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Is Self-Doubt Undermining Everything You do?

Updated on June 6, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

When self-doubt sets in, we loose the life-giving substances that keep our soul functioning properly.
When self-doubt sets in, we loose the life-giving substances that keep our soul functioning properly.

Are you experiencing self-doubt?

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The plague of self-doubt

Self-doubt is like a contagious virus. Once it enters the bloodstream, it spreads like wild-fire, permeating every system, infecting every organ, leaving the functioning of the entire body in a state of suspended animation, unable to continue with its vital life giving mission.

Sweat breaks out on the forehead, butterflies take up permanent residence in the stomach, the knees become weak, and the heart decreases its flow of blood to the extremities. The hands turn clammy and cold, the feet think that they will never feel warmth again, and the head seems to shrink in size.

Self-doubt turns off our reasons for living. We feel that we are not even worthy of the very air that we breathe, let alone the life giving substance that is coursing through our veins. We loose our focus, our nerves become jumbled, and electrical impulses from the brain slow to a deathly crawl.

The paragraphs below address the following questions:

  • Where does self-doubt come from?
  • Why is it so devastating?
  • How do we overcome it?

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil....

— Moroni 7:16*

Where does self-doubt come from?

Self-doubt doesn't just happen. It begins outside of ourselves. We are all born with the ability to detect right from wrong. The scriptures call this the "Spirit of Christ" or the "Light of Christ." We commonly call this our "conscience." It is the inner voice with which we are all endowed at birth

The nurturing influences of our surroundings enhance our natural ability, and give us the elements required for us to grow and flourish. Just like plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients from the soil, human beings need sustenance, protection, and unconditional love in order to thrive.

If, however, our environmental influences do not enhance our natural ability, we grow up thinking and feeling that our worth is dependent upon what we do rather than who we are. When the following elements are present, our worth becomes questionable:

  • Criticism - when those who care for us express disapproval of our actions rather than teaching us how to behave, we develop avoidance tactics in an effort to win their approval. We try to do things differently and our inner sense of worth becomes dependent upon how others treat us.
  • Abuse - criticism that gets out of hand can be considered emotional abuse. There is also physical, financial, sexual, and economic abuse. Any kind of abuse steals the worth of the victim and develops chronic issues with self-doubt.
  • Neglect - the withholding of resources, whether physical, educational, medical, or emotional, engenders self-doubt in its victims that stays with them for the rest of their lives, even when good things happen.
  • Loneliness - whether loneliness is self-imposed or caused by unfortunate circumstances, it leaves people wondering if they are really worthwhile. Self-doubt becomes a shadow that hovers over everything they do and colors the world with shades of gray.
  • Tragedy - tragedy takes from us everything that is familiar. As a result, we begin to question our own sense of worth and the very existence of God. We go through a grieving process filled with pain and difficulty.

When we doubt ourselves, we become confused, both in our thoughts, and in our feelings.
When we doubt ourselves, we become confused, both in our thoughts, and in our feelings.

Why is self-doubt so devastating?

Self-doubt leads to self-loathing, self-hate, self-abandonment, self-harm, and even self-destruction. It is the bitter seed of discouragement, depression, and despair. By the time we realize that we have it, its dirty work has already been done, and our sense of defeat is entrenched.

Self-doubt is the stuff of which addictive behaviors are made. We think that we can drown our pain, numb our senses, and get high to escape, only to find out that in the end, we are lower than when we started. We want to get away from it, but everywhere we go, it comes with us, reminding us that we are no good, destined to fail.

Our feelings of worth are based upon our core beliefs. Self-doubt brings our core beliefs into question. We may have once thought that we were worthwhile people, but now we do not know for sure. We look for evidence in the world around us and do not find it, therefore, our doubts are substantiated and we are left to flounder in unbelief.

The waves lick at our feet as the sand upon which we have built our foundation washes away to the depths of the sea. There is nothing left, no reason for living, no hope for the future, and no answers to the questions that burn within us. The time has come for us to either sink or swim. Which will it be?

These Six Destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief—all erode and destroy our faith.

— Kevin W. Pearson

How do we overcome self-doubt?

There is no medical cure for chronic self-doubt. It is always there, lying dormant until an unfortunate event causes it to rear its ugly head. Then, the only thing that will conquer it is connecting to a power beyond ourselves.

The problem, however, lies in our inability to believe. When we loose faith in ourselves, we also loose faith in others, even loosing faith in the very God who created us. We adopt an existential philosophy that death is the end, therefore, we did not exist before we came here. There is no such thing as right or wrong, good or evil, and it does not matter what we do with our lives.

