The other day, I had an intense conversation with one of my clients. She shared all the negative thoughts, all the self-doubt about her ability to succeed, all the reasons why her business will never take off.
The funny thing was that the negativity was completely out of sync with the amazing progress she is making. She is developing new programs, getting great results building a following, and is on the cusp of starting to earn money from her work. Somehow, the little devil of self-doubt conveniently overlooked all of that.
It all sounded so similar. Despite many years of self-development work, I still hear some of the same negative self-talk whenever I think about starting a new project or doing something that stretches my comfort zone. Moving beyond self-imposed discouragement takes a lifetime.
Self-doubt is wired into our culture. It is considered socially unacceptable to make a big deal out of yourself. From an early age we are talk to play down both our abilities and achievements. And with time we begin to believe that we aren’t really that great or capable or accomplished.
Self-doubt is also a convenient cushion against the pain of failure. If you play down your expectations of yourself, you won’t be so disappointed. Except that you are disappointed with yourself for not being brave enough and not going for the things you really want to go for.
It’s especially painful to doubt your ability to succeed in areas that are close to your heart. I fervently believe that each one of us has a G-d-given mission of helping others in a specific area. When you are involved in this work you we feel the most energized, satisfied and happy. This is the work that makes your eyes sparkle. These are the topics you never get tired of talking about.
And this is the place where yetzer hara works overtime to discourage you from doing your best. It tells you that this will never work, that nobody will be interested, that nobody will want to pay for what you offer. It tells you that you are not as hot as you think and that plenty of other people are, oh, so much better. It tells you that you don’t know enough and need to take an umpteenth course to sharpen your skills.
Because, hey, the last thing yetzer hara wants you to do is to marshal all your enthusiasm, love, and knowledge and play the most important part you can play in G-d’s world (aside from your mission as part of the Jewish people and your family). It definitely does not want you to be the unreplaceable piece of God’s puzzle.
But we don’t have to let yetzer hara intimidate us. We can remind it (and ourselves along the way) that Hashem runs the show. It is He who is responsible for success and failure. It is he who decides just how much impact we will create and how much money we will make in the process. Our job is to simply do our hishtadlut (effort). Focus on the game, not the score board.
Ironically, taking our focus off ourselves, our gain and our success and training it on Hashem and what He wants us to do right now is the best thing we can do for our own success. It will free us from self-doubt because we and our future stop being the issues.
The key to creating a greater focus on G-d’s mission is awareness. Some things you can do to boost your awareness are:
- Find an image that reminds you of this idea and place it in a strategic area (in your office or by the computer)
- Find an inspirational quote a verse and give it a place of prominence where you will see it (Zeesi Paltrowitz made the one you see in this post – it hangs on my office wall) Hey, I am trying
- Write down a statement that reminds you to focus on your mission and make a routine of rereading it a couple of times a day.
- Study an inspirational text alone or with a study partner.
- Work with someone who will help you break through the self-doubting molds so that you can internalize a more productive outlook.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that nothing bad comes down from heaven. It is we who take Hashem’s gifts and misuse them. If we use our self-negating thoughts as a springboard for coming closer to Hashem and focusing more on His expectations from us, we take the bad out of the experience and make it a holy vessel in our service of G-d.
Yom Kippur is 2 days away. Are you ready?
What strategies have helped you gain confidence?