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Hurdles to Self-Awareness: Self-Doubt

If you want to be more self-aware (and trust us, you do), there are a few big aspects of human nature standing in your way. One of them, the Skeptic, we talk about here. The Skeptic questions the very idea of self-awareness, telling you that you don’t really need it, that it won’t help you, and that anything you might try in order to find it would be silly and pointless.

It’s easy to see the damage the Skeptic can do. But that’s not the only thing standing between us and self-awareness. There’s also self-doubt. 


Self-doubt is similar to skepticism, with an important distinction: it’s centered around you. Experiencing self-doubt is like becoming skeptical of yourself. It’s that little voice in your head that says, “You can’t do it.” (Yeah, self-doubt is kind of a jerk.)

Self-doubt is more natural for some of us than others, but it’s safe to say that it’s something that almost everyone deals with at some point or another—and there may be good reason for that.

Just as your inner skeptic can help you sometimes, self-doubt can serve a positive purpose as well. After all, can you imagine a life where you felt like you could do literally anything? Nothing would stop you from jumping off the roof in your Superman cape—literally or metaphorically.

Self-doubt can potentially help you set healthy boundaries, inspire you to ask for help, or provide a powerful catalyst for change. Because of this occasional positive reinforcement, our brains might start to believe that self-doubt (in all its forms) is necessary and unavoidable.

The problem is that more often than not, self-doubt does not serve these positive purposes, but other, negative ones. It is all too common for self-doubt to separate us from self-awareness.

When self-doubt is in control

“Self-doubt kills more dreams than failure does.”

Suzy Kassem

The negative consequences of self-doubt are likely familiar to all of us, whether we are aware of them or not. Giving self-doubt too much control in our minds is far more likely to hurt us rather than help us.

One of the biggest consequences of self-doubt is discouragement. When you believe that you are incapable of accomplishing something, why would you even try to accomplish it? The wind is taken out of your sails. When self-doubt takes over, it doesn’t matter how badly you want something; it will still feel out of reach and unattainable—at least to you.

This is one thing self-doubt and the Skeptic have in common—they both keep you from trying. Self-doubt’s mantra of “you can’t do it” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: you can’t do it, because you won’t try and you’ve programmed your mind to arrive at the conclusion that you cannot do it (even though you most certainly can).

Over time, self-doubt can have serious impact on your sense of confidence and self-worth. If you are constantly looking for (and finding) evidence that you can’t do things, how will you ever find and achieve your life’s purpose? How will those big goals you bravely set for yourself ever come to fruition? How will you uncover your full and beautiful potential?

You have so much to offer the world, but self-doubt would have you believe otherwise. And it will tell you otherwise, time and time again.

Self-doubt and self-awareness

For these reasons and others, self-doubt keeps you from becoming self-aware. Self-awareness is about seeing yourself for who you are. If you are constantly in a place of self-doubt, you will not only be blind to your strengths, but it may be hard to see your weaknesses for what they really are as well. 

Here are some things that self-doubt might say that will keep you from becoming self-aware.

“You can’t do it.”

This, as we’ve already discussed, is a common self-doubt weapon. The critical thing about this argument is that it is directed right at you. It’s not that the marathon can’t be run, the book can’t be written, or the promotion can’t be earned: it’s that you are inherently incapable of doing those things.

This is going to turn your focus away from possibility and potential, and toward inevitability and failure. You won’t be thinking of your strengths and how they could be put to good use to help you reach your goals; you’ll only be thinking of your weaknesses and how they’ll hold you back. When you ignore your strengths, you are denying yourself the opportunity of self-awareness.

“You’ll never be as good as (blank).”

Comparison is one of self-doubt’s favorite foods. Looking at what other people have, what they’re good at, and what they have achieved fans the flames of self-doubt. Your flaws stand out to you even more. You’re discouraged by the fact that someone else has something you want, but feel like you can’t have. You start to measure yourself using someone else’s yardstick. And in today’s world of social media, comparison is easier (and more harmful) than ever before.

