliant directing, but because the sight of a former Oscar winner clad head to toe in a giant bear suit had you reaching for the honey pot.

If any of this rings a bell – and it really shouldn’t… then you’re probably afflicted with Mechanophilia, Coulrophilia or Plushophilia. Which, to those of us who don’t have to take part in potentially weird Google searches for the sake of research (honest), is a sexual attraction towards inanimate objects, clowns or people dressed up as furry animals.

These things exist.

There’s probably someone out there who gets hot under the collar by the sight of a clown driving a car with a teddy bear in the passenger seat. Honk honk.

But they wouldn’t be alone. Where there’s one… there’s more.

So what if you have a strange hobby, strong political beliefs or an acquired taste for cheese soup – you’re not the only one. There’s a market out there for everything. Just because it’s not the norm, doesn’t mean you should feel ashamed, embarrassed or even ostracised by society.

The fact that you think this way – is proof a million others will too.

Apart from liking cheese soup – you weirdo!

*The Wicker Man was awful. I must clarify this.

2. Only ask for an opinion if you don’t have the answer – otherwise, go for it

derren_brown

Here’s a game I would like you to play. Think back to the last time you asked someone for their opinion.

Have you got it? Brilliant, now which of the following thoughts popped into your head?

  1. You really think so? Thanks for your help – you’ve given me a lot to think about.
  2. Ah, ok, but I was thinking that…
  3. Are you fucking crazy?

I’m going to go all Derren Brown on you now and assume it definitely wasn’t option A.

Do you know why? It’s because we only ask opinions as a way of legitimising the decisions we’ve already made. We don’t really care what other people think, we just want to fuel our ego by earning another person’s approval – which just happens to be the reason why we immediately start questioning their judgement (or their sanity) if their response falls short of expectations.

‘When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you’, or something…

You already know the answer to 99% of your questions. We all have an instinct which steers us in the required direction long before our brain even knows what day of the week it is. All of this self-doubt, the hesitation, the mental pros and cons we force ourselves through with every decision is just a waste of time and effort.

You can spend hours debating with yourself (or some other idiot) or you can just embrace the feeling you’re already experiencing. Both options will invariably lead to the same outcome – the correct decision.

And if not… fuck it, there’s always next time.

3. Would you genuinely trade lives/bodies with another person? Didn’t think so

We’ve all experienced those wonderful moments where our eyes glaze over and we can’t help but cast a loving, and slightly envious watch over those lucky bastards blessed with whatever it is we would murder our own granny to possess.

For some people, it’s good looks. Chiselled creations of beauty and sexiness that wouldn’t look out of place if was stood on a plinth, balls hanging out, fully displayed in a swanky museum – probably somewhere in Italy or Greece.

For others it’s wealth. The privileged few – splashing their cash on the latest designer accessory without a seconds thought for whether they need it, want it, or if they have enough spare change leftover for a tin of baked beans and a week’s supply of sporks.

Or maybe it’s relationships. Those overly overt public displays of affection – as two seemingly happy and incredibly soppy individuals become lost in a sea of their own saliva, faces welded together in a squelchy vacuum of endless potential and socially awkward lather.

But do we really want to be in their shoes?

If Tom Hanks taught us anything (and he’s damn well tried), it’s that wishing to be someone else is as futile as it gets. You may feel all big and clever, but inside you’re still a naughty little boy, and eventually you will always revert back to doing little boy stuff – like dancing on an oversized floor piano.

big-tom-hanks

It’s a logical fallacy. Believing things would be better if you were someone else. For a start – you’d just be another person wishing they were another person, living another life, a better life. Like the overworked and underappreciated nurse – forever campaigning for a higher salary and better working conditions, yet failing to understand that a doubling of their salary and a reduction of working hours would only result in a mass influx of newer, younger and better trained staff – increasing the competition and with it, a higher risk of redundancy.

