Aug 102013

How to ride the wave of self doubt

Don’t give up when the pace seem slow, You may succeed with just another blow.

How to ride the wave of self-doubt

I was two months into my Masters degree in London, up to my eyeballs in debt, about to break up from a lousy relationship. I had just received the result of my first assignment – a low C which dashed my hopes of getting a distinction. In short – life was a bit crap.

I remember crying down the phone to one of my best friends back home in Malta, telling her ‘This was a mistake – I shouldn’t have come to London, I wish I hadn’t taken a loan out to do this, I wish I could just give up – I just can’t do it, I’m not cut out for this.”

Despite the big desire to give up I hung on in there. Truth be told, it was probably the thought of the huge study-loan I had taken that made me stay. The least I could do was get my master’s degree given that I was going to spend the next 10 years paying for it.

To my surprise, things eventually started getting better. The lousy boyfriend was replaced with some great new friends, the grades improved and I even managed to get a job paying a decent hourly rate (granted it was painfully boring data entry but I could do it when I wanted). More than this, I attended a lecture that made everything fall into place.

The lecture was about the stages we go through when we make a big positive change in our lives. It’s no surprise that some stages feel great, such as the excitement and energy we feel at the start of a change. Do you remember the excitement of getting that new job, or starting your business? It felt great right?!

What was surprising, at least to me, was that once the initial excitement starts to fade and we face the new reality, things can get a little tough. We might start questioning ourselves, our confidence starts to dip and is replaced with self-doubt. Our motivation takes a hit, our stress levels rise and we start wondering if the made the right decision after all.

For some people this tough stage might only last a few hours but if we don’t find the right strategies to pull ourselves out of it, this stage can last for months.

The bit that struck me during this lecture was that even if the change is a positive one, like moving country, having a baby, going back to school, changing jobs, changing career, starting a business, following a dream…. there will still be a period of time when things feel awful.

I remember hearing all this and thinking – ‘hold on, this is exactly what I’ve been feeling! So it’s normal to feel like this? I haven’t made the biggest mistake of my life?’

It was such a relief to know that the self-doubt and uncertainty are all part of the process. And I hope that if you’re at that stage right now reading this will reassure you that you haven’t made the wrong decision. You aren’t failing. You’re simply adjusting to a new reality.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it though. Here are some tips to help you through this part of your big change.

  1. Don’t fight the feeling. That’s just wasting energy. Instead be curious about it. Take time to sit quietly and just be. It might be useful to write down what comes up for you.
  2. Identify moments or days when you felt things WERE working. What was different about these times? What were you doing or thinking that was different? How could you recreate that?
  3. Get support. Talk to someone you trust and whom you know will encourage you.  Join a group of people who are on a similar path as yours. Get professional help from a coach or even a counsellor if needs be.
  4. Take action. When we lose our motivation or even if we feel overwhelmed it becomes very easy to postpone the things we know will help us move forward. If this is the case consider one tiny action you can take that will move you in the right direction and take it. Keep this up for a week and before you know it you’ll find yourself in a different place.

I’m curious to hear how you’ve dealt with this tough stage in the past? What has helped you regain your confidence and motivation?



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