Is Self-Doubt Undermining Everything You do?
Are you experiencing self-doubt?
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.
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.
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.
© 2016 Denise W Anderson