What holds us back from doing something new like volunteering, going for a new job, or simply putting our hand up to answer a question? It’s fear of failure. “I might fail – I might look stupid” are common thoughts most of us have. Me too. The first time I took a funeral for a friend I was consumed by the idea that I would make the worst possible mistake, get the deceased person’s name wrong, and his friends and family would remember it forever. Or sometimes I wonder what’s the point of writing yet another blog, who’s going to read it … Why bother? Why take the risk?
If you NEVER have any self doubt then stop reading here … and go do something useful!
Still here? Good! …. Recently I came across this excellent podcast on my listening list. Here’s are the main points that might just help you recognise and deal with that voice that tells you “you’re going to fail”.
Most of us experience the negative voice of self doubt, the inner critic, sometimes this emerges from low self-esteem, But we also hear the positive voice of realistic thinking which helps us improve, do things better or indeed stay away from something which we really should not try to do.
How do you know the difference between these 2 voices?
The negative inner critic tends to be repetitive, saying the same thing over and over “you can’t do this, you’ll fail, everyone will see it”. It tends to be harsh and mean – it speaks to you more harshly than you would speak with someone you care about. This voice is black and white meaning you either can or can’t do something.
The voice of realistic thinking on the other hand is positive, it will move you on to think of how to address a problem and deal with it rather than just repeating your doubts over and over. This voice is more curious, kinder, always moving forwards and it can see the grey: “well you might be able to do this task if…”
Learn to recognise the negative inner critic but don’t allow it to make the decision of what you do next.
Do women have more self-doubt than men?
Research is divided on this issue but tends to agree on what causes women to self-doubt. Women tend to doubt their ability in tasks that our society associates with masculinity such as hierarchical leadership, while men tend to doubt their ability in tasks our society associates with femininity such as relational or listening skills Interestingly men sometimes deal with their self doubt by making themselves appear “over confident” – I think we’ve all seen that!
How can you help others who doubt their own abilities?
Now encourage someone else
This article from blogger Chris Patton tells of a social experiment where somebody sent a blatantly encouraging message to 217 random phone numbers. This was the message he sent:
‘I can’t help but think you are an incredibly amazing and wonderful person. Just saying’
What came back varied from sad to hilarious but demonstrates a point.
Encouragement is something we often think we can do without. I guess in some ways we can do without it. It’s not like oxygen, we won’t die without it, but perhaps it is like laughter or friendship. Without these things life carries on but we end up living in a hardened shell, not expecting to be encouraged nor encouraging anybody else. Without encouragement we become fearful to try anything new, after all stepping out could bring criticism or ridicule so why take the risk? He goes on to say:
‘…we have the opportunities AND responsibility to do this regularly! Why is this so hard? Why is there such a shortage of this kind of praise?’
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world! John 16.33