This is a very dangerous place to find ourselves. It is in this state of denial that we do the most damage. Our wake-up call may be hitting rock bottom. In his book, The Walk, Richard Paul Evans tells the story of fictional character, Alan Christoffersen, ad executive in Seattle, Washington.

Alan's wife is injured in a horse riding accident and eventually looses her life. While he is dealing with this tragedy, his business partner steals his company. The financial devastation leaves him unemployed and homeless.

Alan's journey to oblivion and back is the story of him conquering self-doubt and finding faith in himself, others, and God. A compelling story, it gives us an idea of what we must go through in order to conquer self-doubt in our own lives.

When we feel the unconditional love of God, the veins of our soul are cleansed.
When we feel the unconditional love of God, the veins of our soul are cleansed.

Standing at the crossroads

Evan's book tells how time and again, Christofferson stands at a crossroads where he can either go with self-doubt and continue in a path of self-destruction, or make the choice to believe. We, too, in our lives, have this opportunity daily. For only a split second, we see before us the fork in the path.

We know where the path of self-doubt leads, and the end is not a pretty one. Exercising faith is taking the path away from self-doubt into the unknown. We may not know what lies ahead but we see the light beckoning us onward. Only as we take that step into the unknown will the path continue to be lighted, leading us onward.

As our confidence in ourselves increases, we feel the cleansing power of the unconditional love of God pouring into our souls. It gradually washes away the grunge of self-doubt, and feeds us with the life-giving nutrients for which we have been starved.

The way is not easy. There will continue to be forks in the road where we must make difficult choices, but the way becomes more clear, and our ability to choose it stronger as we go along. We learn from our mistakes and rejoice in our successes as we depend upon our Savior to strengthen and help us.

The decision to believe is the most important choice we ever make.

— L. Whitney Clayton

Like Christoffersen, each one of us has within us the ability to believe. Putting our faith and trust in God is not a single event, rather a daily choice that we make. The atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ is not just for those who sin. It is for everyone: the hurting, the lonely, the confused, the angry, and the depressed.

Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God's unconditional love. He suffered all that we might be able to turn to him in our daily walk. Just knowing that he felt as we feel, that he suffered as we suffer, and he loves us, no matter what, gives us strength to believe.

The love of God is the only constant in this world of change. Basing our worth upon his unconditional love is the only way we will make it through. It is the only foundation made of solid rock upon which we can build and not fall.

Self-doubt is nothing more than a illusion, a dark cloud that blinds us from our true worth as sons and daughters of God. When we realize this, and take the time to open our eyes, we will find that which we truly seek: peace and happiness. The time we take daily to sit at his table and feast upon his word fills us with a realization that there is a way. He is the way!

*Moroni is found in the Book of Mormon, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Belief in a power beyond our own allows self-doubt to be dispelled.
Belief in a power beyond our own allows self-doubt to be dispelled.

© 2016 Denise W Anderson


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    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Craig, I appreciate you being open with me enough to ask this important question. I would not consider my answer a "rebuttal" but rather a sharing of knowledge that I have gained from my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has been substantiated by my professional experience.

      We have scripture that has been revealed in our day that gives us additional light and knowledge on this important subject. In Moroni 7:16 (The Book of Mormon, see we read: "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God."

      This scripture in Moroni tells us us that we are born with the ability to detect right from wrong. Most people call this our "conscience" or "inner voice." The environment in which we are raised either enhances it or diminishes our ability to use it.

      Having given birth to seven children, I am always amazed at their ability to recognize pictures of the Savior, even before they have been taught about him formally. Children come with a remembrance of their life before this world. They know and recognize good when they experience it, it gives them peace and happiness, and they trust it. They also know bad when they experience it, and will immediately shrink from it, and try to avoid it.

      What we do as parents will enhance the faith and trust of our children, and thus their ability to detect right from wrong, or will destroy this ability. Once lost, the only way to get it back is to make connection with God. This relationship heightens our ability to detect good from evil, and strengthens our power to overcome it.

      As a trained School Psychologist, I have seen this principle in action firsthand. Young children are naturally bright, full of life, and trust easily. Families who treat their children with love and respect protect and enhance this light, and help their children grow to be positive, productive adults.

      Families who treat their children unkindly, shaming, blaming, or demeaning them for their innocence, destroy this natural light. These children loose their ability to trust and love, and their behavior disintegrates into anger, hatred, and bitterness. They have no desire to good to others, but only give back the hurt that they have received.

      This phenomena can only be reversed when these children reconnect with that God who gave them life, and choose for themselves to be connected to it. Then, and only then, will the light come back on for them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago from Dushore, pa

      "We adopt an existential philosophy that death is the end, therefore, we did not exist before we came here. There is no such thing as right or wrong, good or evil, and it does not matter what we do with our lives.".....