Don’t wish to be someone else. Don’t blame the world for your lot. Don’t spend the rest of your life trapped in the limbo state of the ‘if only’.

We all shit. We all die. We all have the choice of what to make ourselves in the meantime.

4. Everyone shits themselves – successful people just carry spare underwear

Speaking of toilet related shenanigans – metaphorically, anyway…

There is no such thing as being ready. You can be prepared – that’s a thing, and a very good thing it is, but ready? No. The anxiety you feel when attempting to leave your comfort zone will be there regardless of what’s come before. Leaving your comfort zone is exactly what it says. If you weren’t, then you’d still be inside it and, well… comfortable.

In other words – without the roundabout and needlessly long winded explanation; doing some scary shit is scary shit.

So why do some people continually push forwards and test themselves at every opportunity while others enter a state of blind panic and a thousand excuses?

The reason is simple. They carry spare underwear – metaphorically speaking (that’s my word of the day).

It’s all about awareness and acceptance. Everyone feels fear. When Mayweather and Pacquiao stood face to face ahead of the most anticipated fight in decades – they were bricking it. When Arnold Schwarzenegger travelled from Graz to New York to compete against some of the best bodybuilders in the world, he was full of self-doubt. When Tiger Woods competed at this year’s Masters Tournament having not won a major in 7 years, following a self-imposed indefinite hiatus and a career low ranking of 111, he was doing so without a clue as to what would happen.

Let’s talk about that.

tigerwoods

His game was broken. His swing was broken. His reputation was on the verge of being devoured by one of the most demanding courses on the planet. Yet he prepared himself by practising from sunrise to sunset – meticulously fine tuning his weaknesses until the cracks were a little less noticeable.

He was going to tee-off on that opening day. That much he knew. Whatever else happens… well, who cares?

Tiger strolled out onto the opening tee with the confidence befitting a man truly embracing the noble art of acceptance.

It’s all about that spare pair.

We’ll just ignore his recent performance at the US Open…

5. You’ve done it before – so do it again

Once we reach a certain age, nothing is really new. Sure, something might feel like an alien concept but if you take a deep breath, calm down and peer beneath the surface – you’ll probably find it’s just like that other thing you did.

So it’s your first day at a new job? Well, you’ve probably done that before, but if you haven’t – just think about your first day at college, your first day joining up with your new teammates or your first day at play school. It’s all the same. Next…

So you’re starting a new relationship? Well, you’ve probably dated before, right? But if you haven’t – think back to when you became friends with that strange kid who sat in the corner and picked his nose. It’s all the same. Next…

So you’ve made a huge mistake? Well, you’ve probably ballsed it up before, but if you haven’t – just think how many times you face planted the floor as a toddler. Up until that moment you did nothing for yourself. You just lazed around, staring up at the world, free of negative thoughts alongside a fledgling dream of a sloth-like future. But something changed. You stood up. You felt 10 feet tall – full of energy, optimism and new found freedom. Nothing was going to stop you now.

‘I’m going to take over the world!’ you cried…

Then you fell over.

But it’s ok. You tried agafonzin. One step became two. Two steps became three.

So what if you had a headache. You were strutting around like The Fonz – and not only because the toilet was your office. You were cool. You still are. Heeeeeyyyyy.

Sorry, I was a little carried away there. What’s my point? Oh yeh, the entire point of this article.

Keep moving forwards.

You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have a few bad days. But it’s cool. There’s nothing to worry about because no matter what – You always manage to stumble through. Even during your darkest and most crippling moments, there was always light at the end of the tunnel.

And it’s often during these moments – when you’re lost in a wave of confusion and self-doubt, that you realise how far you’ve really come.

Sometimes, you’re not even sure the destination exists.

There’s never a reliable map. There’s certainly no GPS. Just point A, point B, and the knowledge you’ll get there eventually.

How do I know that? It’s simple.

It’s what we do.

Take this excerpt from a recent reddit thread titled ‘Bad day at the gym, completely demoralized.’

