By David Joel Miller.
How are you creating your self-doubt?
Self-doubt is that inner voice telling you that you can’t do this and won’t succeed at that. Many of us first entertained these visits from our inner critic in childhood when we began to experience doubts. Over time the inner critic’s voice has become so loud that any positive self-talk is quickly drowned out by the inner critic’s constant denigration.
Parents may have planted the seeds for your inner self-critic but we are all likely to have nurtured his growth. Parents used to think that the way to get more out of their children was to point out the child’s faults, expecting the child to improve the areas where they were weak. An over-reliance on criticism and fault-finding leads to the child’s belief that they are inherently defective and can’t do anything correctly.
We find that discipline based only on fault-finding and punishment over time harms not helps. Any criticism needs to be balanced with an equal or larger amount of praise.
The more the child is criticized the faster that inner self-critic, the part of us that says we can’t do this and we will never be good enough, grows.
Over the years that self-criticism which starting from things others told us about ourselves, grows to become our belief about ourselves and the dominant story of our lives. The more you tell yourself and others this story the more fixed it becomes in your brain. Telling yourself you can’t and shouldn’t make it impossible for you to do those very things that might prove you can succeed.
Plenty of parents have tried to live through their child. The stage mothers and the frustrated athletes begin early to try to make their children into the successes the adult did not have. If parents or others in your life nurtured one part of you but dismissed another, that inner part of you that should have been was silenced by those inner and outer critics.
Having a parent who encourages and supports you has helped many a champion become what they could be. They tell the story of how that parent was there encouraging them on, through the difficult times. A good supporter tells you that if you keep trying you can do it. If you fall down a good coach tells you to get up and try again. The say “You can do this, I know you can.”
A bad coach tells you that you are clumsy and they don’t know why you are there. Eventually, you wonder that same thing and stop trying. Funny how much parents are like coaches even when they don’t recognize they are filling that role.
But having a parent that only accepts and loves you when you win, who takes your successes as validation of themselves and your losses as undermining their self-esteem, results in children who grow up to only like themselves if they win every contest they enter.
A story does not have to be true for you to believe it. Tell yourself often enough that you are a failure and you will live down to that judgment.
That does not mean that if you lie to yourself and tell yourself that you will be able to accomplish the impossible then it becomes achievable. Part of self-love is to be realistic about your abilities and opportunities.
If you inner critic has been telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something consider the evidence. Argue with that critic. Who says you can’t. Even if you won’t do it perfectly, why shouldn’t you reach for your dreams and see how far you could go if that inner voice were to tell you “YOU CAN DO IT!”
Remember that inner critic, like the inner cheerleader, they are both you. You provide the script that inner voice will read. Start today telling yourself you can and see what wonderful outcomes are possible.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- Guilt and Shame (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Inner adult vs. inner child (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Hope is contagious (counselorssoapbox.com)