When your focus is on others in this way, how can you possibly be self-aware? You aren’t thinking about what is possible for you; you’re thinking about whether or not you are “as good as” someone else. As long as this comparison is happening, you’ll have a hard time focusing inward.

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“You are inherently bad.” 

Self-doubt can be very tricky, and this is one of its most deceitful and misleading tactics. This lie that self-doubt often tells us would have us believe that we have little (or no) inherent worth, and nothing we do could possibly change that. 

This is remarkably discouraging, to be sure, but it also has an interesting side effect tied to self-awareness. When you believe that you are “inherently bad,” it might be difficult to pinpoint and explore your specific weaknesses. And of course, if you’re unable to do that, you are unable to become truly self-aware. 

Think of a symphony orchestra playing an elaborate piece. The music is beautiful at first, but then, at some point in the song, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. Some of the instruments are either off-beat, off-key, or both. Amid the messy cacophony of sound, however, you can’t tell which instruments are off, or what they are doing wrong. You can just tell that the whole thing sounds “bad.”

This is how self-doubt can keep you from identifying your specific weaknesses. You hear the overall “bad” message loud and clear—so much so, in fact, that you can’t pick out the specific weaknesses or flaws you want to work on. By overwhelming you with the message that you are bad and worthless, self-doubt robs you of your ability to reach a healthy level of self-awareness.

With these lies, self-doubt separates you from self-awareness. By crippling your ability to see yourself for who you truly are, it effectively keeps you from what you could become. And you, friend, could become so much!

Fighting back

Forgoing your self-doubt in favor of self-awareness can be scary. It takes you to a vulnerable place, one where you must see yourself for who you truly are and change your life accordingly. But reaching self-awareness is the only way you’ll be able to create a life that is full of meaning and lasting happiness.

Here are some responses to self-doubt’s most common arguments. Shifting your mindset in the direction of these thoughts can help you lessen the power of your self-doubt so that you can become more self-aware. 

Self-doubt says: “You can’t do it.”

Respond with: “I can’t do it…yet. I will do it.”

There is no shame in admitting that you can’t do something. As we mentioned earlier, acknowledging your weaknesses is actually an important part of self-awareness, which is what we’re trying to achieve. But adding “yet” to the end of the admission makes all the difference in the world. Those three letters imply possibility and hope—admitting to yourself that you may be more capable than you know. It’s true that you can’t do everything right now, but you can do anything, some day, as long as you put in the effort. (Although we still don’t recommend jumping off the roof in a Superman cape. That never ends well.)

Self-doubt says: “You’ll never be as good as (blank).”

Respond with: “My only job is to be me. And I will be anything I want to be.” 

Comparison is the thief of joy, but self-awareness is a harbinger of happiness. It may be all too easy to tell yourself that you’ll never be as “good” as someone else, but the truth is: you don’t have to be. If you can remember that your only job is to be you, you’ll be better equipped to avoid harmful comparison and getting to know yourself instead. Relieve the pressure and just be you. You are more than enough.

Self-doubt says: “You are inherently bad.”

Respond with: “I am inherently human. I deserve to be seen fully. I am greatness.”

Self-awareness means being able to see your strengths and weaknesses clearly, without passing judgment on what that means about your value or worth. When you’re self-aware, you can recognize what you need to change and leverage your strengths to make that change happen. When you are able to see yourself for all that you are, without allowing that to detract from your inherent worth, then your self-awareness can be put to good use.

As common as it is, self-doubt can be harmful, standing in the way of the self-awareness you need to create meaningful change and happiness in your life. If you can train your thoughts to push back against self-doubt, you just might discover that you never deserved that doubt in the first place.

You are amazing. You are capable of anything. You will become what you desire as you love and trust yourself fully. Challenge yourself to turn self-doubt into self-love. Now.

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