First exercise was squatting. I warmed up with 55 then started 65 for the 5×5. Everything went pretty well until the last rep on the fourth set. Took a nasty spill and landed on my right knee to prevent myself from falling backwards. A couple people laughed. That hurt more than falling down. I got back on the horse and finished up the last set at 60. Next exercise was deadlift. I never really got the hang of the form for a proper deadlift so I practiced it while looking in the mirror. Started my first set at 55 but couldn’t get the form down, my right knee kept buckling and gave out on the fourth rep, causing me to fall once more. Same people laughed and got many looks in my direction because of the loud noise. Feeling completely embarrassed at this point, I put the bar and the weights in their places, and left with my head hanging low.

I know everyone experiences failure once in a while, but having it served to me firsthand coupled with people laughing just destroyed my confidence.

Ouch, huh? This kid felt embarrassed. His self-confidence was at an all-time low. Such was his pain that he turned to the internet in the hope someone might be able to show a little support.

Then something amazing happened. Someone did reply. His name was Arnold…

Someone told me about this. I hope I’m not too late here, I’m traveling, but I wanted to chime in.

I always say don’t be afraid of failure, because how far can you really fall? You found out – to the ground. It’s right there. Now you know it isn’t anything that should scare you.

You should be proud that you weren’t afraid – not embarrassed that you failed. You could have made excuses not to walk into the door, but you didn’t. You knew it would be hard, and it would be uncomfortable, and it might be awkward – and you did it anyway. That’s courage.

I’m proud of you.

The last guy I rooted for broke a world record in the deadlift. You have more in common with him than you think.

First, he started out lifting just the bar, too (when you look at him, he may have been 3 months old at that point). Second, imagine his courage. He walked up to that bar in front of a big audience and television cameras, knowing that not only had he never lifted that much before – NO ONE on earth had – and it was highly likely he would completely fail. You may not think about it this way, but you showed that courage, on a smaller level.

Finally, I’m rooting for you, too. You took the first step and you fell, but at least you fell in the right direction, so get back up and take the next step. Keep moving forward.

Can you imagine reading that? How that must have felt?

A few guys sniggered at the gym and he was so drained of self-belief the only option was to quit and get the hell out of there. That’s what self-doubt can do. But it’s weak. It’s always temporary. It lives from one moment to the next – scurrying around inside your head, looking for reasons to convince you it was right all along. Like a hamster and the wheel, running furiously in blind panic as he tries to keep the momentum going.

This shit takes effort. It’s why negativity is draining.

The greatest bodybuilder of all time pops up and tells him everything is going to be ok. He tells him that even the strongest men on the planet have no idea if they will be able to lift that weight. He tells him that because he went for it, stumbled, and then managed to carry on and finish his set – is proof he had the right mentality all along.

This is how he felt;

I’m in total shock right now, but thank you so much Mr. Schwarzenegger. I was completely blindsided by the amount of support /r/gainit showed me, but this something else. I’m going to make sure I come back to this subreddit bigger and stronger to show everyone here that supported me that I stayed on the path and didn’t give up.

/u/GovSchwarzenegger told me he’s proud of me and that he is rooting for me. I’m never going to let him down, /r/gainit, and most importantly myself.

Really at a loss for words right now, but all of this brought me to tears. I’ve never felt this empowered in my life and I can’t thank you all enough. You all made today pretty fucking awesome.

Because he is fucking awesome; and so are you.

There’s no doubt about it.

 

How do you deal with negative thoughts and self doubt? 

Let me know in the comments.

As always – please share via the little social media icons below. Thank you!

About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm – Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!

Comments

  1. Jamie,
    Very true, we can defeat ourselves before we start with negative self-fulfilling prophecies about our perceived inadequacies. I do think recognizing what you’ve got and working with that is a great start.
    And can I point out that the original Wicker Man staring Christopher Lee was very good?

