Move from Self Doubt to Self Confidence

Xperience Growthblogposts

It’s the kind of mental coaching session I relish. It’s why I do the job.

The client on the other side of the screen had pushed themselves to yet another edge. And it got scary.

“I can see the things that it’s time to do. But, I’m doubting my abilities to make the decision and really go for it.”

When you can see that next step, that next great challenge in front of you and it feels like there’s dragons standing in your way… those aren’t dragons. Those are your demons.

It’s the demons of self doubt.

Self doubt is defined by the lack of belief in our skills & resources to deal with the situation at hand. Be it a real situation or one that we’re manufacturing in our head.

And, it happens to everyone and anyone who pushes themselves to the edge. The more you push to the edge, the more likely you are to encounter the demons.

The reality is that you’ve created the demons. At some point in time you found yourself in a situation where you didn’t feel in control – or that your resources were not adequate for the challenge. Those “demons” maybe scared you into backing off and playing it safe.

Because of the reward you felt (safely, freedom, control, etc.) your mind learned to bring up that emotional demon when you found yourself near the edge. The purpose is for you to back off the edge and not push past it. That served you – yet it’s now the thing that creates the doubt and holds you back.

It keeps us from making a big leap in our career. It keeps us from playing to our potential in the big moments. It keeps us from having the conversation with our partner. It can even make us question our worth.

What we want instead is confidence.

Confidence is the flip side of the coin. It’s the belief that we have the skills & resources to respond to the situation we’re facing.

There’s a great anecdote about PGA golfer Rickie Fowler from Michael Gervais book “The First Rule of Mastery: Stop Worrying About What Other People Think of You” (which I highly recommend). Fowler was participating in an experiment where he took 18 putts from various distances from the hole. He was “playing” against two less experienced competitive golfers in a simulated pressure moment with camera crews & spectators. He made 15 of 18. When asked about his performance, he responded that he made 17 good putts.

If “only” 15 went in, how could he say he made 17 good putts? Because he said, he was fully committed to 17 of the 18 and therefore had quality putts. Only 3 happened to not go in.

Those 17 putts show confidence in action. He fully committed, made an elite action and most hit the target exactly. The one where he wasn’t committed, I’m sure was reflected in the stroke and likely the outcome.

Fowler is used to competing in pressure moments MUCH more consequential to him than this moment, thus I feel assured in the idea that he felt he had the resources to handle this situation.

When we believe that we have the resources to meet the situation, we’ll have confidence and will be able to act with strength, resolve and courage. That will reduce our stress level, produce positive internal dialog, open ourselves up to greater creativity and ultimately translate into a more positive action.

I’m sure by now you are head nodding to say “yes, I want more confidence and less doubt.” Here’s how…

It can be found in the habit loop you created around your self doubt. If you follow my work, I talk a lot about habit loops – cues (or triggers) that create a response which leads to a reward. It’s a learned behavior that unconsciously happens to get us to reward. Even if that reward holds us back from a goal.

A self doubt loop may look something like this: visualize stepping into a new business venture (cue)… experiencing intense fear/worry/doubt and stop the action (response)… feel comfort (reward). Or standing over the ball on the first hole of a major championship golf tournament (cue)… experiencing doubt that stresses muscles to tighten (response)… feeling a sense of control (reward).

That first scenario, keeps you out of action, which kills the dream. The second scenario forces a misaligned golf shot and a likely fairway miss.

The problem here isn’t the cue of course. We do want that venture; you do want to play in the tournament. The problem isn’t the reward; we all seek comfort and control.

The problem is the response… the feeling and action that it created in these scenarios.

The address the loop, you keep the cue & reward & change the response. What is something that you want to do instead when you experience the cue that will still give you the same reward and the potential for a better outcome? For these scenarios, what would lead to uncovering the resources you already have inside of you to respond positively to the situation?

My client and I work on the old habit loop around what the edge looked like and what they experienced. For them, the habit loop took place entirely in their mind, so the solution was also found in their thinking.

Their self doubling response was an image that fueled the doubt. Instead they found an image that has also been useful in providing reassurance. We practiced over and over the cue and the new image… cue and new image…. cue and new image. They worked on that over the course of the week in practice. Additionally, I encouraged them to make a checklist of when they experienced the cue and did the new image.

The client tapped into their internal resources, gained the confidence and pushed past the edge that was stopping them. That created more confidence in seeing their resources play out.

Self doubt does not have to be your default state. You DO have the resources to raise up your situation. Sometimes all it takes is finding that belief in you to bring your natural confidence out.