You’ve got an idea for a startup but you’re scared to tell your friends in case they think it’s not going to work. You’ve written half a book but you’re worried that no publisher will want it. You’ve got a new coat and you’re so excited about it, but you’re afraid to wear it in case people think it’s a bit ‘out there’. You get the point.
In almost every aspect of our lives we instinctually become preoccupied with the fear of how others will react. Our first thought isn’t even how it might affect them, but how their reaction could affect us. It’s pretty scary to realise this, but it makes a whole lot of sense. Our instincts tell us to always suss out where danger (or negativity) might be so that we can protect ourselves from it.
On the other hand, this can result in false alarms – especially (and regularly) if you have anxiety, like me. The way in which we automatically consider the reactions of those around us, however, is something experienced by everyone, no matter your profession, background or age. Whilst some people are more affected by this sort of worry than others, no one is totally immune to it.
I wanted to write a post that would not only remind you and reassure you that everyone worries about what everyone else thinks, but one which provides tools and solutions with how to deal with these negative thoughts – whether they’re always lurking in your mind or they tend to only make an appearance on special occasions.
I really hope if you ever find yourself holding back that you can use this blog post as a reminder that self-doubt will hold you back, and it will do absolutely nothing else. Pushing yourself (particularly out of your comfort zone) to put your ideas, thoughts and opinions out there is the only way you (or, for example, your business) can grow and move forward.
Nati’s Guide to Kicking Self-Doubt in the [Insert Word of Your Choice]
On a practical level, self-doubt is literally a waste of time. Not only does it cut into our focus and productivity, but by consequently slowing down our progress, it takes away time from other things. Time that could be spent with family and friends. Time that could be spent creating, laughing, exploring. Time that could be spent watching RuPaul’s Drag Race (an excellent show for those looking to see badass queens who exemplify how wonderful life can be when you realise how fierce and wonderful you actually are).
Unless you have mind reading powers, you’re never actually going to know what someone else is thinking, and worrying and making up reactions in your head isn’t going to help or change that. You’re not getting an insight into your audience or peers’ thoughts by sitting and pondering what they might be. You’re not getting a head start by worrying. You’re not improving your determination by worrying. You’re not inspiring your creativity or boosting your mood by worrying. You’re gaining nothing except more self-doubt.
Your thoughts and worries are thoughts and worries, not facts. There’s something oddly reassuring about the fact that, hey, let’s face it, we all doubt ourselves sometimes. But we need to remind ourselves that we’re only human, and we make a hell of a lot of things up – consciously or subconsciously. This is something I personally find helpful in terms of my own anxious thoughts.
In the nicest way possible, no one cares. Well, no one cares as much as you do – that’s for sure. Quite frankly, whatever you do, people have no choice but to go with it. You can put any idea, opinion, plan or content out there and say anything you want, and no one can stop you. In fact, you’ll be surprised by the fact that people actually just go with it. This is something I learned when it comes to telling people that I have OCD. I was so paranoid that their opinion of me would change that my head began to fill with self-doubt and negative thoughts. I can tell you from experience, that when I tell people I have OCD, their reactions are only ever the following:
‘Oh right, okay – no worries.’ – I feel calm and we move on.
‘Oh, so how does that work?’ – I explain to them what OCD actually is and how it affects me.
‘Is there anything I can do or shouldn’t do?’ – they just want to make sure I’m okay.
‘I used to have OCD – I know exactly what it’s like.’ – they get it! I’m so happy (and inspired) when I hear that they’ve recovered from it.
‘I have OCD too! I’ve never met someone else that has it – no one ever talks about it.’ – they get it too! Hopefully I’ve boosted their confidence in the knowledge that someone else out there feels the same – neither of us are weird. Woo!
Furthermore, everyone else is too busy absorbed in their own lives (and worries) to dedicate time to actually judge yours. Whether they say something positive or negative, what you’ve put out there is just a fleeting thought in their mind – they’re back to their own doings almost immediately and won’t give whatever you’re worried about a second thought. To be honest, everyone else’s heads are filled with the same thoughts as yours – they’re too busy worrying about what you think of them to worry about what they think of you.
Humans really are silly.
photos: my own