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Dealing with Self-Doubt
Fighting the overreaction bias
I recently had one of those days. I sat down in front of my computer and my mind was racing. Unfortunately not with things beneficial for my writing but with thoughts full of self-doubt.
“You don’t have a topic to write about.”
“If you’re not coming up with something soon then you will not meet your writing goal.”
“Nothing you say is of importance to others and you’re not good enough anyway.”
If you’ve had these kinds of conversations with your inner-self before then you know how they feel. Here’s how I’m dealing with self-doubt when it hits me. Maybe this will help you too.
The walk towards inspiration
What did people like Albert Einstein, Charles Dickens, Soren Kierkegaard, and Steve Jobs have in common?
They went for walks.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
Walking is proven not only to improve our health a lot, but it also helps to air out the brain and get new ideas.
Dickens once stated that if he couldn’t walk far and fast, he would “explode and perish” from the psychological burden of remaining still.
I did this yesterday. After sitting down in front of the computer, ready to write I sat there trying to come up with an article I wanted to write about but couldn’t. So I got up from my computer, took my jacket and went out.
I deliberately left my phone at home, only taking a pen and a small notebook with me. Then I walked and let my mind wander.
The overreaction bias
The overreaction bias is something I realized while taking a walk not long ago.
Whenever our inner-self starts to bombard us with phrases of self-doubt we are faced with the emotions they bring along.
The problem is that once these emotions hit, they attract more of the same. So we sit there and our self-doubt continues to increase and increase. The more it increases the more we’re swayed by our emotions. It’s a downward spiral.
This will lead us to overreact to the current situation and make us believe that we’re facing problems much bigger than we actually are.
Whenever our emotions hit us we tend to overreact to them and give them too much space in our heads. We overreact to these emotions and shift our bias to a more negative view on the things.
Our emotions make our problems seem so big that our very existence seems to be threatened.
Just because I’m not inspired the very second I sit down in front of my computer doesn’t mean that I should give up and stop writing. But that’s pretty much what my mind told me. “You’re not good enough anyway, so just quit.”
And it’s the very same thing with all the other self-doubts like “You missed the workout today. You’re lazy. You will never have your dream body” or “You’re not good enough for him/her anyway. Stop thinking you could ever be with that person. You’ll die lonely.” and “Forget it, you will never be successful anyway!”.
So whenever we come up with new ideas to solve a problem we instantly remind ourselves that things are way too bad for an easy solution to help us and that nothing we do could ever help.
That’s what I call the overreaction bias.
But how do we fight it?
As I said: Walking is a great way to start. Leave your phone at home so you are not constantly distracted by messages and get out there.
Nature helps me to calm my emotions and think clearly, so if you’re living in the city, maybe head for a park if that’s possible.
Now start asking yourself a few questions:
- Is my life currently in danger?
That’s probably going to be a “No”. If not then you’re in the wrong park at the wrong part of the city and should pick a different one next time
- Do I still have a roof over my head when I come home?
The answer is going to be “Yes”. Unless your flat burnt down because you let the oven running. So make sure to turn it off before you leave. Otherwise, chances are very high that you’ll find it intact when you come back.
- Do I still have food in the fridge or enough money to buy food?
Once again, “yes”.
- If I accept the problem I have right now, will 1.-3. still be the same tomorrow?
Again, this is going to be “No, Yes and Yes”.
- If I accept the problem, can I do something about it?
If “No”: Skip to 7., if “Yes”:
Great, you’re in the right spot now. You are walking and can let your mind wander and figure out a solution to the problem. If you can’t come up with one (for now!):
- Repeat Step 1.-4.
Alright perfect. Now we’ve established a very important thing:
Either we can figure out a way to solve the problem and can do something about it or we have just verified that it at least does not constitute a threat to our existence. We will still have a roof over our heads and food on the tables tomorrow.
Now let’s take this a step further to the final question:
8. Does your problem mean that you cannot take *any* actions?
This last question is important because if you stated “No” at #5, it will make you rethink your answer. If you think about it, there isn’t a single problem in life where you cannot take *any* action.
And the good thing here is that whenever there’s an action we can take, there’s a way of getting rid of the problem.
No topic to write today, starting to doubt if you ever amount to anything as a writer? Go out for a walk, run through that list and let your subconscious work it out. Read about how other people have dealt with the problem and learn from them.
Dealing with self-doubt because you didn’t work out today? Make a proper plan for the next day to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Watch some inspirational videos to motivate you.
Doubting your ability to be attractive? Learn how to boost your self-consciousness. Get somebody you think is looking good to give you tips on improving your appearance. Actually talk to the person you’re interested in. How would you know if they reject you if you’ve never even had talked to them properly?
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison
So when that self-doubt hits you with the emotions-club next time, just take a step back and run through the list.
Silence your emotions by making clear to you that your existence is not at risk and you’ll still be here tomorrow. Unchanged.
You will still be alive tomorrow even if you don’t come up with a solution today. Those doubts you have are blown out of proportion by your inner-self and are sabotaging your thinking.
Clear your head and let your mind wander when you take a walk. Our subconsciousnesses are great in pitching us ideas to solve our problems. Ideas mean a possible solution that we can try and if it fails, we just try something else.
Take a pen and notebook with you, (as weird as it sounds:) ask your subconsciousness to pitch you ideas.
State the question in your mind (or out loud if nobody is watching) “Dear subconsciousness, we have problem X. I know you’re great at that stuff so could you help me by pitching me ideas on how I could solve it? Cheers, bro/gal!”
Sounds crazy, I know. But give it a try. It works for me when I’m dealing with self-doubt and as long as nobody hears you talking to yourself and calls the ambulance to pick you up, why would you care
Thanks for reading, have a wonderful day.