      Very well said.

      If we lose sight of God, we lose sight of good vs. evil; then, basically, our conduct becomes destructive to ourselves and to our loved ones and friends.

      I do disagree on one point though - that we are born with an internal knowledge of right vs. wrong. I believe that such a "compass" is taught to us. To this point, what would be your rebuttal?

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is a tough situation. I had that problem for a long time, and it seemed to really put me in a downward spiral with my depression. It took me going through cognitive behavioral therapy to understand that my thought processes were contributing to the problems. I learned how to look for thought patterns of criticism, perfectionism, fault-finding, and blame. Your awareness is a big first step in the healing process. If you can catch yourself with these types of thought patterns and work through them, it will help. I appreciate your comments.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have a huge self doubt problem and my fiancée tries to convince me that I should stop but it is inside me and I am not sure how, I genuinely don't feel smart or capable no matter how hard she tries to convince me that I am.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are welcome, Dr. Pran. Self-doubt is one of the worst distorted thinking patterns that can befall us, and we are all susceptible. The world we live in is full of cynicism and negativity, and we are put down on every side. Faith is the only shield we have to strengthen us against this issue. I appreciate your comments!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      5 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      A very good hub. It is true that self-doubt is one of the most destructive forces for our psyche. I like your last quote - Faith is like sunlight to the soul.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is interesting, Dora, how our thought patterns have such an effect on our emotions and our ability to function in our lives. Belief gives us confidence that we are worthwhile people, and that there is a reason to go on living. Faith in God is the direct result of choosing to believe, and faith dissipates our self-doubt. Thanks for your insightful comments!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Even the physical effects of self-doubt, as you describe them, can destroy us. "The problem, however, lies in our inability to believe." We really need help to overcome this monster and you offered great help. Thank you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Yes, Devika, it is problematic, especially among those who have problems with their emotional health. It tends to show up when we least expect it, and we would be wise to learn how to deal with it before it causes us major problems. I appreciate your comments.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Self-doubt is experienced by many individuals. Interesting and valuable points mentioned.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, Eric, we all deal with self-doubt to some degree. Our ability to recognize it when it happens, and do what it takes to overcome it, determines our ability to move forward, making decisions that will determine a better destiny for ourselves. I, too, deal with self-doubt right before I publish an article. I feel like I am stepping out into the unknown, not sure of what will happen. Thankfully, I have people like you that give me strength and encouragement! I appreciate your comments!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I like that, Bill, you are able to put limits on your self-doubts, and keep them from causing you undue distress. If more people did that, there would be a lot less negative emotions in the world! Our ability to use our minds to control how we feel is an important part of our emotional health. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is an interesting observation, Glenn. Self-doubt is at the root of much of the depression that people experience, at least, it is for me. You have discovered a way to deal with it by recalling to your mind times when you have been successful. Thanks for sharing that tool with us. Many times, people with self-doubt will discount their own successes or explain them away, rather than allowing themselves to use them to build a foundation of greater courage and faith. Stepping out into the unknown does require courage, but with faith, we can do it! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for sharing your experience, JP. Faith is the critical piece that is missing when we are drowning in self-doubt. It takes effort on our part to exert our belief in something beyond ourselves before we can have that breakthrough of which you speak. I appreciate your comments!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great job! I think we all suffer to some degree this problem. I know I do for all the reasons stated. I just had a bad case deciding to publish an article or not. This is a tricky demon and you dealt with it very well. Thank you

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have self-doubt just as many other writers do, but I refuse to allow it to paralyze me. :) I am a firm believer in the power of the mind....I simply will not let my fears control who I am or dictate what I do or don't do. :)

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Denise, While reading your hub I found chronic self-doubt to be very depressing. I guess I'm lucky because I was always aware of a trick to avoid feeling doubtful. Whenever I find myself approaching a task that I'm not sure I can achieve, I try to remember similar tasks that I had been successful with. They gives me the courage to move on.

      Something you said also stood out for me. "Stepping into the unknown shows the light." This is definitely a powerful way to succeed. We just need the courage to take that step. I like to think of it as taking one step at a time. Each step is easy because it's only one step. But added together, they lead to a competed goal.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      There was once a point in my life where everything seems to be futile. No amount of encouragement can lift my spirit up. Whatever I did seemed insignificant. And I was right. It was only when I acknowledge that Jesus alone can save me did I start to feel empowered. Some call it psychological breakthrough or some other fancy phrases. I simply call it faith. Your hub will help others to understand that although self-doubt may eat us from within, there is still hope.


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