    • Hi Peter, I haven’t seen the original but I’ve heard it’s a horror classic. Then again, the remake is a classic too.. but for very dubious reasons!

  2. Thank you for the article – Never give in 😉

  3. I am happy to see you in my email again, Jamie! I was going through my emails while eating super expensive chocolates in the bathroom, door locked so I wouldn’t have to share with my guy or my five year old, both of which cannot appreciate great chocolate. And I saw this article, bam! We are trying to figure out our next moves to make as a family, after having spent 7 months last year living in our van, traveling across Canada working on farms and just living! But our next move is what we are struggling with. Play it safe or have another adventure for a few months? It plagues us. But man, oh man, this writing helps me. A lot. As most of your writing has in the past. Live how we want to live without feeling bad about choosing a different lifestyle. Having the confidence to go for it and well, if it doesn’t – at least we fucking tried. Keep up the amazing work and glad to see you back! Your writing is inspiring!

    • Thanks Cece – I’ve always wondered where people read my articles, so I’m glad I finally know the answer 😉

      As long as you do whatever is right at any given moment, then you’ll have made the right decision. If it doesn’t work out – then it just means the right decision wasn’t right in the long term. It’s only the wrong decision if, when you make it, it doesn’t feel right to begin with.

      I think that makes sense…

  4. Hi Jamie,

    It’s been a while. It’s great to know you’re back and that you are dropping some wisdom bombs.

    Thanks for clarifying that the Wicker Man is awful, by the way.

    I love number 4. and I have to agree with you, we’ll never be full ready.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article and I look forward to reading more.

    And also you’re ebook was awesome. It took me a lot of time to read it since I was busy but you’ve made some really practical and powerful points.

    Stay awesome!

    Luna
    Luna darcy recently posted..Finding The Courage to Continue: 10 Quotes to Lift You Up When Failure Knock You DownMy Profile

    • Hi Luna, thanks for your kind words (and for making it through the eBook).

      I might have to watch the Wicker Man again… or at least embed the fight scene clip in the article… it needs another viewing. Why.. I don’t know.

  5. Hi Jamie, awesome as usual. I wanted to share my ‘story’. I’m in the entertainment biz, and although my friends and family are supportive, they never ever ever actually tell me I’m doing well or anything like that. My own sister said ‘I’d had too many advantages’ so she wouldn’t donate to my crowdfunding campaign (Which, wasn’t just to benefit me). I thought, what advantages? I moved out of home to go to college at 17, had to pay my own way, as well as rent and figuring out how to do all that kind of independant stuff. I worked three jobs plus school at one point. Never borrowed money in my life. Now, I own my own business and I’m on TV here in my home town. I worked pretty damned hard, and took some knocks that would cause some people a heap of embarrasment. But I always get up, because I think, if I don’t do it, who will?

    But I’m thinking.. If SHE thinks I had unfair advantages, when I clearly didn’t (No help from mom and dad, although they’ve always been my biggest fans)- is this why my friends won’t share my videos or vote for me when I’m up for something? They’re all supportive when we’re just hanging out.. I’m confused. It’s getting to the point where I think, what’s the point? If I can’t enjoy my little tidbit of success with those I love, then what am I doing wrong?

    Don’t get me wrong, I do this for myself. But.. y’know.

    • Hi Leela, thank you. It just sounds like a bit of envy and insecurity from your friends and family. I don’t think people do these things out of spite, it’s almost an unconscious reaction to their own struggles.

      You know how hard you’ve worked, and while it doesn’t seem it, they do support you – if not verbally. The most important thing is that you please yourself and not others – that’s the fast track to misery.

  6. Hey man! First time I am commenting, I have been reading you for a while, and this post made a connection with me. Thanks for writing and keeping up your work, don’t stop 😉

    Greetings from Venezuela,
    have a wonderful day, and take care 🙂

    Dan
    Daniel recently posted..Enseñar e Inspirar | ¿Cómo cambiar Venezuela?My Profile

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