Why Self-Doubt Is Holding You Back

Why Self-Doubt Is Holding You Back

Recently my fear of failure got triggered. 

It wasn't long after I had moved to Byron Bay that some great opportunities were offered to present on what I've been studying throughout 2017, especially on the topics of mindfulness and self-compassion. I was invited to be a guest speaker at some exciting events and I got to put forward the programs I had created from my six month study sabbatical. 

I found myself doubting my abilities and wondered if anyone would actually want to be a part of the teachings that I was offering. 

It wasn’t just a fleeting thought. I was caught in this state for a number days, experiencing fear and worry. Despite my best attempts to shift these feelings, they weren't moving.  No amount of yoga, distraction, walking, talking, planning or reasoning with them was working. 

I knew I needed some time out to examine what was really going on. I recognised I needed to use the techniques of mindfulness and self-inquiry to gain a deeper insight into what was at the root of my suffering. 

As I sat quietly in meditation I slowly went beneath the fear and there I found the hollow, aching sense of self doubt. There was one, rather loud belief at it's core: am I really good enough to be a spiritual teacher?

Doubting mind.

If your identity is linked to the ego-self you will live with self-doubt. 

What does that mean?

Well, if your sense of who you are comes from what you do, or the aspects of your life that you like to put forward to the world as you, you will live with self-doubt. 

Some examples of identifying as the ego-self may be seeing yourself as your body, career,  intelligence, money, athleticism, spirituality, business, yoga skills or partner

A common scenario is the athlete whose whole world comes crashing down after a bad game. If they identify themselves as an athlete rather than a whole person, they are prone to swinging between ecstatic highs (when they play well) to devastating low periods where they feel worthless and useless if they perform poorly.  They are often lost when they retire as they don't know who they are anymore. 

Who are you really?

When relying on our ego to build our sense of self we look to others for validation when doubt kicks in. We can use social media for likes or we try to impress others by telling them about our success rather than enjoying authentic and real connections with them. We also can feel like we must achieve more in order to be loveable. 

We can swing from ego-inflation: self-importance, feeling special or better than others, to ego-deflation and feeling worthless and rejected.

It's a universal law that things change and relying on the ego for our self worth can only lead to suffering. When our bodies age, we'll feel we're unlovable. If our business takes a down turn our ego will tell us we're a complete failure and to give up. If a relationship ends the ego tells us that we are worthless.

Spiritual practice, mindfulness and self-compassion opens us up to who we are beyond these confining egoic states.

It changes the lens that we view ourselves through and take us from seeking love and approval externally, to finding a loving-awareness inside ourselves and a stable core of well-being that we have been seeking.

Discovering a Larger Sense of Self

To shift past self-doubt and discover a larger sense of who we are we need to investigate the beliefs we have about ourselves.

Illusion exists until it's investigated.

You may like to journal on the following: 

  • what side of yourself do you typically put forward to people? 
  • the vulnerable place in you that may be filled with self doubt, what is it believing right now? 
  • what could happen if you let this go?
  • who would you be if you were no longer believing this thought? 

So in my example, the belief was that I was going to fail. There was a fear of losing control - like I can't let things unfold on their own.

Without that belief I felt relaxed, spacious and I could think creatively. The fear dissipated and I had clarity about what steps to take next that were inline with my intention.

This state was my true nature, not the limited self I had identified with before this. 

I love what I was taught by my own mentor Tara Brach in the US. She gave me the analogy about being the ocean not the waves. The waves are the doubts, fears, uncertainties, ecstasy, elation and all the feelings that come and go. Our true nature though, can be found in resting in the vastness of the ocean.


This sense of self-doubt was not fixed just by looking at my limiting core beliefs once in meditation. I've done many, many rounds of practice and also used self-compassion practices to help as I grow into this new chapter.

Yet this is where our potential lies - neurons that fire together, wire together. When we use self-compassion and mindfulness practices when challenges arise, we form new pathways in our brain that help us to unhook from fear, doubt and uncertainty. This is known as neuroplasticity. 

Through the practices of awareness and compassion, we can also use self-doubt as a gateway that leads us back home to ourselves. Back to our goodness and resting in the true nature of who we really are and awakening to all that we are meant to be. 

Want to learn more about neuroplasticity, awareness and compassion?

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