27 Oct SELF-DOUBT: Time to STOP this endless wheel!
“It feels like a never-ending story”, I heard.
The questions that followed were:
“Do you really think that I will get to the other side?
When is this going to be over?”
And the last comments before a deep silence, were: “ I doubt I will get better…I am very close to throwing in the towel”
A sharp blade of soul-ache and a dark cloud of sadness manifested in the deep silence that filled every inch of the psychotherapy room.
Perhaps with a slightly different tonality and syntax, these are the comments I encounter frequently in my life. Sometimes because I am the author of them or other times because I have witnessed them while journeying with my clients.
I decided to bring this to light because it is important to recognize the presence of this self-doubt from the place of an observer without clinging to it or rejecting it. Self-Doubt is real and it can become an anchor that prevents us from moving towards change. However, when we give voice to the “hesitant” and “distrustful” parts inside of us and listen to their complaints, while looking at them from a place of curiosity and kindness, the dynamic changes.
Imagine that part of you: “self-doubt”, as if it was a person you can have a chat with. Imagine that you can just listen to him/her (whatever you want to characterize this part as a male or female), truly listening. With no judgments, attachments, or rejection.
Just connecting to what that part brings to your life with openness and willingness to hear his/her story. You might be able to hear his/her complaints and understand that sensation of impossibility or the discomfort towards the uncertainty around change.
Maybe “self-doubt” will confess the fear experienced in the face of change and you will be able to see that although “self-doubt” can be a pain in the neck, the intention behind his/her behavior comes from his/her desire to protect you, to keep you in the comfort of what is known and seemingly safe. Then you might be able to have a conversation and remind him/her about the impermanence of everything, the temporary quality inherent to each moment. You might think that nothing will change with such conversation, but in reality, just the fact that you have acknowledged that part of yourself and have given him/her your attention, will change things inside you.
When “self-doubt” becomes activated inside you, you can initiate the conversation again and this time also bring him/her to the present moment, breathing in and out, and focusing in the here and now, the place and time where you can take charge of what is happening in your life instead of letting the constriction of those anxious sensations that are housed in our concern for the future, overpower you and sending you into a panicky state. By moving your focus to the present moment, you can also take charge of the heaviness that past memories bring, the trap of “what if” thoughts, or the attachment to old wounds. Either way, by constantly visiting the past or getting persistently concerned about the future, we are missing the only space we can consciously and actively do something: the here and now.
Another thing to remember is that we are not machines we can turn on and off. As human creatures we engage in processes and those take time. Would you get mad because a one year old child cannot climb stairs? How can you rush transformation? Can you speed up the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly? No! Change requires time, be patience with yourself. It does not happen in a blink, especially when it comes to personal growth and spiritual development.
Treating ourselves with kindness, just the way we would with someone we love deeply, it’s also a necessary ingredient in this kind of process.
Ask yourself: How helpful or effective is to continue repeating hurtful words towards yourself? How allowing the harsh self-critic within you take control of your life is going to support you in moving forward to create the changes you want? It’s not helpful at all… It’s destructive.
Often times people think that treating themselves with patience, understanding and kindness will turn them into a weak or self-indulgent people. This cannot be more far from the truth. On the contrary, (and this is backed up by research) when we act with “compassion to self”, we are more willing to be truthful, therefore we become accountable for our own mistakes, and since we are not crushed by our own meanness, we have more chances to move forward instead for being stuck in self-harm.
Back to the initial question: “Am I going to make it to the other side?”
Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! Once you decide to challenge old unhealthy beliefs and thinking patterns that have held you back. Once you start observing yourself with no judgments, but with curiosity and kindness. Once you understand that is a process and keep going, even when it seems impossible. Once you begin to relate to yourself like you would with your best friend. Once you allow in kindness to yourself. I know it is not an easy task and it’s not an impossible quest either.
The good news is that we, mental health professionals, are here to help you travel the journey of increasing your awareness, self-love, connection, confidence, and balance, so you can build the quality of life that you truly want.